Calvo, R. A., & Peters, D. (2012). Positive computing: Technology for a wiser world. interactions, 19(4), 28-31.

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Technology affects our development of wisdom. Wisdom is developed through personal experiences, which are increasingly transformed by computers. As computers are constantly present in our daily lives, human values should be included in the design process. In addition to designing the most usable, effective and satisfying experience, designers should seek to contribute to human potential by supporting the development of wisdom and well-being. This defines a new domain called positive computing.

Positive computing is closely related to positive psychology and serves the recent movements of greater happiness, mental “wealth” and human development. This article focuses on the wisdom aspect of positive computing. Previous research approaches wisdom by its cognitive, emotional and motivational aspects. The cognitive aspect is a deep insight into self, others, and the world. The emotional aspect concentrates on emotional intelligence and emotion-regulation skills, whereas the motivational aspect is an orientation transcending the self. For positive computing, the authors propose a framework maximizing our opportunities for gaining wisdom, or at minimum, avoiding the features degrading wisdom.

The authors have created a list of different components of wisdom that current or future technologies could support. The components are intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, understanding change and uncertainty, maintaining a balance among diverse perspectives, relativism, mindfulness, reflective insight, and social consciousness.

The authors suggest that approaching digital technologies from the perspective of wisdom could contribute significant value to HCI, understanding of the mind and development of human potential. As HCI advances, the user is understood as being only a part of a larger system. Designers need to determine what is desirable within a place, an institution or a society. Moving from human-centered to humanity-centered design could direct us to technology designed to support reaching the optimum in human potential.

I selected this article as a continuum to Don Norman’s opening keynote “Fun, Fast & Foundational” at the NordiCHI 2014. In his keynote, Norman stated that we need more theory on fun and pleasure. Also recently in his blog, Norman wrote an essay on Positive Computing, pleading on systems that delight as wel as inform. Just as well as the design field is examining the role of emotions and pleasure, these findings need to be utilized into mainstream computing.

This article by Calvo and Peters on positive computing was very inspirational and easy to read, as it was written more towards the general public than the academic community. Just as studying positive psychology has left me thinking about the way I see life, the concept of positive computing triggered a personal reflection on working life and technology in general. The thought of using technology for helping people reaching their optimum human potential was highly inspirational for me.

Posted by Karoliina

About Karoliina

Bachelor of Science, Information Networks Degree Program. Master studies major: Human and Interaction. Minor subjects: Work psychology and Leadership, Sound in New Media (Aalto ARTS).
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