in Conference Report, Work Related

DiG Festival 2014 (Day 1)

The Design + interactive + Green-tech Festival was held at Newcastle City Hall on the 16th and 17th of October this year. Here is a run-down of the highlights from my perspective. As a mental health researcher my main focus was the Mental Health stream. There were a great series of talkers – primarily from the mental health service sector – who were predominantly discussing the use of new technologies such as social media.

Day 1

 Zac Zavos – How to build and shape audiences to increase online traffic.

Co-founder of three curated publication sites Techly, Lost at E Minor and The Roar, Zac Zavos spoke about increasing your readership through the use of social media and online marketing. He discussed a couple of case studies on two articles that went viral. Both were interesting and quirky pieces that were very shareable on sites such as Facebook, and drove a lot of visitors to their sites. Other possibilities with online marketing are through the use of paid services such as Google search ads, Facebook ads and a service called Outbrain (recommended stories based on what you’ve just viewed). All the social media sharing and ads in the world won’t help you though if you don’t have good content.

Ian Farmer – Digital marketing trends

Strategic planner with Zuni, a digital marketing agency from Sydney, he spoke in marketing jargon for most of the talk that I was unable to follow, the only thing I really absorbed from his talk was that video and mobile are growth markets, which at least for mobile is pretty self evident.

Morning Panel Session (Commisioner John Feeny, Jaelea Skehan, Chris Pycroft, Janet Hopkins, Daniel Donahoo & HyNRG Member) – what does innovation and embracing a digital world mean in mental health.

The commissioner gave a brief overview of the NSW mental health commission looking at 10 years of reform. There is a draft of the strategic plan currently before the relevant ministers.

Chris Pycroft spoke a little  about the growth in online services and how such services user interfaces should be inclusive.

Janet Hopkins discussed the blend of online services through to more traditional options, and the ability of online “self service” to ease pressure on face to face services.

Daniel Donahoo briefly spoke on the non-existent divide between the digital and non-digital world, and how all technology is inherently human in nature.

A few specific uses of technology were mentioned, such as an app called emood, Skype chat for delivering specialised services to remote locations and the eheadspace website. One interesting point raised in the discussion was that service providers have traditionally been cautious of new technology, however someone will create apps and online services for the mental health sector, and if they want to direct the market then they will need to be involved.

Brunch Session – How technology has changed the way we support individuals and communities.

A couple of spokespeople from discussed their evolving services over the years, where they have consistently been at the cutting edge of using new technologies for the delivery of information to the youth of Australia on a range of issues. One item of note was a guideline on participatory design produced by the Young and Well CRC.

The second half of this session was from Frances Kay-Lambkin and was one of only two talks over the two days that focussed on research, predominantly the study of the effectiveness of an intervention delivered over the internet compared to face to face delivery. Frances also spoke about two issues, the first was with service delivery and regarded the difficulty in encouraging people to seek treatment in the first place – which is one avenue that online engagement could assist in. The second issue was in relation to research and the problem with the relatively high rate of co-morbidity (whether it is multiple mental health issues, or alcohol/drug dependence) and the usual method of dealing with this in research – which is to exclude from the study.

 Post Lunch Session – Gaming, Play and Well-being

Three speakers were in this session, first off Daniel Donahoo spoke on the role of play, and how it is an integral part of everyone’s life. An engaging speaker he also reiterated the fact that technology is anything created by humans and that it by itself is not good or bad. While we need to take care, it is unproductive to label anything new as bad, or too hard. Take home message from him was to play more.

Larissa Hjorth showed some interesting aspects of a study she was running in Japan using ambient play. This was using mobile games to encourage the community – particularly youth – in the community, culture and geography of their local area.

Finally Rafael Calvo spoke to the question of whether digital technology is making people happier? We do now have the ability to measure well-being, emotional intelligence, mindfulness and other similar things in situations further removed from the laboratory environment, and there have been studies looking at ways of using technology to promote positive emotion. One interesting product he mentioned was the “moderator assistant“, designed to assist moderators of online forums to provide links to appropriate services based on natural language processing of the support group members comments. He ended his discussion by stressing the need for collaboration between technology experts, designers, health and social scientists and consumers in order to develop appropriate services.

Afternoon Keynotes – Supporting mental health and well-being in youth.

Michelle Blanchard introduced the Young and Well CRC. One young member spoke about her experience growing up with depression, and the much increased level of support available in Australia compared to some other countries. A few specific mobile applications we mentioned – Appreciate a Mate,  Recharge and others. Elisabeth Tuckey from Headpsace also talked about their latest initiative, Yarn Safe, a campaign to try and engage young aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people to discuss issues around mental health, and encourage them to seek support at places like headspace.

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