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SXSW 2011: Psychology and Mental Health Panels

SXSW 2011: Psychology and Mental Health PanelsIt’s that time of the year again — to help people learn more about human behavior, psychology, and mental health issues at the annual technology conference held in Austin, Texas called SXSW. I’d like to highlight some of the panels I need your help with — your vote helps panels make it into the final conference! (Voting is simple, but does require a free registration with the SXSW website.)

There is a specific health track this year — the first time in SXSWi’s history. This means that panel topics on health and mental health have a better chance than ever in making it in! I first presented at SXSW on a health topic in 1999, so it’s great to see this dream finally become a reality.

Without further ado, here are some of my favorite picks in the SXSW 2011 Panel Picker on health, psychology and mental health (starting with my very own submission)…

Internet, Video, Gaming: Addicting, Functional or Just Fun?
By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

The average college student spends nearly 5 hours a day staring at a video screen. Can such immersion be harmful, or is it part and parcel of the modern, screen-based world in which we now live? What benefits and drawbacks occur in a world where an increasing amount of our social interactions are now done through emails, texts and status updates?  For years now, we’ve been hearing about “Internet addiction” and video game addiction as though they were real disorders. But are they?

What does the research really show? How do we treat behavioral addictions and how does someone get help (or get their friend help) if they really have a problem with spending too much time online or gaming? Are we raising a generation of socially maladjusted individuals who have difficulty interacting with others face-to-face? Do children who spend more time in front of video screens have greater attentional problems? What can be done, when video games, mobile phones, computers and television are not just everywhere, but an expected component of growing up today? These questions and more will be asked and answered by an interactive panel of experts in the area of Internet and video games behavior and addiction. This is not a dry research talk, but rather will feature a panel of pro and con professionals who approach these issues and questions from multiple perspectives, challenging the common wisdom, offering suggestions for getting help, and shedding new light on these issues.

Yelping Health Professionals: Patients, Providers & Digital Rights
By Keely Kolmes, Psy.D.

The first thing people do when they have a negative or positive experience with a business is go write a Yelp review. But posting a review for an auto mechanic or restaurant is very different from reviewing your doctor. First, your privacy is at stake. Second, while some business owners may comment on a review of their establishment, doctors and therapists are muzzled by legal and ethical requirements. Mental health professionals have additional ethics mandates prohibiting us from requesting testimonials from our patients as such requests can exploit a patient’s vulnerability. However, review sites regard our business listings as public information and automatically import our listings into their sites. Furthermore, they will not remove a listing from their site once it has been imported. This system can give the mistaken impression that we have intentionally placed our practices on these sites in hopes of getting reviewed. This presentation will engage the community in a conversation about what can be done to improve online review systems for both consumers and health professionals. We will explore the viewpoints of both consumers and clinicians. We will look at relevant legal and ethical issues. We will also provide resources to help consumers locate appropriate licensing boards for when they do need to lodge a more formal complaint.

Understanding Humans: New Psychology and the Social Web
By Gavin Bell

The internet is now social, but the tools and theories we use to understand it are rooted in a pre-social past. Much of the psychology inspired interaction design draws on information processing models from desktop application design. Perfect for shopping carts, not so good for understanding the social web. Newer psychological theories like Activity Theory or Actor Network theory can help us understand our need for tools like Twitter and Facebook. This world of post-cognitive theories understand social relationship and move beyond the simple world of goal directed tasks with neat closure. The social object is a great framing device for current applications, but Activity Theory has more to offer us. Every act is social in nature. Using this as a starting point this talk will explore how relationships form and how our interactions with each other on the internet form part of our wider experience. Learn how to pick the key objects and actions for your application. Understand the important social aspects of the interactions you support and how privacy affects these exchanges. The coming distributed social web are based on social objects, activity streams plus much protocol glue to connect them. These post cognitive theories are the framework from which they were derived, but there is much more to them that you can apply to your own projects.

Can The Internet Make Us Happy?
By Anastasia Goodstein

Can “tweeting” release Oxytocin? Does looking through your friends’ Facebook photos or reading the newsfeed impact your mood? This panel will look at how the internet and social networking actually impacts how we feel and will explore opportunities for using technology to help people feel better. We’ll discuss the current research as well as innovative sites, applications and other virtual interventions designed to improve our mental health with an emphasis on young people (16-24).

Health: Is There Really an App for That?
By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

There are endless tools that purport to make people healthier, from mobile phone apps to blood-pressure-tracking software. But what, truly, is the impact of these tools? Are they motivating healthier behaviors? Are they improving people’s health? And more important, are they being used by the people who need them most? This panel centers on the challenges of driving robust outcomes from technology platforms and the recipe for achieving the greatest health impact. Our focus will be usability (how to design tools so they are used), activation (how to encourage adoption) and retention (overcoming systemic barriers to encourage continued use). Technology is often seen as a problem-solver. But inciting new models for behavior is only easy if done right. This panel will push people to think in fresh ways about behavior change and highlight what else is needed to move the needle on creation and use of winning health technology.

The Psychology of Web Design: Interactive Behavior Explained
By Susan Weinschenk

If you want to design interactions (websites, phone apps, ipad apps) it helps to understand the psychology that underlies online behavior. What makes people click? What motivates people to join or register? How much of decision making is unconscious? What makes people trust a website? What makes them want to share it with friends? This presentation shares the research in psychology that applies directly to designing interactive technology that is engaging and persuasive.

How Consumers are Staying Healthy by Getting Social
By West Shell

The Healthcare reform bill—and over 30 million people in the U.S. now having access to healthcare outside of our hospital emergency rooms–has provided a new opportunity for all kinds of health organizations to improve communication and outreach to patients. As this reform takes shape, the issues of communication and access will become a central issue for the healthcare industry, and the Internet will continue to become the go-to place for consumers who want to take control of their health. Social media has taken a central role in helping people find and obtain the right resources, providing a support system and information channel previously limited to the walls of a doctor’s office or support group. As our healthcare continues to move online, who are the players? What are some of the challenges/issues that come with personal healthcare management online? How will social media impact the health of consumers overall?

Online Dating Addiction? The Next Culture
By Leora Israel

Has online dating created a “next” culture? People will let small flaws stop them from getting to know potential partners because it’s so easy to hit one key and see the next profile. This panel will debate whether or not this is truly a problem. All sides of the debate will be represented with a panel including: a therapist who specializes in addiction, dating and relationships, founders of some of the top dating sites on the internet and a unique online dater whose dating experience exclusively involves dating sites.

Patients/Caregivers on Facebook: Establishing Boundaries Without Barriers
By Ed Bennett

Social media platforms create new challenges for healthcare practitioners and other professionals who actively participate in online communities that have emerged on Facebook, Twitter and similar applications. While it’s not unusual for those with chronic health issues and long term medical problems to build close relationships with care providers “in real life” – legal, ethical and practical issues emerge when patients/clients seek to add care providers to online networks. How, for example, should a pediatric nurse respond when a cancer patient’s mom wants to become a Facebook “friend”? What parameters must be established now that these public conversations could become of an official medical record? What else is preventing medical staff and healthcare organizations from adopting social media? Engage with panelists – patients and healthcare workers – who actively use social media and are articulate advocates for its benefits in the complex world of healthcare delivery. Panelists for this session have developed ways to establish appropriate boundaries without creating barriers to health education and empowerment. Attendees will develop a more sophisticated awareness of privacy and engagement within online communities. They’ll learn how those in the healthcare community have dealt with significant concerns and developed effective ways to resolve ethical conflicts, and will leave the session with a framework for addressing similar concerns within their own networks.

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This list is not comprehensive, nor is it meant to be (you can view all health-related panel proposals here). These are panels that stuck out for me, and ones I think will be pretty interesting.

Please take a moment, click on the links above, and vote with a thumbs up for these panels!! The deadline is fast approaching. Thank you.

SXSW 2011: Psychology and Mental Health Panels

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). SXSW 2011: Psychology and Mental Health Panels. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 28, 2020, from
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Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 25 Aug 2010)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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