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Communication Research and Practice


Edited By Adrienne Shaw and D. Travers Scott

This volume brings together a range of papers that fruitfully engage with the theme of the 2017 Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, held in San Diego, California: Interventions. Here "intervention" points to a range of communication practices that engage with a political event, social phenomena, industrial or socio-cultural practice, in order to alter and disrupt events and the norms and practices that contribute to their occurrence.  Interventions prohibit events from proceeding in a "normal" course. Interventions approach or critique practices and phenomenon resulting from tensions or absences occurring in: events, structures, (institutional governmental, media industry), discourses, and socio-cultural and subcultural events. Intervention presents the opportunity to explore boundaries, assumptions and strategies that appear to be different or irreconcilable, viewing them instead as possibilities for productive engagements. Communication interventions—in both research and practice—insert insights from diverse voices, marginal positions, emerging organizational practices and digital technologies, to broaden and enrich dialogue. Interventions bring complex reframings to events and phenomenon. Interventions seek to alter a course and effect changed practices in a range of spheres: governmental and social institutions, cultural and nongovernmental groups; industry and organizational life, new media and digital spaces, socio-cultural environments, subcultural groups, health environments, affective and behavioral life, and in everyday life.

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10. Exploring Digital Interventions in Mental Health: A Roadmap (Marisa Brandt / Luke Stark)


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10. Exploring Digital Interventions in Mental Health: A Roadmap


Introduction: Mental Health in the Digital Age

In November 2015, the director of the United States National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Thomas Insel, left his position in order to join Verily, the new life sciences division of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. Insel justified his departure by stating he had been driven by an ever-strengthening belief that digital media technologies would become ever more integral to the future of mental health care (Regalado, 2015). In Insel’s view, these technologies offered new opportunities to define, diagnose, and intervene in mental illness with a level of individual precision and predictive power previously inaccessible to clinical psychology and psychiatry. In May 2017, Insel announced his decision to depart Verily for a new startup company, Mindstrong. He was even more explicit regarding his enthusiasm for the power of the tech sector, claiming he had “developed this kind of entrepreneurial itch” (Rogers, 2017, para. 4). Among Mindstrong’s ambitions was to discover whether quotidian data collected from mobile phone users could be analyzed to predict mental health problems such as anxiety or depression—research already being conducted on social media platforms such as Instagram (Reece & Danforth, 2017). Mindstrong’s aim to use such data to personalize mental health care dovetailed with Insel’s own clinical ambitions while NIMH director (Insel, 2015).

Insel’s jump to Silicon Valley was perhaps...

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