Identity construction environments : the design of computational tools for exploring a sense of self and moral values
Author(s)Umaschi Bers, Marina
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Architecture. Program in Media Arts and Sciences.
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We live in a society where concepts of self, community and what is right and wrong are constantly changing. This makes it particularly challenging for young people to construct a sense of self and to identify and develop their most cherished personal and moral values. It also puts pressure on schools and society to help them do so. This thesis explores how new technologies can be used to create environments explicitly designed to help young people explore their inner worlds. I coined the term identity construction environments (ICE) to refer to computational tools purposefully designed with the goal of helping young people explore different aspects of the self, in particular personal and moral values. My contribution in this thesis involves three dimensions: theory, design and empirical research. At the theoretical level, I propose a framework through which people can think and learn about identity as a complex entity embracing multiple and contradictory values. At the design level, I describe an evolutionary process of building and investigating the use of three identity construction environments which are precursors to the one that is at the center of the empirical investigation described in this thesis.(cont.) The three-dimensional multi-user environment I call Zora engages learners in the design of a graphical virtual city and its social organization. At the empirical level I present two studies of young people using Zora: a multicultural group of teenagers in an intensive summer workshop, and young patients in the Dialysis Unit at Boston Children's Hospital. Despite their diversity, both populations demonstrated a desire and need to explore issues of identity and values. The first study looks at how teens used Zora to express their sense of self, to create a participatory community to discuss ethical and moral issues, and to explore the relationship between personal identity and moral values. The second study focuses on how pediatric patients used Zora to escape the harshness of the dialysis treatment and to create a network to facilitate mutual support and new kinds of interactions with hospital staff. This thesis offers a theoretical framework and methodology for education in multicultural, moral and democratic values and for the potential role of computational environments in psychotherapeutic interventions.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, School of Architecture and Planning, Program in Media Arts and Sciences, 2001.Includes bibliographical references (p. 204-212).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Architecture. Program in Media Arts and Sciences.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Architecture. Program in Media Arts and Sciences.