Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Book Review: Handbook of Research on Holistic Perspectives in Gamification for Clinical Practice

Obviously I am biased.
Nonetheless, this book is quite an interesting opus.

Handbook of Research on Holistic Perspectives in Gamification for Clinical Practice

It can be found here.

Health games are becoming quite a popular trend now, and given their potential, it is indeed legitimate. We hear more about that regularly in the media, and we see more and more of them at specialized conferences. As for myself, as one of the associate editors of Computers in Human Behavior, I can see that more and more papers are submitted - and get published - on this topic. However, I can also see that Reviewers are getting more and more familiar with health games, and, therefore, that they are getting more and more strict in what is good and should be published ... and what is less strong should be rejected.

Therefore, it is critical for people working on this field, or willing to work on this field (and that is obviously true for researchers interested in getting their work published, but also, and maybe more importantly, for clinical specialists willing to develop optimal applications using and based on the most up-to-date knowledge in the field) to know what is going on around, and to know what is the state-of-the-art in health games. That being said, finding a single source which would cover topics as diverse as one could expect to meet in developing an health game paradigm is almost impossible.

This book answers this need. Interestingly, this handbook is that the approach it takes is an heuristic approach. Thus, the various chapters of this book cover very various topics, from angles and perspectives not commonly seen in the field (let's take for instance my own chapter (the Chapter 1: Ethical Challenges in Online Health Games) specifically deals with some ethical aspects of health games - a topic which is obviously extremely important, but which would classically not be covered in a conventional book on health games focusing more on technical approaches or applications to specific pathologies). Don't get me wrong here, this book also covers some of the technical issues and provides examples of      applications to specific pathological conditions. But it goes further, and thus offers a more globalized ("heuristic", huh !) of this emerging field.

For those not familiar with the format of IGI books, there are also a few characteristics which makes this handbook extremely useful and convenient :
- First, the book is made in a truly didactic way. For each chapter, in addition to the main text, there are summarizing tables, key definitions, etc ... making this book a pretty good pedagogical tool in the lab, if you have, let's say, graduate students beginning on this topic and coming from field not related to gamification or health games (such as psychology, conventional health sciences, etc ...), or even coming from fields related to Internet studies, but lacking a specification on online health.
- Second - and I would say that this is of major interest for researchers willing to gain time - all the chapters have, in addition to the references mentionned in the main text, a list of supplementary references, specifically selected for their relevance to the topic of the chapter. Given that all the chapters have been peer reviewed by experts in health games, this makes the book a fantastic resources to locate the "must-to-read" basic references in the field ... hence to get some fundamental information before stating anything on this topic.

In conclusion, this book would definitively find its place - and that would be a place handy, easy to access since it is going to be accessed quite regularly - on the shelves of the personal library of any researcher or health specialist interested in health games.

And if you are interested by this topic in general, I would also recommend to read our "My avatar is pregnant" paper from Dr Anna Lomanowska and myself:

Lomanowska AM, Guitton MJ (2014) My avatar is pregnant! Representation of pregnancy, birth, and maternity in a virtual world. Computers in Human Behavior, 31:322-331. [PDF]

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Literature Review

An excellent article recently published in Computers in Human Behavior is getting some well-desserved recognition: Lepp A, Barkley JE, Karpinsky AC (2014) The relationship between cell phone use, academic performance, anxiety, and satisfaction with life in college students, Computers in Human Behavior, 31: 343-350 (see here), by Andrew Lepp and colleagues, got nominated in the Computing Reviews' 19th Annual Best of Computing list as a "Notable Article in Computing - 2014". Once again, a well-desserved recognition for an excellent paper. It also points the excellence of Computers in Human Behavior, and its potential as a medium to publish top research in this field. This paper is an excellent exemple of what modern cyberpsychology is: interdisciplinary, multidimensional, and quite insightful. In any case, a highly recommended paper to read.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Computers in Human Behavior entering in the top 20 of psychology (multidisciplinary) journals !

The 2014 Impact Factors have been released, and once more Computers in Human Behavior is growing up ! Impact Factor 2013: 2.273 (5 years Impact Factor: 3.047), and now Impact Factor 2014: 2.694 (5 years Impact Factor: 3.624). Not only the Impact Factor is getting closer to the symbolic line of 3, but the 5 years Impact Factor is almost reaching 4 !

But Impact Factors are not what matter the most in terms of metric. Indeed, Impact Factors are just numbers, and they heavily depends on the size of the field. An Impact Factor of 2 does not mean the same if the journal it belongs to is a journal of molecular biology or a journal of computer-mediated communication.
So, while the growth in Impact Factor is great, what matter even more is the relative position of a journal among the other journals in the same field. And here come the real good news: Computers in Human Behavior entered this year the Top 20 of the journals in the "Psychology (Multidisciplinary)" category ! The ranking of Computers in Human Behavior in this category in 2013 was 24 out of 127, and it is 20 out of 129 in 2014.

The cherry on the top of the cake ? Well, Computers in Human Behavior also increased its ranking in the (arguably more competitive) category of "Experimental Psychology", reaching the rank 24 out of 85 (instead of 30 out of 83 in 2013), thus getting closer to enter the Top 20 there too.

Why is that so ? What can explain this success of the journal ? As a scientist, I have the flaw of looking for rational explanations for various phenomenons ... So, one reason is probably that the journal is pretty awesome: the Editors, Publisher, and all the people involved in it are doing an amazing job, and we can only be grateful to our authors and reviewers, who all contribute to the success of Computers in Human Behavior.
But there is probably more than that. First, the journal indeed is of great quality. Although the review process is never instantaneous, and although it can take several months in some case, we managed to keep the average time between submission and first decision relatively reasonable (for a journal receiving circa 2,000 submission a year, still). Second, the field has considerably evolved in the last few years. The methodologies have strengthened, the theories and the knowledge underlying cyberpsychology have expended, and as a result, the overall quality of the papers submitted (and thus, published), has greatly increased too. Better papers, more citations. Third, with the exponential advances in information technologies, virtual spaces are becoming prominent in our everyday life. What was once perceived by some at beast as an ectopic research subject is now becoming a topic of central interest. And Computers in Human Behavior being positioned as a leader in this field, the ranking in more general psychology-related fields is likely to get better. So, in conclusion, while those were good news, I hope to receive even better ones next year !

Friday, March 13, 2015

Mermaids, online intra-community communication and social density

Virtual communities are not necessarily independent from each other. Rather, it is quite the opposite. Indeed, people are usually member of several virtual communities, overlapping or not, and sometimes embedded within larger virtual communities. Therefore, a key question in understanding how virtual community is to understand how the members of the community can maintain contact in the ocean of possible virtual contacts. In other words, how is it possible for members of a community to maintain coherence in a diluted virtual environment? In a previous post, I was discussing how fantasy-based virtual communities can represent good models to approach general cyberpsychology question. Well, once again, this will prove to be true, as the merfolk community of Second Life is a perfect model to study this phenomenon.

The merfolk community of Second Life is a community which spontaneously emerged in the virtual seas of Second Life. However, compared to the number of land-dwelling avatars, the merfolk are ridiculously few. Thus, the question of how to maintain communication within the merfolk community was central in order of this community to exist. In our last paper, we studied the communication processes in the merfolk community, demonstrating how optimal communication strategy making an heavy use of redundancy allowed to keep high levels of social density (you can download the paper for free here, but just up to end of April : http://authors.elsevier.com/a/1QZRW2f~UVu9K5 ).

Guitton MJ (2015) Swimming with mermaids: Communication and social density in the Second Life merfolk community. Computers in Human Behavior, 48:226-235.

But actually, there is even more to learn from the merfolk. Today, we had the visit of Dr Louise Arseneault, Professor of Developmental Psychology at King's College London. After her though-provoking talk, she spent the day at our Institute to meet and talk with the PIs. During the fascinating discussions we had, we went to talk about cyberbullying (as she is a world-famous expert on the psychology of bullying), and I gave the example of various virtual communities and how conflicts are handled there, and particularly with the merfolk community which had a very efficient way to deal with such events, notably due to the communication strategies used and to the clear identification of mentors and advisers within the community. So, as it was with the Star Wars role-play community a few years ago, there is quite more than meets the eye under the level of the virtual sea.

A mermaid in the virtual seas of Second Life.

In case you would get interested by the merfolk option in Second Life, you can get all the information you would want at the Safe Waters Foundation Headquarters (just type "Safe Waters Foundation" in the place search engine of Second Life and it will bring you there), or look at their site: http://www.goldmermaid.com/SWF/ .