HBKU College of Science and Engineering highlights research on digital trends
April 17 2021 10:43 PM
Dr Raian Ali and Dr Dena al-Thani
Dr Raian Ali and Dr Dena al-Thani

Designing persuasive technologies that can influence humans to change behaviour, and the ethics of such influence, was the focus of the 16th International Conference on Persuasive Technologies (PT2021) held from April 12-14.

The College of Science and Engineering (CSE) at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) was a co-sponsor of the conference, hosted online by Bournemouth University, UK.

Some 197 authors from 34 countries had submitted their work to the conference. More than 170 researchers, faculty from leading international universities, innovators and practitioners registered for the conference and enriched its diversity and multifaceted discussions.

The conference programme showcased the role technologies are playing in solving societal or personal problems by influencing human behaviour and attitudes through informed persuasion. These include responses to Covid-19, and the closing keynote noted that the pandemic provides “the most compelling case for persuasive technology”, especially as health behaviour such as mask-wearing and social distancing, will help determine the trajectory of societal recovery.

The conference programme included four paper sessions, including a total of 25 paper presentations, two workshops, two keynotes, one panel discussion and one poster session, as well as nine short presentations and two tutorials over three days. The programme highlighted innovative concepts, models and design features to investigate the persuasive effects of technologies for interventions in healthcare, wellbeing, education, marketing and e-commerce.

Papers focused on topics such as emotional feedback to mitigate aggressive driving; adaptive robotic tutors in universities; daily planning prompts with Alexa; persuasive strategies in mobile e-commerce applications; interventions for child healthcare; and the use of a tablet to increase older adults' exercise adherence.

HBKU’s contributions included co-chairing the conference with Dr Raian Ali, a professor in the information and computing technology division, CSE, being the programme chair, and Dr Dena al-Thani, an assistant professor in the same division, chairing the Persuasion and Education Track.

Dr Ali co-presented a paper highlighting 'The Fine Line between Persuasion and Digital Addiction'. Dr Ali also delivered a tutorial on ‘Digital Addiction and Digital Wellness’, sharing the latest research on the analysis of digital addiction, the role of technology in triggering and regulating it, and in contributing to digital wellbeing.

Dr al-Thani moderated a panel, 'Teaching a Persuasive Technology Course', where Dr Ali participated alongside world-renowned speakers from Oulu University, Finland; Cyprus University of Technology; and the University of Twente, the Netherlands.

Dr Mounir Hamdi, professor and founding dean at CSE, said: “HBKU’s presence at Persuasive Technologies 2021 is in keeping with our efforts at the College of Science and Engineering to be at the forefront of innovative research in the field of science and technology. While the conference focused on the creative disruption of persuasive technology as a 21st-century tool that can benefit global societies wracked by multiple challenges, discussions also brought the question of design goals to the fore.

"It was clear that persuasive technology, whether in the form of social media apps, games or websites, is not easy to create without knowledge of behaviour and persuasion theory. This reiterated the importance of PT2021 as a forum to gather experts from interdisciplinary fields.”

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