Cyberpsychology and Information Technology Literacy

José M. Prieto

Complutense University, Madrid

Faculty of Psychology, Somosaguas, Madrid, 28223

Fax +34, 913510091

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Keynote Address, July 6th, 11:00 Aula Magna

6th European Congress of Psychology

Rome 4-9th, July 1999


 

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Abstract

This keynote address has been divided in four sections. The first analyzes the conceptual emergence of Cyberspace. The second analyzes the conceptual emergence of Information Technology Literacy. The third analyzes the concept of Cyberpsychology. The fourth analyzes the Psychology of the Cyberspaces as a new field of expertise comprising four ingredients: a) the transition from literacy to proficiency in new information technologies; b) the use of Internet as a continuing education system online; c) the use of Internet to carrying out research online; d) the use of Internet as a new context for professional practice taking advantage of knowledge-based expertise online.

 

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Cyberpsychology and Information Technology Literacy

First we must clarify what do we mean by Cyberpsychology. Apparently this is a new term, but in fact this is a term that has been used increasingly among those scholars and practitioners who are becoming regular Internet users.

1. Here are some details highlighting the conceptual emergence of Cyberspace:

    1. The term "cybernetics" was coined by Nobert Wiener (1894-1964) in 1948, as a title for his book, Cybernetics (Wiener, 1965; 1988). The original meaning in old Greek, kybernetikos, means "steersman" or "helmsman". That is, the person who steers a machine, the person who steers a ship. Kibernao was the verb meaning "to lead", "to steer", "to govern". Soon afterwards "Cybernatics" became a branch of science studying the processing of information and communication as well as control systems as applied to machines and living organisms.
    2. In Europe another term was coined, "Telematics" (originated through the French influence in the administration of the EU in Brussels) meaning the transmission of digital data through the telephone network. However, this term is almost unknown all around the world except Europe where it is used often in the newspapers and mass-media in some languages such as French and Spanish. Telematics is just that place you are in when you are connected online. This same idea is shared by the term "Cyberspace".
    3. The term Cyborgs was coined in 1970 by Alvin Toffler in his book Future Shock (Toffler, 1991) where he devoted several pages analyzing the possibilities of the human/machine integration and the interaction of human brains and databases through networked communication. A cyborg is a person whose physiological functioning is aided by a mechanical or depends upon an electronic device.
    4. The term "Cyberspace" started to be used as an argot among computer literate but counter cultural circles in the mid 1970s as witnessed by John Brunner, in his novel "Shockwave Rider" (Brunner, 1990, first edition of 1975) and by William Gibson in several science fiction stories published first in magazines and afterwards collected in 1984 in a book "Neuromancer" (Gibson, 1995). These people started to call themselves "cyberpunks" stressing that they were using computers and video games as a way of self-expression. They realized that they have developed a belief about the existence of some kind of actual space behind the screen, "some place that you cannot see but you know is there". This world of lucid dreaming beyond a computer or a television screen started to be named Cyberspace.
    5. "Cyber" suggested the idea of computer memory and networked communication systems. Now its is used as a short name for computers, networked computers. "Space" alluded to a multidimensional but virtual space. During the 1990s three layers coexist behind the term "cyberspace". We are, thus, in the domain of connotations (Whittle, 1997): .

      1. Cyberspace as a imaginary and fictional space where sensory experiences take place and in which the mind is absorbed and the person experiences oneness with the set of stimuli, challenges and performance elicited. It is a trancelike experience, actual. "Consensual hallucination" was the expression used by cyberpunks.

      2. Cyberspace as the conceptual world where the individuals interact with their intellectual creations of a very large nature made available online. Or, in literary terms, "cyberspace … is the name some people use for the conceptual space where words, human relationships, data, wealth and power are manifested by people using computer-mediate communications" Rheingold (1992).

      3. Cyberspace as a world in which people share cognitive and emotional patterns when they communicate, act and interact using digital representations of language, images and sound and producing a large variety of sensory experiences. They stay connected physically through networks and access devices without sharing the same time and space. The online behavior of individuals becomes a part of Internet psychological environment (Wallace, 1998).

    6. The cyberspace also has already a universal time system, without time zones nor geographical borders. The unit is named the beat. The 24 hours of a day have been divided by 1,000 beats, each beat being e quivalent to 1 minute and 26.4 seconds. The 12:00 at noon is equivalent of @500. The meridian time coincides with the winter European wintertime. This system has been proposed by SWATCH (http://www.swatch.com/) and was inaugurated on October 23rd, 1998. This system is now in the dissemination process, using special converters that may be downloaded to computers or with watches using both systems. The great advantage is that is the same all over the world, be it night or day.

Summarizing: The concept of cyberspace appears insofar coexist:

    • Computers interconnected vía a telephone line or a network, sharing common processing mechanisms,
    • A virtual space where the people immerse themselves realizing that the borders between what is real and artificial, what is the present time or space are confusing and deliberately fuzzy.
    • Dense interactions maintained by networked individuals accessing knowledge-based products and creations.
    • A new intelligentsia creating, displaying and fostering a communal mind for the 21st century using digital representations.

 

Figure 1 illustrates the new territory inhabited by people using computers in the process of creating a society and a culture where tones of bits of information are ready-made by-products or services.

2. Here are some details highlighting the emergence of Information Tecnologies Literacy (ITL):

    1. It is convenient to make the contrast between the access and use of Internet before and after the creation of the HTML standard. Before 1992 we were a tiny minority in Departments of Psychology both in American, Canadian and European universities among others. Commands, instructions and addresses were copied in notebooks managed by scholars literate in programming languages and information technologies. Once the hypertext approach was developed first in Geneva and afterwards in Champaign, a user friendly standard, named Mosaic, opened the way to interested but illiterate scholars ready to move around the world online by clicking on an hypertext link.
    2. Another important benchmark has been the period 1992-1996: Jacques Delors, as President of the EU Council, and Al Gore, as Vicepresident of the US, did converge and encouraged the idea of New Information Highways as the essential infrastructure setting the pace for the advancement of science, technology and quality of life during the 21st century. Both contributed to bury the "Stars War" project sponsored by Ronald Regan and Margaret Tatcher during the 1980s. The leading role of both influenced the assignment of funds to New Information Technologies, the waiting room for the Cyberspace and the platform to creative developments in University campuses in both continents. The investment in computer rooms, in programming languages, in innovative approaches generating learning and knowledge-based infrastructures increased exponentially as a direct consequence of policies backed at the top of the governmental pyramid.
    3. The commercionalization of Windows 95 marks another no-return event. Many users had access to a large variety of protocols and programs integrated under the umbrella of a single operating environment. In the past the coordination of programs and standards turned into a contest between the manual, the equipment and the aha! understanding of the situation. About 3 out of 4 incidents dealing with Internet connections in desktop PC at home used did occur under Windows 3.1.
    4. In Spain we have another landmark. In 1996 the Spanish Psychological Association (COP) started to provide, gratis, free access to Internet to every associate as a service included in the membership fee. Differential professional associations in Spain have created a Foundation to facilitate free and direct access to Internet from home or the office. By mid June 1999 5702 members had an Internet account at the COP server. Two out three, that is, 65%, are active, that is, they establish a connection 20 days per month and the average connection has been 0:17 minutes in June 1999. This initiative of the COP has favored that the degree of accessibility to Internet has been the same for Spanish scholars and practitioners. In fact the average speed at the COP has been regular 2-3 times higher than at the campus. I am the coordinator of this online service of the COP.
    5. Figure 2 illustrates the number of email transactions performed by COP members every month during the last two years and a half. There is a linear increase related not only to the increasing number of members but also to their active involvement exchanging emails.

       

      Figure 3 also illustrates the number of web connections established in the COP server online. It shows that it has become the target of an increased number of visitors every month. In fact, there is a linear relation between the number of visitors and the amount of documents made available at http://www.cop.es/ because this homepage has become an actual electronic library on Spanish psychology where official reports, journals, databases, indices, catalogues have been made available and are updated regularly.

       

    6. In operational terms, the transition towards the Information Tecnology Literacy and the Cyberspace culture is illustrated in Table 1. The left column lists current items belonging to the Gutenberg tradition whereas the right column lists items belonging to the Cyberspace culture.

There are always people stressing that we cannot keeping in mind "how things have been always done" and those stressing a pioneering mind decided to move always ahead (behind vs beyond). Ballpoint pens are somewhere around and some people still consider it is main desk technology whereas others prefer the keyboards, chips and mouse as their main desk technology. Some people started to get used to PCs and view it as a work technology whereas others use PC as work and entertainment technology. Handwriting in notebooks is still the main technology for people organizing agendas or taking notes, whereas for others electronic or PCMCIA notebooks shape the way of organizing things. Conventional or fashioned phones at home or in the office are the standard for some people whereas others use the cell phone as an standards plus a large variety of integrated solutions as fax, notebooks plus Internet connections. Many students still cannot consider the possibility of organizing exams without photocopies, for instance, whereas only a few are used to take advantages of scanners and online boards. Printed books are still the companion accepted for reading and studying, whereas electronic books in flat screens is the new standard when they need to read or study at home, in the office, in the beach. For some people ink is still the standard in writing or printing documents in a permanent basis whereas others try the electronic ink, of a reversible nature, allowing, for instance, to print several times the same piece of paper. Some still visit Fine Art Museum during the weekends or when they walk around in the role of tourists whereas visit a large of Virtual Museum moving around at the touch of a click online or offline. Some are used to conventional learning aids where the information is ready linearly whereas other use learning wizards based on hypertext technology introducing the information in a non-linear manner. Finally national languages (included English) are protected or enhanced by law as an essential proof of identity whereas others get used to a new metalanguage or "lingua franca" known as Cyber-English whose grammar and entries in the dictionary do change fluently and eloquently.

Table 1: Transition from Gutenberg to Cyberspace culture

Gutenberg

Cyberspace

Behind

Beyond

Ballpoint pens

Keyboards, Chips and mouse

PC users

PC Games off/line

Notebook

Electronic & PCMCIA notebooks

Telephone

Cell phone + fax + notebook + Internet

Photocopy

Scanners & online boards

Printed books

Electronic Books

Ink

Electronic Ink

Fine Art Museum

Virtual Museum

Learning Aids

Learning Wizards

National languages

Cyber-English

Each time I use this list I introduce new items. The critical issue is the wording; new connotations are added to conventional terms and often a brand new term might be more convenient. Should we name notebook to a flat screen with a visit card size? Should we name telephone the combination of phone, screen, fax, modem, keyboard and Internet tools? May we talk still of ink when we mention the electronic and reversible ink?

3. Cyberpsychology: a soft, fuzzy dominion

    1. I detected the term Cyberpsychology by the academic year 1995-96 in different webpages located in the US. I was writing a paper on "Psicología Telemática" (Prieto, 1997). I located at http://www.soc.hawaii.edu/~leonj/leonj/leonpsy/cyber.html an hyperdocument on Cyberpsychology: Principles of Creating Virtual Presence, written by Prof. Leon James at the University of Hawaii, and another on The Psychology of Cyberspace launched by Prof. John Suler at the Rider University, located now at http://www.rider.edu/users/suler/psycyber/psycyber.html organized as an electronic book in a process of continuous expansion.
    2. In the US the first symposium on Cyberpsychology issues was convened in 1996 by Steven Kronheim at the annual convention of the EPA. In the EU I was the convenor of the first symposium on Cyberpsychology issues held in Dublin, in 1997, during the past 5th European Congress of Psychology. Individual papers on cyberpsychology issues where also presented to the 26 International Congress of Psychology held in Montreal in August 1996.
    3. A peer-reviewed journal, entitled "Cyberpsychology and Behavior" has been launched in the US (http://www.liebertpub.com/) as a four issues per year in 1998 and a six issues per year in 1999. It was made public during the 24 International Congress of Applied Psychology and the 106th Annual APA Convention held both in San Francisco, August 1998.

Things seem to run swiftly in what concerns the settlement of Cyberpsychology as a new field for research, action and training purposes. Until June 1999 I have been able to locate up 483 hyperdocuments available online where the main subject is "Cyberpsychology".

Several meanings and nuances have grown gradually nurturing the expression Cyberpsychology as a conceptual and methodological backbone, studying:

    • On-line computer-based resources and support facilities and their use in dealing with issues of training, counseling and intervention in psychology.
    • Psychological processes and issues emerging in the world of networked computers and hypermedia.
    • The psychological dimensions of environments created by computers and online networks (J. Suler)
    • Understanding the principles of creating viable virtual presence in the cyberspace and studying the navigation process in virtual reality zones (L. James).
    • Influences by which technology and computerization reconstruct a learner's educational environment, learning processes and accompanying human relationships (S. Kronheim).
    • Computer-mediated communication patterns among Internet users when they read hypertext, share information, make contacts, collaborate and learn about developments and events, shaping meaning for themselves.
    • New dimensions of human experience created by computers and of professional experience opened by computer networks.
    • The use of computer networks as a tool for conducting psychological research
    • Virtual libraries specialized in cataloguing papers, books, software, reports, surveys, assessment procedures, syllabus, discussion groups, newsgroups, journals, proceedings devoted to psychological issues and sponsored by individuals, departments, associations.
    • Personality types and roles observed among regular and addict users
    • Interactions, problems and disorders arising out of the use of the Internet
    • Therapy or support groups made available via Internet, that is Cyber-therapy.

4. The Psychology of Cyberspace: A New Field of Expertise

Figure 4 illustrates the main components that, together, shape the new dominion of "know how" and "know what" that psychologists manage in the process of developing this new field of expertise.

 

4.1 The first challenge seems to be the information technology barrier. That is, new comers must learn what the Internet is all about, what are the basic tools and resources. In other words, mastering cyberspace concepts and skills to operate and to survive successfully in the net (Bissel, 1996; Hamel & Ryan-Jones, 1997; Labruzza, 1997; Zeichner, 1997).

At a first glance the purpose is acquiring literacy in networked computer systems. However, the means-end perspective is the transition from literacy to proficiency in new information technologies (Grohol & Zuckerman, 1997; Lukoff, 1998; Morrison & Stamps, 1998; Stull, 1997).

    • Hardware issues: such as modems, fax, ISDN, internal cards, ports, LAN, push and plug standards, monitors, scanners, zip disks, printers and so on;
    • Software issues: souch as browser, email programs, backup programs, IRC, Netmeeting, Encryption, Upgrades and so on.
    • CD-Rom and DVD issues: Multimedia standards, kits, speed, reproduction, conversions from slow to fast CD-ROM, databases, reference system....
    • Techno-structural issues: Server-client architectures, USENET, discussion lists, bulletin boards, virtual communities, websites, addresses, time zones...
    • Management issues: files, protocols, upgrading, hard disks, diskettes, directories, compatible formats, transfer, Net-etiquette, Instructions and so on.
    • Searching issues: Search engines, Gopher, X-500, Whois, WAIS, SQL databases, boolean markers, linguistic reportoires and so on.
    • Authoring tools issues: HTML, Java, graphic and audio formats, animations, movies, copyrights, layouts, editors and assistants, and so on.
    • Cyber-English issues: Written communication skills, net-slang, technical terms, multilingualism and so on
    • New trends issues: emerging and declining technologies, innovative firms and products, compatibilities, limits and feasibilities
    • Scepticism issues: critical mind, assessment and evaluation of outcomes, cost-benefit analyses, policies, limits. Online computers are the means, not the end.

The distinction "training" versus "education" is quite convenient here. The number of workshops teaching students and graduates how to run some programs or how to use specific protocols and commands do, in fact, proliferate. This is a matter of training and these courses are a common place. However, a second step is necessary and it entails the process of helping our students and graduates

    • to understand principles or concepts shaping the background of Internet,
    • to perceive interrelationships that exists between some software and hardware elements,
    • to pay attention to the fact that protocols and procedures have been tested and optimized to run fluently in English (a new kind of meta-language) and that many incidents may appear suddenly as soon as other languages are used in the net,
    • to be able to analyze situations and problems appearing somewhere in the PC, in the telephone line, in the Internet service provider, in the bandwidth and caudal, in the successive rings of connections at the national or international level, in traffic jams that occur as a consequence of specific events somewhere in the net.

The skills required to navigate the online environment may be learned through a current training program. However more advanced users (that is, cyberpsychologists) must have a cognitive map of what is running on when they access, analyze and communicate effectively in the electronic information era. Proficiency in using new information technologies (and not only literacy), is now, for all practical purposes, a required competency in the younger cohort of students and graduates in Psychology. They must be able to use these tools independently and collaboratively.

4.2 The second challenge seems to be the use of Internet as a continuing education scenario for students and graduates, as a continuous learning and follow-up tool for scholars and practitioners. There is a shift from higher education models centered in the campus where learning experiences take place as a synchronous process to higher education models where learning experiences take place somewhere in a multidimensional space in an asynchronous manner.

Courses are becoming different because the content is not in the blackboard or in a printed book, but in hypermedia where text, sound, graphics, animation are embedded. Our students were rocked, when they were jus a baby, with cartoon and animated films; they get used to videoclips when they were teenagers. Do they know Don Quixote, Hamlet, Faust, "Le malad imaginaire" because they have read the masterpiece or because learned the story in a cartoon?.

Let me play the role of provocateur:

    • Should I watch a movie or buy a compact disk if I do not like the videoclip?
    • Should I read or study a textbook if I do not like the video clip?
    • Should I enroll myself in a course if I do not like the hypermedia samples made available online by the professor?

The Internet and the interactive multimedia are changing the way we think about what is an acceptable content, what is an acceptable syllabus, what is an acceptable content provider. Special emphasis and developments take place in the way resources and contents are made available:

    • The virtual classroom. It means making available in the Web site all kind of documents and materials students will need to reach the learning goals for the course. Messages exchanged favor the maintenance of personal links among students and among students and professors by creating the feeling of a community involved in the same program. It is possible to create an open space for experimentation, try out, making group presentations, facilitating the expression of ideas as well as applications among students. It is quite easy to create scenarios and procedures to carry out formative and summative evaluations testing advances or stagnation in the learning process. A showcase where the students may exhibit the outcomes of their work and observe peers contributions. A virtual classroom is a learning space shaped after certain psychological and educational principles (Porter, 1997).
    • Web-based projects for the classroom, that is a complementary activity. Information available at different websites, discussion lists, newsgroups and so on is used to create a contrast between what is taught in the classroom and what may be verified online. For instance, a follow up of messages exchanged among teenagers in one or several newsgroup may be a way of studying unintrusively values, motives, beliefs, priorities. A follow up of messages exchanges in discussion lists with the same subject but using different languages may be an adequate tool to produce a cross cultural research online unintrusively (Carson, Butcher & Mineka, 1997; Roerden, 1997).
    • Web-based training. Three modalities have been tried successfully during the last years. The basic one is text and graphics combined in an hyper-document available online produced in the same way that paper-based course materials. Interactive web-based instructional designs is the second modality where exercises are performed online and and tutorials are made available in a CD-ROM or in a high speed or a broad band networking system. When the students manipulate graphic objects in real-time, for instance a simulation or a game, it is the realm of Interactive multimedia programs made available through a website. This third modality is held currently in an Intranet system. Currently Web-based training facilitates self-paced learning (Hall, 1997).
    • Web-based assessment and evaluation: Web cameras may be used to observe for instance very young children in a day care center. Within the context of a course on Child Psychology these webcam may be very useful to train students interpreting children behavior in an unintrusive manner. In a similar vein, in the area of human resources management, after reading and observing how to enter information in a common recordkeeping system for personnel departments, students may observed entering data, accessing and modifying records. The simulation may include feedback when they behave in an incorrect manner. Some forms of feedback may be mechanized, for instance, online comments that pop up on-screen and some other forms of feedback may be forwarded via e-mail or chatting.
    • Web-based follow-up of the transfer of training: Currently the relationship between professors and students end the last day they meet in the classroom or the exam day. For instance, there is a Rorschach test seminar where the students stay in touch with the professor once the course is ended via online. Students scan Rorschach test correction forms, send it to the professor with their diagnosis via email and soon afterwards obtain the feedback, comments or advice of the professor in the role of mentor for a certain period. This follow-up connects colleagues living in Italy, Spain and Argentina.
    • Online case studies: Multimedia and online tools have introduced a new standard in what concerns case studies. For instance, clinical histories of patients have been scanned and made available online in the Intranet of the campus. Students have access to these databases of records, may download into a diskettes the information they consider convenient and, finally, they submit a diagnosis. The professor gets the report but also controls what kind of information the student downloaded and analyzed and what information has omitted or failed to download. Video-clips of interviews held with the patient, x-ray photographs, computerized axial tomographies, blood tests, projective tests, scanned manuscripts or photos may be accumulated in a CD-Rom and handed directly by the students as an in-door or out-door activity. Similar approaches to case studies have been tried in educational psychology and in work and organizational psychology.
    • Online seminars: My Ph.D. seminar this year has been online. I met the 20 students only three times in a real classroom to specifiy approaches and analyze difficulties. All the messages, reports, dialogues, took place in a online conference room. There were two varieties, simultaneous talks (chat) and asynchronous talks (something between a discussion list and a newsgroup). The simultaneous talks have been archived and will be the subject of a future follow up.

What is already upon us is the idea of a virtual campus in Psychology, specially addressed to those students, graduates and scholars who are fluent in English. The network expands the number of options for interactions among advanced and inexperienced researchers, among faculty and students sharing only the net and the common field of expertise.

At present the number of students combining learning experiences in the campus and online is growing. If they are fluent in English the number of possibilities are broader and quite often cheaper and more effective. There is a higher probability of increasing the number of agreements between advanced research or teaching units in different regions decided to share resources only among students enrolled in the respective program. It means the proliferation of restricted knowledge-based circles in Psychology that may be accessed and visited via Internet. A new category may appear, online and offline campuses.

An special issue devoted to teaching demonstrations and tutorials (http://icdweb.cc.purdue.ed/~stevelin/special_issue/content.html) has been published by the journal Behavior Research Methods, Instruments & Computers last February 1999.

4.3 The third challenge is to change the way of carrying out research benefiting from the plethora of online possibilities.

If we analyze the history of psychology we may realize that pioneers and leading figures have been people who were many of them curious and some of them fond of the prevailing technologies at that time. For instance, Wundt combined introspective and psychophysiological methods to a wide range of subjects such as reaction and inspection time, word associations, the elaboration of judgments and the expression of emotions. He transformed elegant physiological methods to elegant psychological methods in his laboratory. The Binet test had many details in common with the medical efforts to standardize procedures used by health professionals to gather and make sense of the information obtained interviewing patients. The ink blots produced by Hermann Rorschach became the well-known Rorschach test as a consequence of the advanced use of the engraving technology that became an standard in the 1910s. The importance of original engraved plates or of very reliable reproductions of such original plates is stressed to students buying this collection of gravures. The Skinner box is a typical by-product taking of the electromechanical devices developed at the aftermath of the Second World War. The overuse of the analysis of variance by researchers in our laboratories is a by-product of the analysis of agrobiological and agrochemical data generated by the controlled variation of treatment conditions in manipulative experiments. The analysis of variance designed by Ronald A. Fisher was feasible with the technology available at that time whereas the general linear model and the multiple regression and correlation system outlined by Francis Galton and Karl Pearson had to await for the computer era. Fidelity to an old fashioned approach, the analysis of variance, prevails over more advanced and coherent approaches, the multivariate analysis or the non-linear analyses.

There have been some discussions on the methodological advantages and disadvantages of Web Experiments. I am not to summarize them here, because I favor strongly this approach but introducing adequate corrections and restrictions on a contingent basis as is the case often in the laboratory. For those interested a visit to http://psych.unit.ch/genpsy/Ulf/Lab/WebExpPsyLab.html is like a guided tour to the treasure island. For those interested in getting ideas and suggestions about how to use microcomputers in their teaching and research, the Society for Computers in Psychology (http://www.lafayette.edu/allanr/scip.html) supplies online another treasure island.

What kinds of experiments are already carried out via online? Here is a short list of examples that may be used as stimuli or hints for those who came to this lecture pushed by curiosity (Calbert, 1998; Forsythe, Grose & Ratner, 1998; Gwinnell & Su, 1998: Kiesler, 1997; Rabin & Lagowski, 1999).

    • Experiments on visual encoding of environments or on mental rotation spatial skills using graphic and animation programs where pictures may be modified at will by the subjects and by the experimenter.
    • Decision making experiments using real values in the Stock Market and investment decisions in a real or a simulated basis. Prof. Pol Coetsier at the University of Ghent is involved in such a kind of research for instance.
    • Online test on logical thinking for instance, obtaining individual feedback of the results.
    • Visual information processing and spatial orientation in 3D and VRML scenarios accessible online: distal and proximal stimuli, 360º rotation, the role of context in words recognition.
    • Cognition and interpretation of gestures using static as well as animated images, manipulating backgrounds, cloths, make up, sex. The same person may be portrayed as male or female changing the picture digitally.
    • Issues related to internet use such as addiction disorders, gender differences, flirting and dating, purchasing online, crackers and hackers, deviant behavior, trouble makers, pornography (Young, 1998).
    • Virtual reality psychological treatment of simple phobias such as
    • agoraphobia (by projecting images of oneself in the crowd),
    • claustrophobia (images of chambers with moving walls)
    • fear of flying (by desensitizing of apprehensive flyers),
    • eating disorders (3D figures ranging from under to overweight),
    • fear of heights( by graded exposure through a glass elevator),
    • fear of driving.
    • Applications of virtual reality to (Rizzo, Wiederhold, Riva, Van der Zaag, 1998)
    • social skills training in children and teenagers,
    • training patients on surgical interventions or cancer treatments,
    • training patients with impairments, disabilities or coping deficits
    • improving the quality of life of bedridden patients and elderly.
    • the treatment of impotence and premature ejaculation,
    • the prevention of smoking among teenagers.
    • Development of new psychological tests measuring the performance on perceptual, motor and memorizing tasks
    • Virtual support groups online such as Alcoholic Anonimous, encounter groups, parents of children with special needs, role playing, virtual communities
    • Construction, deconstruction and reconstruction of the self online through avatars.
    • Discourse processes studied through online synhronous and asynchronous communication varying details such as message length, narrative vs. expository messages, linguistic gendered biases, text presentation.
    • Face to face versus electronic brainstorming
    • Personal information management strategies through the email
    • Navigation in structured and unestructured environments,
    • Web design guidelines and readers' behavior and preferences,
    • Digital library uses for research activities in Internet and in Intranets
    • Groupware interfaces facilitating or colliding upon collaborative interactions,
    • Children educational and recreational environments online
    • All kind of surveys are available on issues such as suicide, food beliefs, hand washing patterns, long term effects of war experience, health role beliefs, language usage, child disciplinary practice, childhood and adult life experiences, anger disorder, stress, grief reaction, romantic relationships, marital affairs and so on.

The journal Cyberpsychology and Behavior, is the main source where research programs on developments and applications of virtual reality to a large variety of settings.

4.4 The four challenge has to do with the usefulness of Internet as tool in professional practice taking advantage of our knowledge-based expertise through the specialties. Education and research make sense if there is a psychological product made available.

My conception of the issue is summarized in figure 5. Ideas come, grow and vanish in all kind of lectures, presentations, books, debates as well as in the solitude. There is an overflow of ideas around us in this 6th European Congress of Psychology. Ideas like thoughts, alone, are ghosts in our minds, dreaming until the wakeup in a bookshelf. As soon as we turn around an idea and consider the best way to share it with others, to introduce it, to highlight it, we try to shape the idea, to frame the idea, to give it a form. It is through form that an idea becomes something. In other words, an idea plus a form, together, make sense: the idea has an appearance, a shape, and then may be named: it is your shoes, your clothes, this seat, this auditorium. Without a concrete shape, ideas have no names, are just specters milling around in the mind, in the campus.

 

But that is not enough. People asking for something peremptorily have an idea with a given in mind, the demand something that has a name, that it is identified by a logo, by a trademark, that may be bought, exchanged, donated or stolen. A given idea, with a form, with a certain demand is just a psychological product, a psychological good or service. It is the focus of attention, it is the "raison d'être" in Applied CyberPsychology. If there is no demand, the idea is a vain fancy looking at your convenience. If there is no demand and no form, the idea is just a succession of images, of thoughts, and maybe of cognitive emotions.

Applied Cyperpsychology exists as soon as there are goods or services available online and there are users, visitors demanding upon it. It seems to be the case. There are already practitioners and customers, consultants and clients, psychotherapists and patients, behavioral or cognitive therapists and clients, meeting together, exchanging together, obtaining a mutual benefit online. Let me show up a few examples.

    • Some clinical and health psychologist are already delivering some services online such as counseling, follow up or feedback between sessions to individuals or to groups. Some are involved in discussion groups analyzing mental health issues such as suicide or divorce. The Albert Ellis Institute answers one question per month gratis. Many of this websites still stress that this is an educational not a therapeutical approach as a consequence of the fact that several national associations of psychology are reluctant to accept as an standard the exclusive use of Internet in the therapeutical relationship. The concept "cybertherapy" is not yet accepted and national association favor the use of Internet as a channel for communications among clinical and health psychologists and as tool for professional reference within the context of media management. However a book exploring computer assisted therapeutic interventions online and offline has been published (Fink, 1999).
    • The fear of flying disorder is already approached succesfully in some private centers combining relaxation training and thought-stopping techniques with virtual reality (Klein, 1998).
    • Some Work and Organizational Psychologists have started to use the Internet as a new tool for the recruitment of candidates, for some kind of preliminary assessments, for interviewing, for giving courses, for doing the follow-up of the transfer of training, for informing about the outcomes of selection procedures (Prieto, 1997).

Further details concerning developments in Internet from a psychological and professional perspective may be found, regularly updated, at the following addresses:

http://www.cop.es/

http://www.cop.es/database/

http://www.iaapsy.org/

http://www.ucm.es/info/Psyap/

An electronic version of this keynote address is available at http://www.ucm.es/info/Psyap/libros/roma.html

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