Saybrook alumna uses technology and humanitarianism to introduce “consciousness hacking” to youth.
By Shamontiel L. Vaughn
Take a casual browse at the homepage of your favorite news site: celebrity gossip and deaths, political strife, tax and corruption cases, and weather alerts. Now try to find the same amount of positive news stories. Chances are pretty high that you’ll come up dry.
IF PEOPLE ARE INTRIGUED BY THE WORLD’S WOES, SHOULDN’T THOSE WHO TRY TO SOLVE OR IMPROVE THEM GET JUST AS MUCH ATTENTION?
With approximately 77 percent of Americans owning smartphones and breaking news dropping too quickly to follow, the average smartphone users can just point and click to as much clickbait and bad news as they want to. And judging from the “Consumer Demand for Cynical and Negative News Frames” experiment, even when Internet users are manipulated into believing a “news” test is really a vision test and claim to prefer positive news, they’re still more likely to click on downers.
But why isn’t humanitarianism just as popular as reading bad news? If people are intrigued by the world’s woes, shouldn’t those who try to solve or improve them get just as much attention? That’s something that Saybrook graduate Dr. Dana Klisanin, the creator of the upcoming digital game Cyberhero League, is trying to prove.
“Due to media saturation, today’s youth know a great deal about global challenges but have limited means to make a difference,” says Dr. Klisanin. “I’m concerned that this exposure may lead to the condition of learned helplessness—and result in adults who do not believe their actions can make a difference. To create a generation of engaged global citizens, we need to start young.”
But before Dr. Klisanin set her sights on changing the scope of youth activism, she focused on studying psychology at Saybrook.
CYBERHEROES, ACCORDING TO THE OFFICIAL SITE, ARE REAL PEOPLE WHO DEFY THE BYSTANDER EFFECT BY USING DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES TO HELP OTHER PEOPLE, ANIMALS, AND THE ENVIRONMENT.
Dr. Dana Klisanin
“Saybrook’s pioneering role in establishing a center for the study of Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology, as well as Saybrook’s distinguished faculty, were the primary reasons I selected the university,” says Dr. Klisanin. “As a single parent, I was also looking for a university with a flexible campus experience—another area pioneered by the university’s founders.”
At a residential conference while she was a Ph.D. student, she attended a “life-changing” seminar “The Age of Open Systems” taught by the pioneering Systems scholar Bela H. Banathy. “From exploring the use of expressive arts to expand consciousness at an individual level, I began using evolutionary systems design to explore the use of media to expand consciousness at the societal level,” says Dr. Klisanin, who earned her Ph.D. in 2003. “And at that time, there wasn’t a specialization in social impact media, but Saybrook’s faculty encouraged me to pioneer this area. Media was becoming interactive, and computers and cell phones were quickly becoming ubiquitous. There wasn’t a name for the intersection of transpersonal studies and digital technology, so I coined the term ‘transception’ to reference this integration. In a broader sense, this area is now referred to as ‘consciousness hacking.’”
And Dr. Klisanin, who is writing an upcoming book The Good Web: Hacking Consciousness in the 21st Century, wanted to use consciousness hacking to explore how digital technology could be used as “an antithesis to cyberbullying” in Cyberhero League.
In 2012, she received the Distinguished Early Career Award for Scientific Achievement in Media Psychology for research on digital altruism and the Cyberhero Archetype. Cyberheroes, according to the official site, are real people who defy the bystander effect by using digital technologies to help other people, animals, and the environment. Participants are considered heroic by addressing the Articles of the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights (a document that details fundamental human rights to be universally protected) and the Earth Charter, which emphasizes “ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, social and economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace.”
Participants wear a “digital cape” by using technology (smartphone, tablet, computer, Internet connection) to accomplish heroic deeds. Additional wearable technology and GPS-enabled accessories such as a shield, cap, phone, or watch are also being designed to work with the game. Players will find cybercaches, collect heroic treasures, and use them to defeat Defilers. As they play, they earn the badges of partnering with nonprofit organizations. PARTICIPANTS WEAR A “DIGITAL CAPE” BY USING TECHNOLOGY (SMARTPHONE, TABLET, COMPUTER, INTERNET CONNECTION) TO ACCOMPLISH HEROIC DEEDS. Successful quests allow them to give food, water, medicine, shelter, education, protect endangered animals, preserve a habitat, and help the world achieve the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
Good health and well-being
Clean water and sanitation
Affordable and clean energy
Decent work and economic growth
Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
Sustainable cities and communities
Responsible consumption and production
Life below water
Life on land
Peace and justice strong institutions
Partnerships to achieve the goal
Collaboration and interdependence are strongly encouraged in the game. When a game participant achieves her first badge, she is then able to invite friends into the League. This year, Dr. Klisanin received the President's Outstanding Women Futures Award from the World Futures Studies Federation for her futures-oriented research. She is the founder and executive director of Evolutionary Guidance Media R&D, Inc., and an Executive Board Member of the World Futures Studies Federation serving as the president's envoy to the United Nations.
“I want people to take away the knowledge that through actively participating, they can tackle global challenges and make the world a better place,” says Dr. Klisanin. “I hope the Cyberhero League will help a new generation recognize that heroism is expanding—that interconnectivity can help us anticipate, respond to, and prevent worse-case scenarios so often portrayed in the media. It’s time we expand our heroic imaginations and make the world a better place—together.”
Saybrook is heavily invested in helping its students explore social justice, inclusion, and activism. Check out the Transformative Social Change: Social Impact Media Specialization master’s degree program for details.
Interview with Andy Fisher, Podcast: "For the first time on 'The Hero Forge’ I am delighted to welcome two fascinating guests onto the same call. First we have Olivia Efthimiou who is a researcher at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia. Olivia has an enduring interest in the everyday heroism movement and the hunt for what she calls the ‘heroic gene’.
My second guest is consciousness hacker, futurist, and CEO of Evolutionary Guidance Media, Dana Klisanin. Dana’s work explores how we can use information technologies and the new media to promote human wellbeing and flourishing."
Audrey Hamilton: The study of online behavior often focuses on the negative, such as cyber-bullying or cyber-attacks. But psychologist Dana Klisanin is studying the ways people are using the Internet to help others. She calls it digital altruism. I’m Audrey Hamilton and this is “Speaking of Psychology. “
Dana Klisanin studies and designs media and interactive technologies that encourage people to live consciously. Dr. Klisanin is currently investigating the impact the internet and social media have on heroism. She is the designer of an award-winning online game “The Cyberhero League.” She is also the founder and CEO of Evolutionary Guidance Media R&D, Inc. Welcome, Dr. Klisanin.
Increasingly digital platforms are encouraging us to bring out our selfless side online. By Kharunya Paramaguru Dec. 02, 2013
When the Oxford Dictionary announced this month that “selfie” was its word of the year—noting that its use in the English language had increased by 17,000% in the past year—it confirmed in the minds of some that the open architecture of the web and social media has enabled us to “look like raging narcissists.” But as the number of digital platforms designed to encourage sharing, helping and giving—often with no tangible reward for users—proliferate, the web appears to be allowing our selfless, rather than selfish, side to thrive.
Digital Human Episode 1 of 6
Aleks Krotoski explores what technology tells us about ourselves and the age we live in. In this first programme; is the digital world allowing us to be more altruistic than ever? So does altruism exist online? With all the stories of cyber-bullying and trolling it's very easy to forget the random acts of kindness that the technology also allows. Aleks explores some amazing stories of online altruism. But when no good deed goes unpublished and you can keep score of your goodness through 'followers', 'likes' and the accompanying boosts to ego and reputation is truly selfless altruism online an impossibility? And in the end, if good gets done does it matter?Contributors: Primatologist Frans De Waal, Psychologist Dana Kilsanin, Founder of Random acts of pizza Daniel Rodgers, YouTube DIY guru Chez Rossi
Producer: Peter McManus.
Several technologies and social innovations were featured in the second Futurists: BetaLaunch (F:BL) invention expo, part of the recently-concluded WorldFuture 2012 conference Dream. Design. Develop. Deliver. (Toronto July 27-29). F:BL is a “petting zoo” where WorldFuture attendees can interact with artifacts from the future and engage with the exhibitors. Below is an interview between THE FUTURIST magazine and Dana Klisanin, CEO, Evolutionary Guidance Media R&D, Inc. and creator of the Cyberhero League, a social platform that will enable children to actively impact the welfare of people, animals, and the environment through everyday activities, and one of ten F:BL winners.
PR Web, June 26, 2012, Most of the research being done about the internet is evaluating it as a threat. From cyber-warfare to cyber-bullies and cyber-crime, the internet is often seen as a kind of wild west frontier, filled with criminals. Dr. Dana Klisanin has just received a major award for young researchers by focusing on the way online culture is bringing out the best in people, and organizing them to save the world. Klisanin, who received her PhD in psychology from Saybrook University in 2003, has identified a new personality archetype emerging in the modern world: the “cyberhero.” (Click title to continue reading.)
"We know the internet has changed the way we shop, socialize, and schedule – but how is it changing our sense of human potential. When we dream of who we might be in a networked world, what are we dreaming about? According to Dana Klisanin, Executive Director of Evolutionary Guidance Media Research & Design, society has focused on the negative sterotypes of internet users... like "cyberbullies" or addits... while a new conceptual archetype demonstrating human potential has emerged and inspired millions: the "cyberhero". (Click title to continue reading).
March 3, 2012, "Although the bulk of psychological research continues to focus on the negative uses of the Internet, i.e., cyberbullying and the cyberbully, the total number of people engaging in acts of digital altruism and other forms of pro-social digital activism exceeds 100 million." – Dana Klisanin
Dana Klisanin, Ph.D is the Founder and Executive Director of Evolutionary Guidance Media Research & Design, Inc., where she conducts research in the area of positive media and strategizes with corporations and non-governmental organizations interested in promoting social responsibility through media campaigns. In her recently-published paper The Hero and the Internet: Exploring the Emergence of the Cyberhero Archetype, Dana examines digital altruism, which is “altruism mediated by digital technology.” Having previously identified three distinct forms of digital altruism including (1) everyday digital altruism, (2) creative digital altruism, and (3) co-creative digital altruism, she has now turned her focus on individuals who engage in digital altruism and represent the “cyberhero archetype”. (Click title to continue reading)
USA TODAY, Sharon Jayson, February 2011
Millions of Americans follow their local teams, and many fans, including kids, see the players they admire as heroes. But are they really? Just because someone is a celebrity, doesn't make them a hero experts say.
Those who study heroism say there is a tendency to confuse it with fame or celebrity worship, which has sparked some researchers to take a closer look at just what makes a hero in the 21st century.
Social psychologist Scott Allison, a psychology professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia, says many become famous today due to media exposure so that "someone may say Lady Gaga is a hero and someone else may disagree."
"What happens is someone becomes famous and we hope here's a hero. We don't realize fame doesn't mean they're a great person. Being famous does not mean they're a hero," says Allison, co-author of Heroes: What They Do & Why We Need Them, published in November.. . .
. . . Dana Klisanin, a research psychologist in New York City, suggests there's an emerging "cyberhero" who takes advantage of the Internet for digital altrusim. The study she presented to the American Psychological Association in 2009, was spurred by those who are proactive online to help others, she says.
"I started to ask 'Who are the people doing this? Where would they fall in our current framework of heroism?' We traditionally think of a hero out there risking their life for someone or doing something more traditionally thought to be heroic," she says. "That's when I started looking into the background of the hero and started to formulate the theory that perhaps living in the 21st century there's a new type of hero arising."