Pursuit of Happiness @ OSU | Your Visual Social Support System

Lead Read Today article

collaboration: DRD (Design Research and Development) graduate student: Shasha Yu

If one has meaningful social ties, she can envision a world of relationships mapped inside her mind – a map that will lead to those who can be called on or nurture and support in times of need.

Research on the empowerment process has found that with positive social support, people can move from a state of powerlessness to having more power (Baxter & Diehl, 1998; Lord & Hutchinson, 1998; Young & Ensing, 1999; Nelson et al., 2001). This process is enhanced through knowledge and awareness, skill development, relationship building, and supportive community contexts (Lord & Hutchinson, 1998; Lucksted, 1997; Nelson et al., 2001), all of which are available as different networks on most university campuses. However, as the undergraduate participants in this study confirmed, university campuses are large and complicated environments where it’s hard for people to navigate these support resources.

Therefore, we recognize the design opportunity of providing better tools to help people on campus navigate the system of programs, organizations, or activities that are intended to support subjective well-being effectively. In order to be of use to individuals and make them feel like their interests and preferences are actually being considered, personalized visualization of the social support system will better serve the goal of empowerment: gaining the power to make changes.

This personalized social support network includes three layers of support. They are:

      1. support from yourself: some self-empowerment strategies
      2. support from available on-campus service centers
      3. support from people close to you.

From the survey data, 20 most common stressors experienced by college students are identified. The stressors are grouped into four categories: learning, living, connecting, and planning. Self-empowerment strategies are chosen according to theories from positive psychology (Seligman, 2004) and the effectiveness and practicality among students (for example, “learning to forgive” is not a strategy that can be taken into immediate action based on students’ feedback, so we didn’t include it). The available services and resources from the community are a crucial component of a social support system for students in a large- size campus. In this case study, we have identified and collected the on-campus service centers at Ohio State University. Each center is coded with relating stressors based on the services it provides. The social support system functions as a tool for students to match their struggled stress points with on-campus service centers. In addition to the suggested self-empowerment strategies and on-campus service centers, an interactive personal support layer also allows students to input and visualize the support from people close to them. It makes the social support network more personalized and helps to promote people’s awareness of the support network in their lives.