Abstracts of Volume 28 (2010) (1-2, 3,4) of the Journal of Technology in Human Services

Volume 28/1&2:  Special Issue on Human Services in the Network Society

Introduction to the special issue by Neil Ballantyne and Walter LaMendola

Interoperability and the future of Human Services by Dick Schoech

KEYWORDS:  Human service administration, infrastructure, interoperability, automation.

ABSTRACT:  We are entering a period of interoperability in the human services, or the automatic global linking of information across different services and organizations.  The purpose of this article is to get human service professionals to think about research, policy, management, and practice in a future service delivery system where data, information, and knowledge can be electronically exchanged and used globally.  If human service professionals are to be intelligent discussants at the table when our future digital human services delivery infrastructure is planned, clear thinking about the practices, impacts, and issues of linking agency data globally is critical.  Since the focus in this paper is on the impact of global data interchange, the difficult technical issues surrounding user authentication, security, and privacy are not discussed in the depth they require. 


Eternal Vigilance Inc.: the Satellite Tracking of Offenders in “Real-Time” by Mike Nellis

KEYWORDS:  satellite tracking   electronic monitoring    crime control   real -time      time-space compression

ABSTRACT:  The satellite tracking of offenders, particularly sex offenders, has grown in significance in the USA since the late 1990s. Some evaluations have been undertaken, but few of the larger theoretical questions it raises, as an aspect of surveillance and remote location monitoring, have been explored. Drawing in part on the work of Manuel Castells and Paul Virilio, and on the concept of “time space compression”  this paper appraises the significance of satellite tracking in the context of “the network society” and assesses its implications for supervising offenders in so-called “real-time”. It speculates on the different temporal experiences of monitors and monitored and explores a dubious but possible future development in tracking technology–the power to inflict pain at a distance–forms of which were in fact considered by the those who first imagined offender tracking in the 1970s. For some offenders, potentially subject to lifelong satellite tracking, the specter of “eternal vigilance” is raised and the paper concludes with ethical questions this practice provokes.


Ethical considerations around the implementation of telecare technologies by Andrew Eccles

KEYWORDS:  Ethics, older people, telecare technologies, demographic change

ABSTRACT:  The use of assistive technology in social care, through a programme of telecare, has become a prominent feature of policy development in some advanced industrial societies. This paper looks at developments in Scotland, where ambitious targets for the application of telecare technologies are underway. The focus here is on telecare for older people. The paper starts by examining the discourse around demographic change and fiscal pressures to explore an increased use of technology. The paper then examines ethical issues raised by this telecare programme and argues that the frameworks in use, while important, are limited in scope. It thus considers wider ethical frames of reference and looks at policy imperatives – such as interprofessional working and a performance driven culture - which may make ethical considerations more difficult to realise in practice.


The Initial Evaluation of the Scottish Telecare Development Program by Sophie Beale, Paul Truman, Diana Sanderson and Jen Kruger

KEYWORDS: Telecare, economic, evaluation, efficiency, cost

ABSTRACT:  In 2006 the Scottish Government provided just over £8 million to help 32 health and social care Partnerships to develop telecare services.  This paper presents a summary of the 2007/08 evaluation of the TDP.  This evaluation focused on measuring overall programme progress towards eight pre-defined TDP objectives.  Results indicate that the initial investment has resulted in significant savings to the health and social care sectors.  Additionally, telecare provides opportunities to promote independence and improve the quality of life of service users and their informal carers.  However, some caution needs to be taken in interpreting the findings as results are based on self-reported performance from Partnerships and many of the reported monetary ‘savings’ are actually efficiency savings and are unlikely, in practice, to be cash-releasing. 


Privacy, social network sites and social relations by David J. Houghton & Adam N. Joinson

KEYWORDS:  Privacy, social network sites, society, network communities, computer mediated communication (cmc).

ABSTRACT:  With the growth of the Internet comes a growth in a ubiquitous networked society. Common web 2.0 applications include a rapidly growing trend for Social Network Sites (SNS). SNS typically converged different relationship types into one group of ‘friends’. However, with such vast interconnectivity, convergence of relationships and information sharing by individual users, comes an increased risk of privacy violations. We asked a small sample of participants to discuss what friendship and privacy meant to them and to give examples of a privacy violation they had experienced. A thematic analysis was conducted on the interviews to determine the issues discussed by the participants. Many participants experienced privacy issues using the SNS, Facebook. The results are presented here and discussed in relation to online privacy concerns, notably, SNS privacy concerns and managing such information.


Corporate Parenting in the Network Society by Neil Ballantyne, Zachari Duncalf, and Ellen Daly

KEYWORDS:  Network society, children, young people, public care, social networking

ABSTRACT:  In the last few years the risks associated with use of the Internet and social networking sites by children and young people have become a recurrent focus of attention for the media, the public and policy makers. Parents, care givers and child care professionals alike are rightly concerned about exposure to pornography, paedophiles, and cyberbullies. At the same time Internet researchers have been steadily collecting evidence about the actual opportunities and risks associated with the young people’s use of the Internet. In this article we describe some of the emerging evidence on opportunities and risks for young people and consider the challenges for social welfare professional charged with the role of safeguarding ‘looked after’ children.


Social work and social presence in an on-line world by Walter LaMendola

KEYWORDS: Social presence, sociality, mobilities, community

ABSTRACT:  Human presence is a fundamental consideration of social work practices. The argument in this article is not to undermine such notions but to elaborate them based on research into social presence - a type of presence projected when a person is associating with others. Communication and information technologies support applications that develop social presence and enable sociality. Such forms of presence are not confined to face-to-face encounters but are necessarily relational. Underlying such a realization is the conviction that all flows of social presence must and can be connected and directed in the conduct of social work practices.

Volume 28/3:  General Issue

A Peek Inside the Box: How Information Flows through Substance Abuse Treatment Agencies by James H. Ford II, Meg Wise, & Jennifer P. Wisdom

KEYWORDS: health information technology; substance abuse treatment; process mapping; information flow; staff productivity

ABSTRACT:  This article describes how integrated health information technology (health IT) affects the collection and flow of client-level intake and assessment data within substance abuse treatment agencies. We combined process mapping and qualitative inquiry methods to analyze staff interviews (N=54) from 8 agencies in 4 U.S. states. Integrated health IT was related to expedited and improved flow of information, while non-integrated health IT systems were associated with double data entry, multiple eligibility screenings, and different intake processes across levels of care. Process mapping is an effective tool to identify barriers to efficient client-level data management and opportunities to leverage health IT to streamline the intake process of substance abuse treatment agencies, improve staff productivity, and enhance the accuracy and information flow.


The Use of Computerised Self-Help Packages to Treat Adolescent Depression and Anxiety by Suvena Sethi, Andrew J. Campbell, Louise A. Ellis

KEYWORDS: Online therapy, adolescents, depression, anxiety

ABSTRACT:  Background: Despite the efficacy of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) in treating adolescent anxiety, few sufferers seek treatment. Barriers to accessing psychologists include a shortage of skilled therapists, long waiting lists and affordability. The internet is a medium possibly able to address issues of accessibility and affordability.  Aims: This study aimed to assess the efficacy of online therapy in the treatment and prevention of adolescent anxiety and depression.  Method: Depressed or anxious undergraduate students were recruited from The University of Sydney, Faculty of Health Sciences. The students completed pre- and post-intervention questionnaires measuring depression, anxiety, distress, and frequency of automatic negative thoughts. Participants (N=38) were randomly allocated to one of four conditions: Online CBT, face-to-face CBT, combined face-to-face/online CBT, and control. Results: Combined face-to-face/online CBT is more effective in treating symptoms of depression and anxiety compared to standalone online or face-to-face therapy. Post intervention scores for online therapy show significantly decreased anxiety, distress and frequency of automatic negative thoughts, compared to control participants. Conclusions: Adolescents with mild to moderate depression and/or anxiety can benefit from computerised therapy that is provided in conjunction with face-to-face therapy. The present study also suggests that for those who are unable to access face-to-face therapy – such as those who are physically disabled, or for communities in which there is stigma attached to seeking help - computerised therapy may be a viable option.  This is an important finding, especially in light of current capacity-to-treat and accessibility problems faced in the treatment of adolescent depression and anxiety.  


The Efficacy of Computer Mediated Communication Technologies to Augment and to Support Effective Online Helping Profession Education by Amanda J. Rockinson-Szapkiw, Jason D.  Baker, Edward Neukrug, & John Hanes

KEYWORDS: Computer mediated communication, Synchronous, Asynchronous, Community of Inquiry

ABSTRACT: With the increased adoption of online education, it has become vital for helping profession educators to consider the use of online education. It is also vital for them to consider technologies that can support effective online education for the profession. This study considers the use of both synchronous and asynchronous technologies in helping profession courses. Results of the causal comparative design suggested that online students who used a combination of technologies had statistically significantly higher levels of social presence than the students who used only asynchronous No difference in cognitive presence, teacher presence, and perceived  learning was found between the two groups. 


WebQuests and Web 2.0 Screen Design bySerhat Kurt

KEYWORDS: WebQuests, Web 2.0, Web design, Learning Environment, Instructional Effectiveness

ABSTRACT:  This study compared the designs of a traditional style WebQuest and a Web 2.0 style WebQuest in terms of their effectiveness as a teaching tool.  The sample included 104 university sophomore students. Students were randomly assigned to two groups, one group used the traditional style WebQuest and the other used the Web 2.0 style WebQuest. Data were collected (a) using a test developed by the author and (b) by conducting unstructured interviews. The results of the students’ tests showed that the mean score of the students using the Web 2.0 style WebQuest was significantly higher than the traditional style WebQuest group on a test measuring the understanding of the WebQuest content. Furthermore, interview results indicated that while students from both groups enjoyed the activity, the responses from the Web 2.0 style group were more positive.


An Exploratory Study of Older Adults’ Engagement with Virtual Volunteerism by Dhrubodhi Mukherjee

KEYWORDS:  Virtual volunteering, the Internet, older adults, social capital, civic engagement

ABSTRACT:  Virtual volunteering refers to the use of the Internet for volunteer services. It is an emerging phenomenon among every age-groups; however, the current study examines if it is a viable option for older people. Older adults are the fastest growing Internet users; they are also more civic minded than younger generations, thus the purpose of this study is to explore this relatively new area research. Data, for this study, has been collected using qualitative tools such as semi-structured-partly open ended interviews with older virtual volunteers affiliated with SeniorNet, an organization that facilitate virtual volunteering exclusively for older people. The study ends with suggestions for future research directions. Implications of this study include re-conceptualization of virtual volunteering as a strategic tool to recruit older adults and greater usage of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) to promote civic engagement among older people and thus, positively influence their health and wellbeing.

Volume 28/4:  Special HUSITA9 Issue, Part 1

Introduction to the special issue, C. K. Law


Digital exclusion: implications for human services practitioners, by S Watling and K Crawford

KEYWORDS: Digital exclusion, social exclusion, disability, accessibility, empowerment,

ABSTRACT: Issues around digital exclusion may be in their infancy but they are developing fast. The Internet has the potential to offer equity of digital access for enabling individual independence and empowerment in an increasingly digital society. However, for many users of assistive technologies, this remains a problematic scenario. Citizens, who already experience disablement through social failure to recognise difference and diversity of need, may be doubly disabled by exclusive digital policy and practice. There is an urgent need to research the implications of this exclusion for human service educators and practitioners. This paper was presented at HUSITA9 at the Joint World Conference on Social Work and Social Development in Hong Kong, June 2010.


To Help and To Learn: An Exploratory Study of Peer Tutors Teaching Older Adults about Technology

Paul P. Freddolino, Vincent W.P. Lee, Chi-kwong Law and Cindy Ho

KEYWORDS:  older adults, tutors, peer tutor, computer training, peer support, information and communication technologies (ICTs)

ABSTRACT:  The cost of caring for an aging population is a growing concern in many societies. Although information and communication technologies (ICTs) like computers and the Internet are seen as new tools that offer some potential to help, unfortunately older adults are generally the age group with the lowest level of skill and utilization of these technologies. While nongovernmental organizations have attempted to address this digital gap, limited staff resources are a concern.  One approach for generating additional staff to provide more technology training to older adults is a “peer tutor” model. This study examined the perspectives of 101 technology peer tutors for older adults in a nonprofit program in Hong Kong. Topics included preparation and training; perceived benefits and challenges; side-effects on their lives; the perceived value of their work as tutors; and suggestions for personal and program improvement. The influence of demographic factors was examined.  Results show that tutors felt prepared for their roles; perceived considerably more benefits than challenges; saw value in their tutor work; and overwhelming plan to continue as volunteer tutors in this program.  There were few differences linked with demographic variables.  Implications for practice and for future research are considered.


Online Synchronous Technologies for Employee and Client-Related Activities in Rural Communities by Andrew Quinn and Amy Phillips

KEYWORDS: online synchronous technology, rural communities, social services

ABSTRACT:  The use of online synchronous technology (web conferencing, text chat, and video chat) by social service agencies for employee-related activities (recruitment, training, meetings, continuing education, and supervision), and client-related activities (visitation, case management, and education/training classes) has received minimal attention in the professional literature. This paper describes these technologies, their examination in the literature, and potential barriers to their use in social service agencies. The paper also reports on a survey of social service agency administrators in an upper Great Plains state who were asked about their use of online synchronous technology for employee- and client-related activities.  Results indicate minimal use of the technologies for these purposes.


Cyber-parenting: Internet benefits, risks and parenting issues by Yu Cheung WONG

KEYWORDS: parenting; parent-child relationship; parenting styles; Hong Kong, cyber-parenting, Internet risks

ABSTRACT:  An Internet connection has become almost ubiquitous in homes with school-age children in developed societies. The Internet is both a great social and learning tool and full of potential dangers. Threats such as excessive use, infringement of copyrighted materials, sexual solicitation by net-contacts, exposure to undesirable web materials, revealing family or personal information are frequently reported in the media. Without proper parental support and guidance, the chances of children being exposed to these dangers increase. Yet, this can cause tension and distress between parents and children. The problem is aggravated because children tend to be more knowledgeable and skilled in the realm of computers than their parents. This reverses the usual foundation of the authority hierarchy within the family, and undermines the parents’ ability to exercise discipline, and set rules and boundaries. The major purposes of the study were to show how various factors interact to affect parents’ sense of satisfaction about their attempts to help their children benefit from the Internet as well as reduce the risks to which their children are exposed. The major targets were families with children aged between 6 and 17 where parents were responsible for supervising computer and Internet usage. A household survey with a representative sample of 2,579 families based on the sampling frame maintained by the Government was conducted in late 2009. Findings suggest that better-educated parents, the adoption of an authoritative parenting style, more active involvement in children’s online activities and more discussions of the online experiences are factors that are associated with more satisfactory results in influencing children’s behavior.


Design consideration and experience for multiple assessments by Gareth Morgan

KEYWORDS: Mobile Development, Connectivity, Multi-function Government, Assessments, Advice

ABSTRACT:  Increasingly, effective service delivery requires multiple assessments and often involves multiple agencies or departments.  In many cases such assessments may be best carried out in the service users home rather than in an environment which is less familiar. Current practice requires separate assessments collecting only the relevant information needed to make the individual assessment, with much duplication of data collection and consequent frequent intrusive reviews and potential contradictions or errors in data held where multiple assessments are needed. Transformation of this process can be achieved if multiple assessment using an integrated data set and mobile devices are positioned as a core channel of service delivery.  Many current mobile developments are in danger of missing the opportunities for service enhancement and of perpetuating and embedding a paradigm which is limiting and inefficient in the era of powerful mobile devices.  This paper will present and discuss other alternative options.


Neuroscience and Professional Decision Making:  Implications for ICT by Robert MacFadden and Dick Schoech

KEYWORDS: Neuroscience, professional decision making, ICT support.

ABSTRACT:  The science of professional decision making and resulting ICT tools are typically based on a rational decision making model designed to minimize the influence of emotions and biases.  However, neuroscience suggests our brain naturally incorporates both unconscious emotion and conscious cognition in its mental processes and professional decision processes are best that integrate these rational and emotional systems.  This article explores recent neuroscience findings along with the implications for human service professional decision making and the ICT tools designed to support this decision making.