Arts, technology, and mental health
A writer, storyteller, and artist, IAS alum Mudasir Zubair is now applying to graduate programs in psychology. Mudasir initially came to UW Bothell to develop his creative talents by pursuing a degree in Media & Communication Studies (MCS). The MCS classes he took opened up different perspectives on how science and technology are intertwined in our everyday lives. This realization led Mudasir to add Science, Technology & Society (STS) as a second major.
“I realized both degrees were extremely useful, not only because I could understand the effects science and technology have on our lives, but also how we can influence what science and tech gets developed. More importantly, I found I could also explain technology and find ways to use it to better people's lives, or to caution them about possible consequences of this or that piece of technology,” says Mudasir.
Mudasir sees a lot of potential problems with how new technologies are adopted and come to be relied on. He points to trends in social media that create a constant sense of the need for validation, the inability to easily “unplug” from communications and be simply mindful of the moment, and the microtransactions built into so many of the games we play to pass the time.
“An STS perspective is so important as we become more and more reliant on technology. We have to also be careful of how that technology is used and how it's influencing us,” affirms Mudasir.
But Mudasir also sees potential to help individuals and society with new developments in technology.
After graduating in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in Science, Technology & Society and Media & Communication Studies, Mudasir went into the Master of Arts in Policy Studies program. He’d come to feel that he wanted to help people directly, rather than being motivated by purely business concerns. “I went into the Policy Studies program seeking a mission for myself, I which I could help people overcome challenges they were facing on a personal and social level,” recalls Mudasir.
This sense of mission, drawing on competencies built in his STS degree, led to Mudasir’s capstone project for the master’s in Policy Studies: “Therapist-Student-Robot Relationships in the Education of Autistic Children: A Qualitative Study.” The project analyzes the use of specially designed robots in the education of children with autism. The premise is preliminary research data show that there are children with autism who are more likely to pay attention to objects than to people.
This research was also personal for Mudasir: “I saw a growing concern about meeting the educational needs of children with autism, including my younger brother, who is also on the autism spectrum and has trouble with verbal communication. I wanted to make sure that whatever technologies are utilized to help these students are treated as tools and not replacements for teachers and therapists.”
Inspired by his graduate capstone, and seeing a rise of people needing psychological help during COIVID-19, Mudasir’s goal now is to become a licensed mental health counselor for children and adolescents. Inspired by developments in psychology such as superhero, roleplay and gaming therapy, Mudasir feels that his background in arts and sciences will contribute directly to becoming the kind of therapist he wants to see in the world.
“I look forward to being a caring, non-judgmental, supportive, inspiring, and compassionate role model as a therapist. During the pandemic, I had to do a bit of soul searching. I realized I want to make an impact on people for the better, just as other people have made an impact on me.
When I went to UW Bothell I thought, okay I'm just going to get my degree and go. But no. It's actually been this really amazing journey. I never expected to go into psychology. I never expected to be where I am now,” says Mudasir. “Something college, work, life, and the pandemic has taught me is that no matter where you work or what you do, your education and experience will always have value and purpose.”