Research Plan

Community and Place-Making:what can Hong Kong learn from Tainan

Centre of Community and Place Governance, Institute of Future Cities (CCPG, IOFC)


CCPG of IOFC is a multi-disciplinary team of social science researchers interested in advocating for the rights to the city of the voiceless groups. The team is interested in exploring alternative humanistic ways of rejuvenating the urban fabric at the neighbourhood level with local social workers and interested urban planners.

Objectives and research activities

The general approach to urban regeneration in Hong Kong is ‘slash and burn’, that is, complete redevelopment, uprooting local communities and consequently changing the socio-economic composition of a neighbourhood. This project aims to examine people’s views on and use of their communities, how these affect their well-being and explore the possibilities of having a more humanistic and sustainable way of rejuvenating a neighbourhood. The following table captures the objectives and research activities to be conducted by the team:

Objectives Activities
To compare and contrast the evolution of the concept of ‘communities’ in Hong Kong and Taiwan • Desk top research on the origin of the concept of community and related policies etc in Hong Kong and Taiwan
• To collaborate with NCKU to interview government officials and experts in these research areas
To understand the institutional framework to ascertain the rights of various stakeholders to the city in Hong Kong and Taiwan
To examine people’s views on & use of their communities, how these impact on their well-being & to ascertain the desirability of alternative means of urban regeneration To critically evaluate the concept & practice of ‘commons’ in local communities
• Conduct oral histories, community assets audit & social impact assessment to investigate related concepts in a local community in Sham Shui Po
• Conduct place-audits and well-being surveys to develop a deeper understanding of people’s right to the city
To help local communities understand their rights to the city through place-making initiatives • Envisioning and community-planning workshops • ‘Magic carpet’ event
To share the research findings with the team in NCKU and examine what we can learn from their experience • To exchange the research findings with the NCKU team through workshops and site visits

Multiple facets of well-being: Nature and measurement

Three lines of research have been proposed as foci for this theme in the coming years:

1. The Well-being Index and related cross-level study on well-being

The study aims at developing a well-being index that can reflect individuals’ optimal psychological experience and functioning. The study will combine the 1) hedonistic approach, which defines well-being in terms of happiness and life satisfaction, 2) the eudaimonic approach, which defines well-being in terms of meaning and actualization of human potential, and 3) social approach, which defines well-being in terms of interconnectedness of the individual with the society, to understand well-being. A well-being index based on these approaches will be developed to assess individuals’ wellness and to investigate the dynamics of hedonic, eudaimonic, and social well-being across individuals, groups, organizations, regions and cultures.

At the individual level, personal pursuits of pleasure, virtue, and connectedness result in differential well-being outcomes. Various sociocultural contexts along with economic and political circumstances also foster well-being in different ways across groups and regions. Given the complexity of well-being outcomes, in addition to a general index of well-being, this study also aims at deriving a more context-related well-being index with the consideration of the various antecedents in contexts.

To examine well-being across cultures, the present project will also involve a cross-cultural survey study of well-being in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China. Drawing on an ecological framework (Bronfenbrenner, 1979), the study will seek to understand how cultural contexts and socio-political circumstances may influence individual and collective well-being among a sample of emerging adults across the four regions. Given that emerging adults are in the developmental stage of identity exploration and value formation (Arnett, 2003; Azmitia, Syed, & Radmacher, 2008), the study will shed insights on how their pursuit of personal values and goals may interact with the larger social system in which they are embedded, and ultimately determine their state of well-being.


Arnett, J. J. (2003). Conceptions of the transition to adulthood among emerging adults in American ethnic groups. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 2003(100), 63-76.

Azmitia, M., Syed, M., & Radmacher, K. (2008). On the intersection of personal and social identities: Introduction and evidence from a longitudinal study of emerging adults. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 2008(120), 1-16.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

2. Harnessing the power of technology to enhance mindfulness and well-being

Mindfulness has been found to promote well-being among non-clinical populations, including youth and working adults (Khoury et al., 2015; Virgili, 2013; Zoogman et al., 2014). However, most mindfulness training programs are face-to-face intensive training programs that require participants to set aside extensive amount of time on in-class training and practice. In recent years, our team has developed internet-based mindfulness and psychoeducation programs to enhance well-being of the general public. Studies showed promising results in the use of online platform to promote well-being that can be more readily scalable for mass dissemination than traditional face-to-face training (Mak et al., 2015). However, the current online platform has not fully utilized the power of technology as it has not personalized to the users’ experience at real-time real-place and its mindfulness measurements rely on users’ self-report rating, which is subject to biases. Although neurological measurements (e.g. EEG, fMRI) can remedy this deficit by providing more objective indicators, the complexity and cost of these neuroimaging techniques often restricts its application from massive deployment. Recently, with the advances of brain-computer interface (BCI), portable EEG devices start to emerge in the market (e.g., NeuroSky is a well-known manufacturer in this field). Preliminary evidences indicate that NeuroSky brainwave detection devices can provide reliable and valid information concerning individual’s attention and relaxation level (Crowley et al., 2010), and changes of brain wave patterns (Katona et al., 2014). The objectives of this line of research is to develop a mobile application based on NeuroSky’s brainwave detection technology that can allow us to conveniently explore the relationship between brain wave pattern and subjective assessment of meditation experiences at real-time, real-place (e.g., ecological momentary assessment). Not only does this technology provide researchers a more objective assessment on mindfulness state, it also performs a biofeedback tool for users to track their mindfulness practices, which will be an important addition to our existing mindfulness application. The combination of this technology with our existing mobile app-based intervention can provide immediate and objective feedback to users regarding their mindfulness practices. Such feature allows us to provide personally relevant experience to users by customizing training program according to their real-time brainwave state.

3. Enhancing connectedness and well-being through virtual reality

A stigma-free environment that celebrates diversity and social justice is conducive to all individuals living in that environment to enjoy well-being. However, lab-based experimental studies on stigma and discrimination often lack ecological validity that is crucial to translation of study results to real life settings, making real impact. This study aims at testing the efficacy of virtual reality on stigma reduction and diversity promotion among the public.

At the individual level, virtual reality has been suggested to be useful in reducing fear and anxiety across a variety of phobias and other mental disorders (e.g., Botella, Villa, Garcia-Palacios, Banos, & Perpina, 2004; Klinger, Bouchard, Legeron, Roy, Lauer, Chemin, & Nugues, 2005; Lee, Lim, Graham, Kim, Wiederhold, Wiederhold, Kim, & Kim, 2004) and to help professionals and family members better empathize and understand persons suffering from mental disorder (Tettegah, Taylor, Whang, Meistninkas, & Chamot, 2006; Tichon, Banks, & Yellowlees, 2003). Through developing a minority group identity, experiencing a different life, and managing the problems and public stigma that the minority group faces, we hypothesize that virtual reality can also benefit individuals by enhancing their perspective taking, empathy, understanding, and familiarity with the minority, and reducing experiential avoidance and intergroup conflicts between the majority and minority groups. Such simulation virtual experience can bring individuals closer to the actual experience that they may encounter in real life, thus, more translatable to actual practice.

At the community level, we also aim at employing virtual reality to investigate how the design of built environment would influence the well-being of individuals. For instance, we would create contexts where participants with disabilities would easily 1) experience wayfinding and navigation under different degree of accessibility; and 2) compare their preferences and psychosocial outcomes of different designs of the vertical circulation elements of buildings. Salutogenic approach to design and architecture suggested that the built environment plays essential role in our health and well-being by promoting a sense of coherence—the ability to comprehend the environment, to be able to manage the environment effectively, and to derive meanings from the stimuli and exposure to the environment, especially for individuals with disabilities such as wheelchair users (Antonovsky, 1982; Dilani, 2009; Viravong, 2007). Built accessibility, together other design factors including but not limited to building materials, add-on verses integrated design, and colors and signage of accessibility, can seriously influence their social interaction and stigma communication in the society, thereby affecting their individual and collective well-being (Robinson & Thompson, 1999; Steinfeld & Danford, 1999). Findings can shed light on how to create a truly universal and barrier-free city for users with different range of abilities and needs to promote social diversity, collective well-being, and sustainable development.

Aging as Future Project

This project includes three studies. The first study is a qualitative study that assesses how retirement, perceptions of daily time and future time, thoughts about life and death affect well-being and future provisions among 64 older adults (half aged 60-70 years and half aged 75-85 years). The second study is a quantitative large-scale survey among 500 adults aged 20-90+ years that examines how attitudes toward personal aging and old age in general are related to perceptions of future time and well-being in multiple domains of life. The third study is a quantitative online study among 250 adults from the second study. This study uses the day reconstruction method to assess how daily time usage is related to perceptions of future time, social relationships and well-being.

The above studies have been conducted in Germany, US and Hong Kong (funded by the Volkswagen Foundation). The full proposal of the project is attached. Now, we hope to conduct the studies in Tainan, such that cross-cultural comparisons of the above questions can be conducted between two western and two eastern cultures.

The materials and codebooks of the three studies have been passed to NCKU. I will not repeat them here.

In terms of time line, the first study will be conducted in Sept to Dec 2015, the second line will be conducted in Jan to April 2016, and the third study will be conducted in May to Aug 2016. Because half of the samples of the second and third studies overlap, the two studies can be conducted in the same period, as long as there is at least a one-month lapse between the two studies.

Below please find the budgets for the three studies.

Submitted by Helene Fung

Professor, Dept of Psychology Chinese University of Hong Kong Aug 12, 2015

Innovation Asia: An IF POSS Research Theme

Background, goals and significance: Cultivating innovation, particularly transformational innovation, is challenging for transforming economies in Asia. The proposed research theme of Innovation Asia seeks to identify through cross-regional and multilevel empirical analysis the institutional, cultural and psychological factors that facilitate or impede transformational innovations in Asia’s transforming economies. Our research team consists of members from CUHK (e.g., CY Chiu, Letty Kwan) and NCKU (e.g., Shyhnan Liou). In our past research, through an analysis of multinational data that cover recent performance of more than 120 economies over a wide spectrum of innovation outputs (including fluency in idea creation, local economic impact and global absorption rate of new knowledge), we have identified at the country level several major institutional and cultural factors that may limit transforming economies’ ability to enhance their capacity for transformational innovation. At the institutional level, we have examined organizational and psychological factors that explain performance variations of interdisciplinary innovation teams supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Industrial Technology Research Institute in Taiwan. At the team and individual levels, we have carried out research to understand team and individual variations in creative performance. This research has led to quite a few research publications and policy papers (see below).

Building on our past effort, we seek to extend our work by focusing on how fostering a polycultural or interdisciplinary learning mindset as the most cost-efficient solution to building institutional and human capital for transformational innovation in transforming economies. We argue that a polyculturalist or interdisciplinary learning mindset reduces resistance to institutional reforms, facilitates cross-national knowledge diffusion and transfer, improves interdisciplinary collaboration, nurtures a positive learning climate in teams and organizations, and empowers individual knowledge workers. Moreover, our research project will focus on promoting technology that improves the subjective, eudaimonic and social wellbeing of individuals and the society. As such, the proposed project fits the IF POSS themes in two ways. First, it aims to promote positive institutional, cultural and psychological environments that support transformational technology. Second, it supports development of technology for wellbeing, which is also a theme of the Orange Technology Movement in NCKU.

Proposed research activities: Proposed research activities include (1) the use of data science to track changes in transformational innovation over time in Asia’s innovation hubs (including the major technology hubs in Mainland China and Taiwan) (Subproject 1); development of policy research to examine how the efficacy of different polycultural institutional policies are related to regional improvements in transformational innovation (Subproject 2); studying group dynamics in professional and student innovation teams (Subproject 3); and studying the psychological processes that mediate creative performance in controlled psychological studies (Subproject 4). Expected outcomes of the proposed activities include research publications in top-tier basic and applied journals, conference presentations, policy papers, and knowledge transfer activities to help knowledge workers, administrator and managers improve innovation performance.

Proposed annual budge for the 1st two years: A Research Assistant for (HK$300,000); participant incentive and compensation (HK$100,000); budget for research meeting (1 trip for each PI: HK$60,000). We hope that CUHK and NCKU will each contribute 50% of this HK$460,000 budget.

IF POSS Gender in Asia

Marriage migrant Women and Small Businesses in Taiwan

Male control has been prevalent in the business world in societies deeply influenced by patriarchal traditions such as Taiwan. However, women have also been active in small businesses such as running food stands, conducting beauty salons, and trading accessories. In the past decades, a considerable number of women from China and Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam, migrated to Taiwan through marriage. These new immigrants have largely been seen engaging in in small businesses as a way to support themselves and their families. This study will explore how these new immigrants enter the business world, how they balance family and work, and how they self-identity and community engagement have evolved together with their economic activities. This study will speak to the research debates in East Asian countries about the role of migrant women in the nation’s economy and the cost and benefit of development in gender terms. This study will cover different economic sectors and industries, ranging from those have been described as women’s work, to those have been male-dominated, to find out the different representativeness of women in various types of economic activities. In-depth interviews with women respondents will be used to collect the oral history of their work and family life, i.e. the description of how they have experienced these changes in their own words. These narratives will provide rich data on how migrant women have adapted to the changing economic environments and social norms, including the expectations of their family members. The research team will use these data to conduct research on three sub-topics: 1) women’s entry into business 2) women’s family and work 3) women’s identity and community. The duration of this research project is estimated to be two years and about 200 women will be invited for interviews.