Doctoral Theses

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The Doctoral Theses collection contains digital copies of AUT doctoral theses deposited with the Library since 2004 and made available open access. All theses for doctorates awarded from 2007 onwards are required to be deposited in Tuwhera Open Theses unless subject to an embargo.

For theses submitted prior to 2007, open access was not mandatory, so only those theses for which the author has given consent are available in Tuwhera Open Theses. Where consent for open access has not been provided, the thesis is usually recorded in the AUT Library catalogue where the full text, if available, may be accessed with an AUT password. Other people should request an Interlibrary Loan through their library.

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    Investigating Human Beings’ Experience with Artificial Intelligent Social Robots and/or Digital Avatars in an Interactional Context; What Is Happening and How It Informs the Future
    (Auckland University of Technology, 2023) Viljoen, Brigitte
    To date, research conducted in human-robot interaction has primarily focused on how to make robots more appealing and comfortable for humans to interact with (Dautenhahn, 2007; Sciutti et al., 2018). An area that has received less attention, is research into humans’ experiences when interacting with an Artificial Intelligence (AI) social robot and/or digital avatar. Utilising Charmaz’ (2003, 2006, 2014) constructivist grounded theory methodology, this study investigated how human beings experienced AI social robots and/ or digital avatars in an interactional context. In particular, the research explored the affective dimensions of these interactions; including ways of relating and connection. In addition, the research considered the potential impact on human beings applying this technology in various fields of human communication. A major finding of the study shows that human beings interacting with an AI social robot and/or digital avatar can, when immersed in a conversational flow state, develop unconscious feelings towards these AI social systems, as if they are real people. In other words, an ‘Other’ was constructed by the human end-user. This experience can feel as real as human-to-human interaction. A key insight that emerged is that human beings can feel a deep-seated need to connect to others which, by being in the moment, is not consciously apprehended until after the fact. When these types of humanlike interactions occur, a trust develops towards this type of AI social system, leading to a strong sense of the AI robot and/or avatar ‘as if’ it was a real person. The research contributes to a deeper understanding of the processes underlying human interaction with AI social systems, such as AI social robots and/or digital avatars. The findings can assist technologists in their efforts to develop and market their products ethically; and direct their efforts towards beneficial uses rather than those which exploit humans. In addition, the findings may be useful for human end-users and third parties developing greater awareness of the impacts of such technology on human beings.
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    Women’s Experiences of Labour and Birth When Having a Termination of Pregnancy for Fetal Abnormality in the Second Trimester of Pregnancy
    (Auckland University of Technology, 2023) Jones, Kay
    This thesis calls attention to women having a termination of pregnancy for fetal abnormality by highlighting their lived experiences and the meanings they attribute to these experiences. Phenomenological material was gathered from four women using semi-structured interviews. A post-intentional phenomenological design was used, along with theoretical models of existential phenomenology and The Meaning-Centred Grief Model. The women's narratives lent themselves to the development of crafted stories that allowed for the uncovering of what had previously been hidden. Women felt a deep sense of being alone during their experience that represented more than a lack of physical 'thereness' of others. They realised that they were existentially alone giving birth to their babies, even when surrounded by people who cared for them. Through social stigma, being overwhelmed and devastated for making the decision to end their pregnancies, they felt silenced in their grief. A sense of unpreparedness left the women with feelings of uncertainty and not being ready for the reality of what was happening. The women shared a vulnerability that reflected a place of fear, shame, guilt and judgement from others. This place allowed for the possibility of holistic harm that for some of the women, they felt they deserved. Women desperately wanted connection, acknowledgement and compassionate support as they went through the loss of their babies. They needed time and breathing space to make sense of what was happening and come to terms with the reality. The findings of this work offered a deeper understanding of women's unspoken embodied experiences of ending their pregnancies. This insight supports health care providers to see each woman as unique in both her needs and her ways of finding meaning in the loss of her baby. It encourages the use of woman/family-centered bereavement care planning that reflects what is important to them in the context of a termination of pregnancy. These findings re-focuses care that allows the woman, her family and her caregivers to connect in a more intimate way that offers a sense of holistic safety, interrelatedness and of being on a shared journey. This work encourages caregivers to walk closely beside the women and their families to nurture this humanistic relationship and to bring a sense of togetherness. This work puts a spotlight on bereavement care and the need for it to be prioritized in maternity care provision. Midwifery education is needed, at both undergraduate and post graduate levels, that is consistent, contemporary and supportive of this level of care. Caregivers are encouraged to acknowledge the journey of women having a termination of pregnancy is a complex, entangled and context-driven experience that deserves the utmost consideration and attention. The findings reflect a body of evidence that acknowledges the devastating experience of terminating a pregnancy for fetal abnormality and prompts caregivers to approach this care with the woman and her family firmly at the center of the care.
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    Pacific Island Coastal Reef Fisheries: A Case Study From Mitiaro, Cook Islands
    (Auckland University of Technology, 2023) Vavia, Antony
    Small-scale fisheries of remote islands within the Pacific are often challenged with inadequate information and data. With rapid ocean-related challenges such as climate change and overfishing becoming increasingly experienced worldwide, the need to understand the status of Pacific Island small-scale fisheries is becoming increasingly recognised. With small-scale fisheries being critical to the survival of many coastal communities, lack of information creates difficulties predicting any ongoing environmental changes. Therefore, establishing baseline fishery data and identifying trends within remote island fisheries may reveal threats to food security and livelihoods, and opportunities to minimise them. In this thesis, I draw on a case study on the island of Mitiaro, Cook Islands to address three approaches of obtaining fishery information in the Pacific that form an overall holistic approach to understanding remote Pacific Island fisheries. My first approach was by collecting specific life-history trait information of two coral reef fish species heavily targeted for consumption. The population dynamics of these species highlighted a very rapid growth in size and suggested that they quickly reach sexual maturity. In terms of the species’ importance and contribution to Mitiaro’s subsistence fisheries, this information may suggest a level of resilience to fishing pressures and thus being able to make inferences towards food security measures. The second approach involved the collection of catch data of the Mitiaro fishery. This provided a broader lens of the Mitiaro fishery by establishing family/species catch ratios, identifying fishing techniques, and calculating catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) of both coral reef and nearshore pelagic fishes – valuable information to identify ongoing changes and long-term trends. Lastly, the third approach to understanding the Mitiaro fishery was by analysing its socio-ecological components. In terms of resource management, it is important to recognise what should be obvious: when managing a resource, success relies on managing people. Therefore, understanding the social anatomy of key actors, including the worldviews, existing knowledge, practices, cultural traditions, and governance systems associated with a fishery is essential to developing and implementing successful resource management strategies. This thesis aims to address the data and information paucity that could prove critical to developing resilience in Pacific Islands remote communities by adapting to the growing challenges these communities face. Collecting from a wide range of sources of fishery information can be useful to identifying appropriate avenues for resource management. Although this case study applies to a local context, the overall holistic approach is adaptable and may be applied to understand other Pacific Islands remote small-scale fisheries.
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    Experiences and Understandings of Stress and the Role of Social Support in Enhancing Wellbeing Among Youth of Indian Descent in New Zealand
    (Auckland University of Technology, 2023) Bhatia, Anjali
    Youth of Indian descent in New Zealand are regarded as highly vulnerable to mental health issues, yet these young people are not routinely engaged in exploration of issues or support options and strategies. There is a global prevalence of stress among youth which is of significant concern. Experiences of stress and strategies for addressing stress can be viewed as intertwined with the social, cultural, and familial contexts which shape them. To effectively enhance the wellbeing of this group, it is imperative to explore the complexities of stress within this context. Indian youth who were born in New Zealand, or have migrated here, are exposed to the Western culture in their social environment while also being exposed to their parents’ Indian culture at home. This can result in conflicting beliefs and values. The understandings and voices of young people are underrepresented in discussions of how they navigate their experiences across numerous social and cultural contexts. This study was positioned within the theoretical framework of social constructionism and used intersectionality as a method of analysis to gain insight into the complex interplay of social and cultural factors shaping stress for Indian youth. The methodology employed was narrative inquiry, involving interviews and focus groups conducted with 14 youth, 10 parents, and three school-based counsellors in Auckland, New Zealand. A mediated dialogue method was employed to support parents and counsellors to engage with youth narratives. The thematic analysis was conducted through an intersectionality approach, which made visible the production of multiple constructs of stress experienced by youth of Indian descent in New Zealand. These youth experienced a profound sense of conflict between dominant constructions of valued identities within their native and host (New Zealand) cultures, leading to a sense of not belonging. The findings were also suggestive of the presence of overt and subtle forms of systemic racism, discrimination, and racial stereotypes, leading to marginalisation and exclusion from their social environment. In order to avoid exclusion, youth often engaged in complex identity negotiation which carried a mental load. However, these sociopolitical factors were downplayed by parents and counsellors, who emphasised individual psychological constructions of youth resilience instead. Additionally, the social construction of parental aspirations for children’s academic success and the notion of being compared to others had a significant impact on stress experienced by youth in this study. Addressing stressors involved various strategies including youth distracting and diverting their attention to extra-curricular activities, driven by their feelings of hopelessness, resentment, and anger. Moreover, some Indian youth took pride in their connection to their Indian heritage and most embraced their dual Kiwi–Indian identity, which helped them navigate the complexities of living between cultures. Findings also pointed out a sense of helplessness stemming from their lack of control over their situations in some cases, resulting in instances of self-harm and suicidal ideation. Youth narratives highlighted the prevalence of mental health stigma, and their hesitancy in seeking a counsellor’s help when in distress. The mediated dialogue method facilitated an increased awareness among parents and counsellors about the challenges experienced by these youth and the support they require to improve their wellbeing. While some of the youth narratives were acknowledged by parents and counsellors, some, for example the effects of systemic racism on youth wellbeing, were invalidated or refuted. Both parents and counsellors suggested collaborative approaches to raise their awareness of the stress experienced by youth in order to effectively support them. They emphasised the importance of educating parents and counsellors on youth stress and enhancing cultural sensitivity. Additionally, both groups accentuate the need for schools to adopt a proactive approach to help migrant youth in understanding and integrating themselves into the educational system of New Zealand. Moreover, this study indicated the need to amplify the voices of youth, establish a youth-led framework, and for an ally’s movement to drive systems change and not solely depend on minority communities and professionals to drive this change.
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    Specialist Assessors’ Integration of Human Rights Perspectives within their Assessment of People Subject to New Zealand’s Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care and Rehabilitation Act) 2003: An Interpretive Descriptive Study
    (Auckland University of Technology, 2024) McFadden, Amanda
    In New Zealand, the Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care and Rehabilitation) Act 2003 (provides a novel diversionary pathway, in the form of compulsory care orders, for people with intellectual disability who offend. A person subject to compulsory care is called a care recipient. Specialist assessors are clinical psychologists and psychiatrists who perform forensic assessments under the Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care and Rehabilitation) Act 2003 and its companion legislation the Criminal Procedure (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act 2003. This doctoral research provides valuable insights into how 15 specialist assessors understand, interpret, and integrate human rights within their practice. How specialist assessors express and give effect to care recipients’ liberty interests is also explored. Finally, the thesis probed the tensions or dilemmas that arise as specialist assessors contemplate human rights perspectives. This research is undertaken in the context of international debates about psychologists’ and psychiatrists’ obligations to promote human rights in diverse practice contexts. New Zealand’s ratification of the United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006, and subsequent definition of care recipients’ liberty interest by the Court of Appeal in 2011, changed the human rights landscape within which the Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care and Rehabilitation) Act 2003 operates. The challenges that specialist assessors face in promoting human rights was, therefore, ripe for exploration. Through the methodology of interpretive description, using reflexive thematic analysis, the findings show that specialist assessors most often derive their understanding of care recipients’ human rights from ethical principles or values. Rarely was their understanding drawn from international instruments like the United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Three distinct perspectives regarding the integration of human rights into specialist assessor practice were revealed. These were located along the spectrum of “comfortable acceptance”, “uncomfortable engagement”, and “aware but not engaged”. Themes of specialist assessor unease or uncertainty were prevalent. Uncertainty coalesced around the requirements of human rights law and the role it should play within specialist assessor practice. specialist assessors’ unease was expressed as concerns about overstepping the boundaries of practice, the influence they could exert over decisions about liberty, and observations of varied practices. The study found that these factors were moderating how the specialist assessors integrated human rights perspectives. Embedded in the data were specialist assessors’ critical observations about the Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care and Rehabilitation) Act 2003 framework. Three different perspectives emerged. These were “external scrutiny”, “specialist assessor self-scrutiny”, and “critique of the Act”. The multilayered critique provided by the specialist assessors added an unanticipated complexity to the analysis process that afforded a rich contextual analysis. It illustrated how specialist assessors were lifting their gaze to critically examine the surrounding socio-political climate and the associated human rights implications of their work. The specialist assessors raised important questions about the sufficiency of rights protections within the legislation. The findings indicate that the CRPD has low visibility within the IDCCRA framework relative to other areas of the disability sector.
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