Work Sessions

The work sessions will consist of discussions, activities, and other explorations into common themes touched upon in the talks that seem central to the “Technology on the Trail” theme.  Sessions will be highly interactive, with lots of opportunities (and expectations!) for all participants to share ideas and contribute. Please note that some themes are still in flux and may change as the workshop approaches, so check back often to revisit themes.

View the full workshop agenda here, the talk details here, and if you’re interested in attending any or all of these talks, we’d appreciate if you fill out a quick registration form here.


Spectacle vs Experience [facilitator: Steve Harrison]
March 2nd 1:00pm-2:30pm

How does the actual experience of seeing and using technology on the trail compare to the abstract and ideal spectacle of it? While media and advertisements paint one picture of trail-related gear, the actual practice includes both mundane concerns like battery life and idealistic concerns like whether technology takes the enjoyment out of nature. Many people reject the idea of technology ruining their “wilderness” experience, and others hike specifically to escape modern digital fatigue. What factors come into play as people accept and reject technologies in nature, and what does the future of technology on the trail look like? How does technology affect the overall experience and change the perception of nature? Have modern technologies like GPS affected the way people experience and learn about nature and the outdoors? This work session will dig into the tension between the ideals people want to follow and the actual practice of technology use on the trail.


Seamfulness in Nature: Moving beyond technologies that provide support in nature [facilitator: Mike Horning]
March 2nd 3:00pm-4:30pm

While people generally envision technology as an invention to solve a problem or make an activity easier, many hikers are specifically looking for the natural challenge that hiking through wilderness poses. How do these cultural norms around technology develop, and how might we design technology which is not intended to make hiking easier? While supportive technologies might seem helpful, such as precise GPS locating, they have the potential to create divisions in the community between people who use them and people who spurn them. Communities can also develop rifts between the “old-timers” and the “newcomers” to an activity, and because many people hike far from their homes, an “outsiders” vs “locals” dynamic can also come into play. This work session digs into the cultural significance of technology both within and between communities of people.


From Experience to Abstraction and Back Again [facilitator: Nicholas Polys]
March 3rd 10:00am-11:30am

With the rise of both smartphones and Internet-connected devices, the opportunities for data collection abound. Even in remote and disconnected places like trails, technologists and educators can design for devices like smartwatches, GPS trackers, beacons, and more in support of science and learning. What kinds of data can be collected, both actively (e.g., pictures, blog posts) and passively (e.g., biometrics and location data)? What can be learned from one well-trained scientist, and from the aggregation of data from many people?  Perhaps most importantly, what does one do with such information, to make sure it is used but not abused? Can the citizen scientist, the young scout, the school-age child, build understanding and contribute to a scientifically valid body of knowledge through the use of technology?  This work session will dig into the who, what, how, and why of data collection, science, and education on the trail.


Used, Amused, and Confused [facilitator: Grace Fields]
March 3rd 1:00pm-2:30pm

When it comes to technology on the trail, many people have preconceptions about how hikers feel about both their own usage and the usage of others. Activities like reading a book cause vastly different reactions when one is reading a paperback vs reading on a Kindle. Both direct and indirect social interactions on the trail are affected by technology, and the very presence of technology outdoors can change the experience of a hiker. The researchers and other attendees of this workshop have a broad range of experiences with hikers, trails, and other outdoor communities. Together, we can compare and contrast our own understandings of those who do and don’t use technology on trails. This work session will dig into the mindsets of hikers using late breaking data from a cultural probe study from Technology on the Trail.

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