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Technology on the Trail

Technology on the Trail

Through support from Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, Center for Human Computer Interaction, and Computer Science Department, we are undertaking an initiative we call Technology on the Trail.

This initiative seeks to explore the influences, both positive and negative, of technology when used on extended trail hikes and similar activities. Technology is often targeted for use in heavily populated urban environments, but thousands of people take technology away from cities on their hiking adventures, raising questions about appropriate use when in a more isolated and natural environment. These environments provide some level of separation for most people from technologies, but a need for community and communication still exists for hikers and their friends and family. Widely available technologies and apps, including mobile devices, GPS, biometric sensors, photo and video apps, and mobile blogging tools allow the capture of data and information related to a hike, but the right ways to use it are not well understood.

Our Technology on the Trail initiative seeks to understand and develop ways that technology is used (or avoided!) on trails and in trail-like settings, such as extended and multi-day hikes, where different user goals and desires affect our behaviors and interactions with others.

We have divided this initiative into three main thrusts: preparation, experience, and reflection.

Preparation involves the planning, purchasing, connecting, and redundancy when bringing technology away from technology-friendly areas while endeavoring to stay connected to others.

Experience focuses on notifications and information that lead to the capture and sharing of data from the hike, either explicitly through pictures, videos, writings, and measurements or implicitly through step counts, biometric and wellness data, and location information.

Reflection delves into the experience after it has happened, processing, reflecting, visualizing, and understanding the experience, with a focus not only on what was learned but also on the costs in time and attention that accompany technology use.

We envision this site to be a continually growing repository of information and welcome contributions and suggestions of experiences and readings on these topics.