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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Information technology and the optimisation of experience - The role of mobile devices and social media in human-nature interactions

Arts, Irma; Fischer, Anke; Duckett, Dominic; van der Wal, Rene


Information technologies have seeped their way into every aspect of our lives, mediating interactions between ourselves and our environments. They are becoming an important part of human-nature interactions, with smartphones, their apps and social media offering new ways to plan, navigate and share experiences. This article explores the changes that these mobile media technologies bring to human-nature interactions, focusing on the outdoor practices of experienced outdoor users. Drawing on observational and interview data gathered in the Scottish Highlands, we analysed hillwalkers', mountain bikers' and nature photographers' interactions with mobile media technology. Using social practice theory and the idea of technologies as 'scripts', we found that the increased availability of information reportedly enhanced access to, confidence in and knowledge about outdoor practices. Participants negotiated the use of devices within social norms of good practice, but generally showed enthusiasm for the ever-increasing access to information. The easy access to information and the ability to share one's performance, inscripted in the technology, guided the participants to optimise their experience. Paradoxically, this optimisation seemed to reduce the likelihood of encountering unanticipated situations that would have made their experience memorable, something our participants had previusly identified as an important aspect of their outdoor activities. Our findings illustrate the value of an in-depth empirical understanding of lived experiences, revealing how interactions between technological scripts, personal agency and social norms amplify some aspects of human-nature interactions while attenuating others. Although incremental, these changes fundamentally alter the character of our experience of nature.


Mobile media; Human-nature interaction; Outdoor practice; Digitisation; Smartphones

Published in

2021, volume: 122, pages: 55-62

Authors' information

Arts, Irma
University of Aberdeen
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development
Duckett, Dominic
James Hutton Institute
van der Wal, René (Van Der Wal, René)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG9 Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

UKÄ Subject classification

Interaction Technologies
Human Geography

Publication Identifiers


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