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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

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

      SLU Authors

    • Associated SLU-program

      Nature experiences and health

      Sustainable Development Goals

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

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Interaction Technologies
      Human Geography

      Publication identifier


      Permanent link to this page (URI)