|Humphrey's Basin, 2010|
As I sit here in my office, I have just biked 30 minutes along the Santa Barbara bike path, through the Goleta Slough, and past the ocean, and I have lots of nice trees just outside my window. I am reading the article on my computer monitor, with music playing and my email open on my second monitor. Despite my already above average time outdoors today, I am already having trouble with my reading comprehension. In the summers, I spend a lot of time thinking about science while I in the field, mostly disconnected, and I often have really good ideas and come up with new, big picture study questions.
When I am in the backcountry, I am not as disconnected as the Outward Bound participants in this study. Nor do I think that many people are anymore. I value the solitary and disconnected experience that comes with backpacking, and I hesitated to use the inReach device and i-Pod this season*. The benefit of sharing science with the public outweighed my curmudgeonly desire to be alone. My reluctant slide into being a gadgety backpacker supports my increasing observations of similarly equipped backcountry users. Rapid development of socially connected products for outdoorsy people (inReach, Spot, smart-phones, cameras and point-of-view camcorders, all with GPS) and apps for rapidly sharing experiences (e.g. Twitter, Instagram, Panoramio) suggest that it's become common and trendy to be connected and share adventures that historically would have isolated people.
|staying connected, LeConte Canyon, SKCNP, 2012|
In the article, the authors hypothesize that studying a group of wilderness users who are in nature and connected to technology would help them to differentiate between the positive effects of nature on cognition and negative effects of technology. I suggest that this group already exists, is abundant, and growing (but I don't have data on that). It seems a valid hypothesis that this group is going to be affected by maintaining those connections.
Considering how their findings might apply to my own experiences, I wonder how long the positive effects of isolation in nature on cognition last after a person re-enters the mainstream world and regains access to there technology. Can the length of isolation extend that benefit?. Backpacking for three months straight only keeps me fit for a few weeks afterward; I wonder how long it keeps me smart? It would be comforting to imagine that the process of collecting data in the field will influence my ability to analyze that data.
|photo illustration: ian carroll|
You can find the original article here.
Atchley RA, Strayer DL, Atchley P (2012) Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51474. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051474
*Our research group has been using handheld computers for over a decade, for data collection only.
|checking data in the field, 2011.|