Technology in the Great Outdoors

Camera at Twicket

While doing something else this morning, I caught a brief snatch of Martha Lane Fox, the Government’s Digital Inclusion Champion, on Radio 4, trying to persuade a digital refusenik (sorry, I didn’t catch his name) of the benefits of getting online. During the discussion, that regular assumption came up that being online must always involve sitting indoors at a computer. Martha attempted to show her target some pictures of flowers online, while he continued to protest that she was trying to divert him from the pleasures of being out in the meadows among the real flowers.

I think it is one of the barriers to technology adoption, that people believe all the scare stories about how people are not going outdoors any more because technology is keeping them in darkened rooms. But, what about all the technologies, like SatNav, GPS, etc., that facilitate people getting out there and exploring? As the use of portable devices, including laptops, smartphones and tablets, increases, the opportunities to be outside with your new technologies are increasing all the time, and social networks and other facilities allow you to share your outdoor experiences, as well as enhancing them by allowing you to pick up information about your surroundings.

Of course, one of the big issues with outdoor technology is that thorny issue of connectivity. 3G access can be patchy and expensive (unless you have an “all-you-can-eat” data plan), and, in the UK, wifi hotspots can be few and far between, and, even where they exist they can be expensive. In the United States, Google, for instance, sponsors lots of public wifi hotspots, many of which are in public parks. I would love to see something similar developing here.

But, there is so much you can do in the great outdoors with technology these days. The #twicket initiative, where we did the first ever live broadcast of a village cricket match, was, in part, an attempt to demonstrate this.

twicket tech

I want to help stimulate a movement for innovative uses of technology outdoors. Some of the things I am looking to do, following on from #twicket, in this field (not always in fields) are:

  • Social Media Surgery in a tent (at the Great Yorkshire Show);
  • Encouraging live streaming of informal public performances;
  • wifi in public parks
  • #twicket2 – cricket tournament on Blackpool Beach
  • Mobile Social Media Surgery (I’m still looking for sponsorship to convert my caravan)
  • Live-streaming local cultural events
If you can think of any more, or if you are doing something else. Please let me know in the comments below.

4 thoughts on “Technology in the Great Outdoors

  1. I had exactly the same discussion at a meeting yesterday. People were saying ‘how can we get enough users when a lot of folk aren’t interested in computers’.
    My response was that internet access isn’t about computers, its about lots more stuff, that can save you money, save the country money (again our money), save time, save global footprints and be a lot of fun as well.
    We demonstrated it with the twicket match, but not enough people understood what we were doing.
    Until the infrastructure is there, and just works, I am afraid you and Martha are fighting a losing battle.
    The truth is that this country is so far behind with internet access that it is going to be a battle to catch up, and the first onslaught has to be on the copper cabal who are holding this country to ransom.
    Millions of ‘homes passed’ may be their battle cry, but that is the shame of it all, homes passed, not homes connected. The fibre goes everywhere, but you can’t get on to it. All we are allowed is a bit of crap copper aka telephone line.
    We are being throttled and capped on that too, as ISPs struggle to pay the exorbitant fees charged by wholesale.
    The openreach engineers are brilliant, but they too know the whole thing is a scam.
    BT work on the scarcity model instead of the abundance model.
    We need fat dumb pipes everywhere.
    Ubiquitous connectivity both to our homes and businesses and when we are mobile.
    The millions spent on vital vision are now paying off for BT as many of their contacts who have been brainwashed are now the suits making decisions about where the funding goes. And guess what? It is going into the BT coffers for cabinets. To keep another generation on limited expensive access and to keep money rolling in for an obsolete phone network.
    You couldn’t make it up.

  2. Hi JohnM I totally agree that appropriate use of technology enhances outdoor experiences. For the last 6 years I have been incorporating digital elements in the adult classes I teachin navigation;

    Features include:

    Use of SMS updates to include group members absent from walk due to injury.

    Students creating their own instructional video in the field and uploading to YouTube.

    Use of WordPress instant voice upload option (via GSM) to report on lessons learned on a tricky navigation leg….

    The list goes on and can include GPS tracklogs, +online route planning …..

  3. Oh, criket John. I don’t like sounding like a refusenik. But when it comes to the countryside and tech I am. Or at least, I’m a bit bi-polar.

    Other people can have the option to use it. I’m fully behind that.

    But often at the weekend I use trips to the countryside to recharge my batteries and escape from technology.

    The idea of tweeting myself from the top of the Long Mynd fills me with absolute horror.

    Of course, if I’m stuck in a city, someone else is doing it and it provides a green window then I’m all for it….

  4. Pingback: Technology ~ The Good, the Bad and the Ugly « Jeanine's Opinion

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