It’s a common story that the focus of a PhD changes dramatically as you progress through it. In almost two years I think I’ve written about 10 different abstracts, all with some kind of common thread but with decidedly different implications for the activities and outcomes of the project. In that spirit, I’d like to post another abstract!

This one I think pulls together a lot of the thoughts I’ve had over the last few months and gives me a bit more direction (which hopefully will translate in to more frequent posts here). No doubt there’ll be more versions, but for now this is what is making sense to me.

This thesis expands the understanding of the relationships between technology, people and environmental knowledge.

Our understanding of the environments we inhabit have always been socially grounded; the interactions we have with a space define it, and the meaning we construct about these places is socially embedded. As technology becomes increasingly mobile and ubiquitous, it too has become socially embedded. People are connecting across time and space, and real-time access to vast amounts of information are changing the ways we interact with the world in tangible ways. The spaces we inhabit are at once physical, social and digital – they are blended.
There has been much research into the potential for technology to facilitate collaboration and co-presence, and around the ways technology use and infrastructure influences our perceptions of and movements in the world. However, there has been little that looks at the combination of both: how we can co-create an understanding of our environment that crosses the seams between physical and digital spaces.

Through an ethnographic study of rangers in a national park, this thesis will build upon the current research around environmental knowing and its implications for ubiquitous and mobile computing. It will provide exploratory designs for two different systems that demonstrate blended space for the purpose of sharing local knowledge about the environment, and will discuss the potential for digital space to enrich this knowledge. This thesis argues that by decreasing the divide between physical and digital spaces, we can facilitate and enrich our understanding of the locations we interact with.

Thoughts appreciated!


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