Understanding Visitor Connections to Technology in Remote and Urban-Proximate Forests
Powell, Roslynn A.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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Reconnecting with nature, escaping the stress of everyday life, and unplugging from technology are some of the reasons people take part in outdoor recreation. However, increasingly people are bringing their electronic devices along with them. Concerns associated with the growth of forest technology include an increase in risky behaviors (e.g., bear selfies), visitors becoming more reliant on technology instead of their skill and experience, and a change in a visitor’s emotional attachment to nature. The objective of this thesis is to determine forest visitors’ attitudes towards technology in the forest setting, intended technology behaviors, support for potential technology management actions across forest and camping contexts, and visitor demographics (e.g., age, race, gender, education). This thesis also looks to determine whether forest technology attitudes predicts intended technology behaviors and, support for potential technology management actions across forest contexts. From June to August 2017, 444 visitors in the Chequamegon- Nicolet National Forest (CNNF-a remote forest, 182 respondents) and the Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC-an urban-proximate forest, 262 respondents) completed an on-site questionnaire. The questionnaire focused on personal electronic technology such as cellular phones, tablets, E-readers, Fitbits, and similar devices. The average response rate of all sites surveyed was 80.2%. This study found that negative forest technology attitudes were universal across forest contexts. In general, urban campers differed in their pro-technology and anxiety/dependence attitudes, while remote campers in both sub contexts were similar. Demographically, visitors were more alike than different. Trends in everyday technology use based on demographics did not transfer over into technology use in the forest setting. Across demographics and forest contexts there were differences in support for integrating technology into management, while there was similar support for banning technology or using technology as a replacement. Lastly, results indicate that forest technology attitudes are not reliable predictors of support for management and technology use.