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Gadgets in the outdoors: Connecting or disconnecting in nature?

We’re surrounded by technology indoors, and more and more, we’re taking it with us outdoors.

We’re surrounded by technology indoors, and more and more, we’re taking it with us outdoors.

 Global positioning systems, heart rate monitors, training apps, watches, music, smartphones — these days communing with nature is likely to be tech-mediated, but does that defeat the purpose of fresh air and sunshine? Can you recharge your psyche if you’re still plugged in?

“There’s convincing research and growing understanding of how important connectedness to nature is for human well-being,” said Christie Manning, visiting assistant professor of environmental studies and psychology at Macalester College. “To the extent that gadgets get people outside who would otherwise be looking at Facebook, yes, those gadgets are a good thing. But there is some evidence — it’s not conclusive — that nature is beneficial because it’s a full sensory experience. When you’re outside, you’re getting a wide array of feedback that’s constantly changing, and the fullness of the experience may be essential to reaping the benefits. When we put something between us and one dimension of our sensory experience — like headphones — are the benefits of being outdoors decreased? We don’t know for sure. It’s an area of active inquiry.”

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Gadgets in the outdoors: Connecting or disconnecting in nature?

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