Mobile computing allows individuals to bring computing with them into the outdoors. This creates a new situation in which individuals can stay connected even when trying to "get away from it all." Questions arise from this juxtaposition regarding whether the inclusion of computing in these activities is a positive or a negative. Evidence exists supporting both conclusions. We posit that computing can contribute positively to outdoor recreation without distracting. This dissertation details work undertaken in two phases which explores how computing can accomplish this goal. Phase 1 explored how individuals are already using computing technology in hiking, and culminated with the development of a model describing individuals' decisions regarding technology use on the trail. In Phase 2, we developed a vision which navigates the tension between the connection technology provides to our day-to-day lives and the desire to disconnect, along with prototypes which serve as an embodiment of this vision. We found that computing is in wide use by hikers, and through qualitative data analysis we developed a Two Worlds model which describes their decisions regarding technology use when hiking. This model provides a space which can be probed and explored in future work. Our vision guides careful growth in the inclusion of computing in outdoor recreation, allowing computing to support activities without becoming a distraction. Our work makes important empirical, theoretical, and artifact contributions to the field of HCI. It also identifies interesting areas of exploration, some of which have already informed the development of our Two Worlds model, and some of which remain largely unexplored. In this sense, our work has both blazed new trails in exploring computing's place in outdoor recreation and identified "side trails" for further exploration by ourselves and others. We look forward to this work and its results.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Computer Science



Date Submitted


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human-computer interaction, HCI, outdoors, hci outdoors, hiking, mobile computing