Where is your focus when you step outdoors? Are you automatically checking personal email and texts, or surfing the Web on your mobile device? Or are you deeply breathing the fresh air and enjoying the sun upon your face?
Just recently, in my hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, the air temperature hit triple digits on a late spring afternoon. Spending time outside was far from comfortable for me. Regardless, I am always anxious to enjoy being outside, especially after being chained to my laptop as I had been that afternoon.
Having separated myself from the digital distractions that seem to dominate our modern lives, I was able to experience a rare phenomenon I might have otherwise missed, if I had allowed the virtual world to accompany me. Hot, humid, hazy air, combined with smoke from the Arizona wildfires, created a spectacular sky that cloaked the sun. Still hours before sunset, the sun and surrounding sky were ablaze in a fiery orange-red glow.
I now have a personal connection with the events unfolding over a thousand miles away. While a video of this would have captured the image forever and allowed others to share it too, it would not have had the same impact. I experienced something that cannot be duplicated in cyberspace.
We are increasingly being enveloped in the simulated domain of the digital age. So much of what we encounter on screen seems more amazing than what we often encounter in the real world. Or maybe, it’s just a matter of understanding and a reluctance to search and explore beyond what can be pulled back in .07 seconds.
Let’s stop to consider how the images and information we include on our websites and social media affect understanding and excitement of the world beyond the digital realm. As Urban Planners, Architects, and Landscape Architects, how can we alter our perspectives when implementing plans and designs to foster a deeper understanding of the natural world?
How can we, as environmental designers, utilize the technological power that shapes our lives to reshape the way we, and especially our children, interact with the biological world?