Playing outside: from-the-wild design method

It was a very early morning wake up for this Montréaler today, I absolutely wanted to catch the 8th GamiFOREST coffee talk at half past noon Helsinki time. The speaker, Ferran Altarriba Bertran, navigates the worlds of human computer interaction (HCI) from various perspectives, from sustainability, food and now, design methods for outdoor activities.

The main question addressed by Ferran Altarriba Bertan centers on reframing the role of technology in the human “nature” interface. Indeed, technology may be seen as a boon to solve daily problems or societal challenges but it can also take a back seat in our endeavours to foster joyful interactions with nature. Could technology be construed as a means to appreciate nature… ? Despite my short night and low caffeine level, I was riveted to my screen.

Ferran Altarriba Bertan discussed how, over a month-long trek in northern Spain, he engaged with fellow hikers encountered along the way, in reflecting and documenting on the design process of the outdoor experience. Amongst the many outputs of this enterprise, his Instagram feed, @WildTechResearch, provides a context rich snapshot into his scientific foray. Another interesting document is a visual summary of findings, in the form of an illustrated “catalogue” of ideas: – careful should you click, the file is 100 Mb! Also of note, here is the reference to the full paper that preceded this presentation:

Ferran Altarriba Bertran, Oğuz ’Oz’ Buruk, and Juho Hamari. 2022. From-The-Wild: Towards Co-Designing For and From Nature. In CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Extended Abstracts (CHI ’22 Extended Abstracts), April 29–May 05, 2022, New Orleans, LA, USA. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 7 pages.


I attempted to record the findings of his research… here is what I could jot down:

  1. Role of effort & discomfort in hiking
  2. Play potential of human-nature-interface
    1. Pathfinding & signalling
    2. Nature art: save soundscapes, images from nature
  3. Speculative tech
  4. Intermediate level knowledge
    1. taxonomy of joyful nature
    2. design framework
  5. Practical applications
  6. Wild probe tools
  7. Anticipated from-the-wild co-design approach

Ferran Altarriba Bertan ventured on “playlessness” – a feeling of discomfort of despair which sometimes occurs when navigating long stretches of mundane countryside, such as agricultural fields.

During the question period, I was particularly keen to discuss how this design process would be impacted by various seasons – technology and winter can have a bitter relationship ! I was also curious to engage on the idea of congestion in outdoor activities, particularly when the same trail is used by too many people for conflicting activities, such as snowshoes, cross-country-skying or fatbiking. Perhaps there is a role in joyfulness or play in managing this congestion !

The talk will soon be available on the GamiFOREST project website.

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