GROUP workshop: Toward opportunity in conflict

At ACM GROUP’s Technology on the Trail Workshop, Lindah Kotut and Mike Horning led an activity on the theme “Who’s out there? What are they doing?” that morphed into “Opportunity in conflict”.  The goal of the session was to explore the people that take technology onto trails, toward looking for conflicts that arise among groups of people and the opportunity in conflict.

Participants in the workshop drew from a large set of hiker roles, looking at tensions within the groups (e.g., hunters who use advanced weapons vs those who don’t think that gives animals a fair chance) and between groups (e.g., people looking for solitude, and those looking to play music with friends).  Lindah took the lead in identifying several tensions that seemed to pop up repeatedly:

  • presence vs distraction: Many people from most of the groups seek to escape technology by heading into wilderness, but they often are drawn to use technology to check that one important message or take that one essential picture.  There’s value in these things, but it may not be worth the distraction.
  • experiential vs practical: The line between these is often blurred, such as the desire for a family to document a trail experience in photos, and the competing desire to simply enjoy the experience.
  • professional vs amateur: There was a perceived value in professional use of technology, somehow making it forgivable to use, whereas the needs of amateurs did not seem as important.
  • known vs unknown: Our group struggled with ways of knowing about professions outside of our scope, whether the uses of technology were as helpful and/or arduous as they seem.  It’s hard to understand professions related to rescue, science, and hunters without representatives from those groups in attendance.

This workshop effort represents one step in understanding who’s on the trail.  It was encouraging to make progress on opportunities, not just resolutions.  This work continues, with a next step to appear in the HCI Outdoors Workshop at the ACM CHI Conference in May 2018.

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