A California parks advocacy group is calling for the Parks Department to ensure wireless internet access in all state parks. The Parks Forward report was presented to John Jarvis, the head of the National Park Service, last week.
For his part, Jarvis said the NPS is moving forward with making more Wi-Fi accessible in national parks. All this comes as Canada's national parks department announced Wi-Fi hotspots will be installed in more than a dozen remote parks areas.
"What we're finding is that parks are social," said Jon Christensen, Adjunct assistant professor in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA. "People are very social when they're in parks, they do many of the things that they do in social media when they're outside of parks."
For example, Christensen cites group events called "bioblitzes," where people fan out across a park to documents plant and wildlife. These groups often use their phones to snap pictures, then upload them to a database, making them citizen science collaborators.
"There are ways in which this technology can actually deepen our connection to place and to parks," said Christensen. "I think we need to see both sides of this and think about this in creative ways that it can connect people better to parks. That's really better to building a constituency that will support state parks, regional parks and local parks in California."
The reaction has been mixed. Some folks see the wildnerness as a respite from laptops and smartphones. Others say more people will visit parks if they can stay connected.
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Jon Christensen, Adjunct assistant professor in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA; Jon is collaborating on a project visualizing social media in California parks at http://parks.stamen.com.