Tag Archives: nature

How nature calms your wired life: #technobiophilia at Cafe Scientifique Bournemouth, Tue 1st Oct 2013

Cafe Scientifique at the Cafe Boscanova

I’m very pleased to be invited to speak at the first anniversary of the Bournemouth Cafe Scientifique. The event will also be part of the Arts-by-the-Sea Festival. It will be the third time I’ve talked at a Cafe Scientifique – I’ve also spoken in Nottingham and Leicester years ago – and I love the concept. If you’ve never been, check out their website – there may be one near you.

How nature calms your wired life
Tuesday 1st October 2013
7.30pm-9.pm, doors are open from 6.30pm.
Cafe Boscanova, 650 Christchurch Road, Boscombe, Bournemouth, BH1 4BP

Why do we adorn our screens with pictures of forests, waterfalls, animals and beaches? Why are there so many nature metaphors in the language of the internet? The answer lies in biophilia, the innate human attraction to life and life-like processes. Sue Thomas believes that nature can soothe our connected minds and offer unexpected benefits – an improved attention span, a rested mind, and enhanced creativity. So there’s no need to choose between technology and well-being – we can have both! This talk is about the best way to make our digital lives integrated, healthy, and mindful.

‘Something’s not quite right’ in the debate about digital well-being

We planted this iPhone and it only grew one kale leaf (Alexis Madrigal).
We planted this iPhone and it only grew one kale leaf (Alexis Madrigal).

While I have been faffing around trying to decide how to write about the Camp Grounded event which took place from June 14-17th 2013 in Navarro, California, Atlantic Senior Editor Alexis Madrigal has written a great piece about the journalism that went on around it afterwards.  And he illustrates his story The New New Naturalism in the Era of ‘Processed’ Relationships with some hilarious pictures of his own attempts to green up his iPhone, such as the one pictured here.


Camp Grounded was a summer camp for adults focussed around leaving your technology at the door: ‘Trade in your computer, cell phone, Instagrams, clocks, schedules and work-jargon for an off-the-grid weekend of pure unadulterated fun.’ I didn’t go, but I gather they had a great time. Activities included Yoga, Stargazing, Hiking, Bare-Feet,Baking, Meditation, Campfires, Friendship Bracelets, Sing-Alongs, Swimming in the River, Roasted Marshmallows and so on. It was organised by Digital Detox, a company which provides opportunities to ‘disconnect from technology and reconnect with yourself. Recharge your mind, body and soul’. Continue reading ‘Something’s not quite right’ in the debate about digital well-being

Why do we watch Bear Grylls? Does Facebook make you long to be alone in the wild?

It turns out that survival role-model Bear Grylls isn’t quite so much of a wilderness guy as he makes out.  According to an article in The Sunday Times  – TV ‘survival king’ stayed in hotels – he enjoyed the pleasures of civilisation a little more frequently than might have been expected during the making of his TV series Born Survivor, where we see him devouring a wide variety of raw and live food – see the stomach-churning video on the Sky site – and doing other Tough Man things. Must have been tortuous, especially if, for example, he had just enjoyed a tasty boxed lunch from his hotel, the Bass Lake Pines Resort in the Sierra Nevada.

So why do we watch so many TV programmes about nature red in tooth and claw and why do we want to believe them? Why are we fascinated by people like Bear Grylls, with his ridiculous name and his faux wildness?  Or, for that matter, Grey Owl, aka Archie Belaney, the Englishman with the capacity for deep deep fantasy who I wrote about in Hello World and who, I suspect, enthralled my grandparents at a talk he gave in Leicester in 1930s as well as the young Richard and David Attenborough, also in the audience that night.

But I digress. There are many reasons why we fall for this, and I’m exploring them in my research,  but right now what I’m wondering about is the connection between this phenomenon and  social networking sites like Facebook. Think about it. Time was when watching TV and reading books were considered anti-social, but recently the isolation of solo consumption has taken a new turn – now it gives us respite from the endless pressures of social networking. At home, by ourselves or with our intimate friends and family, we watch Bear Grylls make his way in the wilderness alone, and we are there with him, or we even become him, our imaginations plugged into his – or at least, into his producer’s.  But log on to a site like Facebook and  you’re thrust into a noisy city. 

I’ve only been on Facebook a few weeks and as an old-time online community person I’ve been hugely impressed by the sophisticated functionality which informs me about everything that everyone I know is doing. Indeed, it can only be a matter of time before I will be informed, real time, of the exact moment when anyone takes a pee. Well, I’m quite sociable myself sometimes, and I like to be in contact with people I know, but I don’t want to be Zombie, or Compare People, or create a map of my best friends as opposed to those friends I presumably care less about. Every time I access someone else’s feature I do not want to be offered the opportunity of installing it for myself. It’s all too much, just too too much.

Bear Grylls and his enterprising TV crew at least offer me the fantasy of solitude, and that’s starting to feel preferable to the fantasy of civilisation that I’m getting on Facebook. So how can I survive in the seething naked jungle which is Facebook? Excuse me while I bite the head off this Zombie.