Documentation of historical moments
In the early stages of the project, the collection of material in Finland has focused on digital newspapers and social media. The material is used to examine, e.g., how the sites are visually presented and what themes in these presentations are highlighted.
“Next, we will be conducting walking interviews with various experts, such as biologists, artists, amateur photographers and nature activists. We are also interested in the views of ordinary people who like to spend time in nature, and it is still possible for those who are interested and would like to share their views to sign up for a walking interview.”
The interviews will consider, in practical terms and at the research sites, the role of digital technologies in conveying and shaping people’s experiences of nature.
“We refer to this method as ‘senso-digital walking’. It focuses both on the sensory and the digital experience. Often, an authentic experience of nature is seen as one without any technological devices. However, authentic nature experiences, too, are always tied to time, place and cultural context – and are constantly changing. With this research, we want to document and understand this change in a time in history that is characterised by extremely rapid technological development.”
Venäläinen doesn’t want to speculate about the project's results at this point. Based on the material collected, however, it does seem like the same camera angles and themes are recurring on social media.
“Of course, it is interesting why people always want to take the same photo of the same object. However, I hope that the material we’ve collected will also contain diversity and surprises.”
This will likely be known in three years’ time, as the international team of researchers analyses the data and explores the transformation we are going through, and how it affects our way of being in nature and all the implications it has for our society and culture.
Digital Aestheticization of Fragile Environments, DigiFREN, is one of the projects to secure funding from the highly competitive CHANSE Programme of European research funding organisations. The project was launched in October 2022, and it will run until September 2025.