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Does the human brain really like ICT tools and being outdoors? A brief overview of the cognitive neuroscience perspective of the CyberParks concept

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The paper presents an overview of the latest studies on cognitive neuroscience that can help evaluate concepts that promote technologically-enhanced outdoor activities, such as CyberParks. The following questions are asked in the paper: does the human brain really like ICT tools? Does the human brain really like being outdoors? And finally: does the human brain really like technologically-enhanced outdoor activities? The results of the studies presented show that the human brain does not like ICT tools yet, it likes being outdoors very much. At the same time, it was shown that outdoors activities may be encouraged by ICT tools, yet outdoors activities themselves should be free from ICT tools. Using ICT tools and physical activity at the same time is a dual task, a type of activity that leads to cognitive and physical processes being destabilised, which leads to weakened effects of both cognitive and physical tasks. From the perspective of cognitive neuroscience, CyberParks are not a solution that the human brain really likes. Another issue is also discussed, namely: do technologically-enhanced outdoor activities—such as in CyberParks—really increase the quality of life?
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Does the human brain really like ICT tools
and being outdoors? A brief overview
of the cognitive neuroscience perspective
of the CyberParks concept
Michal Klichowski
Catarina Patrício
Abstract –
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eywords—quality of life, ICT tools, outdoor activities, technologically-enhanced
outdoor activities, human brain, cognitive neuroscience
I. INTRODUCTION: FROM CLASSROOMS WITH LINKED COMPUTER
TERMINALS TO CYBERPARKS
It is commonly assumed that information and communication technology tools (ICT tools)
have a great impact on the quality of life. In the debate on the relationship between ICT
tools and the quality of life, the topic of education is extensively covered. As many
researchers claim ([1], [2], [3], [4], [5]), ICT tools not only enrich teaching and learning
activities, but also condition the quality of today’s education. Salehi, Shojaee and Sattar [6]
even assume that the introduction of ICT tools to education is absolutely necessary for living
in the contemporary world. ICT tools ensure twenty-first century skills ([7], [8]) and “create
a bridge between students’ needs and expectations and labour market demands” [9].
Without doubt, the growth of ICT tools has dramatically reshaped education [9]. The
process of these transformations started as early as the beginning of the 20th century
when the first video films (starting in the 1900s) and Presseys mechanical teaching
223
1European Cooperation in Science and Technology Action:
Fostering knowledge about the relationship between Information and
Communication Technologies and Public Spaces supported by strategies to improve their use and attractiveness (
CYBERPARKS)
(TUD COST Action TU1306): http://www.cost.eu/COST_Actions/tud/TU1306; http://cyberparks-project.eu.
224
machines (starting in the 1920s) were introduced at schools. However, it was not until the
year 1960 that a true breakthrough happened and the era of ICT tools in education started.
It is when researchers at the University of Illinois created the first classroom system based
on linked computer terminals. The same year saw Suppes and Atkinson conduct experi-
ments on the influence of working with a computer on the process of reading and learning
math by children in California. Three years later Luskin installed the first computer in a
community college. In the years 1970s-80s Turoff and Hiltz developed computer-based
learning programmes at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. In 1976 Luskin—using the
KOCE-TV television station as a vehicle—launched the Coastline Community College as a
“college without walls”. In the mid 1980s, distance learning courses using computer
networking started to emerge, as well as ideas such as computer-based training (CBT),
computer-based learning (CBL), or even e-learning systems in an embryonic form based
on computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL). In 1990, the process of using the
World Wide Web to create fully autonomous learning and teaching environments started,
and as early as in 1994—barely 34 years after the first classroom system based in linked
computer terminals was created—the first online school was founded [11].
The beginning of the 21st century is a period of the global full bloom of the strategy for
educational applications of ICT tools, which is exemplified by the incredible development
of e-learning, m-learning and u-learning. What is considered to be the most advanced
stage of changing education through new ICT tools, however, is currently smart education
([12], [13], [14], [15], [16], [17]), a concept of resting education on ICT tools to the maximum
([18], [19], [20]), particularly on: mobile computing ([18], [20], [21]), digital textbooks
([14], [15], [22]) and cloud computing ([14], [15], [19], [23], [24], [25], [26]).
CyberParks are supposed to be one of the innovative instances of smart education,
understood as open public spaces (i.e. a park, garden square, plaza, etc., or a natural
space inserted in an urban setting, or an urban forest, a protected landscape, etc.) with
an augmented digital dimension. CyberParks strive to transform public spaces into
interactive and immersive learning environments (outside curriculum or extended school
studying) capable of increasing social, communicative, and possibly collaborative skills.
In simple words, CyberParks are meant to be a space for technologically-enhanced
outdoor activities ([27], [28]). What is more, CyberParks are considered a technological
response for new standards in education (that are at the same time an element of
cultural trends in improving the quality of life) such as: nature-based and whole-body
learning or learning experiences in an outdoor setting [29].
However, do CyberParks as spaces for technologically-enhanced outdoor activities indeed
become a concept for improving the quality of life of the contemporary human? In COST
Action TU 13061, over 80 researchers from 30 countries make an attempt at providing an
225
answer to this question by conducting interdisciplinary analyses of the social, academic
and educational sense of the CyberParks concept. This paper shall present one of the
perspectives of these analyses: the cognitive neuroscience perspective. Developing this
perspective seems very important, because in spite of a large inflation of publications on
brain-based learning and brain-based education ([30], [31]) a gap between neuroscience
and educational practice still exists, which is confirmed by numerous studies [32]. Thus,
this paper shall attempt to answer the following questions: does the human brain really
like ICT tools? Does the human brain really like being outdoors? And finally: does the
human brain really like technologically-enhanced outdoor activities? The attempt shall be
based on the review of the latest literature resources on cognitive neuroscience [33].
Presenting the cognitive neuroscience perspective of technologically-enhanced and
outdoor activities may become an interesting point of reference for further works related
to the development of the CyberParks concept and encourage a debate on the crucial
issue: do technologically-enhanced outdoor activities, such as CyberParks, really increase
the quality of life?
II. DOES THE HUMAN BRAIN REALLY LIKE ICT TOOLS?
The socialisation influence of ICT tools on the contemporary human is of such common
and global character that ICT tools are more and more frequently introduced in human
development models as one of its key determinants. It would seem that the most evident
example of this type of change is the new version of one of the most important human
development models, i.e. Bronfenbrenner’s model of the ecological systems theory (this
model assumes that human development occurs in four overlapping ecosystems:
microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem and macrosystem). It was built by Johnson and Pu-
plampu by creating a new dimension of the microsystem (according to Bronfenbrenner,
a microsystem covers individual experiences gathered in the closest environment): the
ecological techno-subsystem [34]. The ecological techno-subsystem includes a person’s
“interaction with both living (e.g. peers) and non-living (e.g. hardware) elements
of communication, information, and recreation technologies in immediate or direct
environments” [35] (see figure 1).
Many studies are conducted that aim at defining the effects of creating techno-subsystems
[36]. One of the scopes of these studies encompasses neural effects of ICT tools use, and
is thus linked to research on the changes caused by ICT tools in the human brain. This
field, however, is not particularly popular in cognitive neuroscience; as a consequence we
still know very little about the neural effects of ICT tools use (quite contrary to what we
know about the neural correlates and neural effects of non-ICT tools use, as this field
boasts very reliable knowledge ([37], [38], [39], [40], [41]). Nevertheless, cognitive
neuroscience does formulate some stipulations that cast some light on the issue.
226
Fig. 1. Johnson and Puplampu found a new dimension of the Bronfenbrenner’s model of the ecological
systems theory. This model assumes that human development occurs in four overlapping ecosystems:
microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem and macrosystem. According to Johnson and Puplampu (2008),
in contemporary times the microsystem should be expanded with the ecological techno-subsystem.
This subsystem includes ICT tools and shows how strong and common its socialisation influence
on the contemporary human is. Source: G.M. Johnson, and K.P. Puplampu, “Internet use during childhood
and the ecological techno-subsystem,” Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, vol. 34, no. 1, 2008.
Under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.
For instance, researchers ([42], [43], [44], [45]) quite agree that ICT tools use changes
the way of thinking or even leads to the creation of a new structure of thinking, or, simply,
that ICT tools change in a sense the human brain. What does that mean? According to de
Kerckhove [46], under the influence of ICT tools people acquire the ability to quickly search
through reality and learn through cooperation, yet they also lose the habit of linear (quiet and
ordered) thinking and begin to think in a quick and careless, even chaotic, way, as if they
were clicking links on a website without any plan.
De Kerckhove’s thesis is confirmed by the results of several studies. For example, Hadar
et al. [47] studied cognitive changes and brain activity changes associated with smartphone
usage. The participants of this study were 38 healthy adults lacking any previous experience
with smartphones (nonusers) and 17 healthy adults classified as extensive smartphone
users. It turned out that extensive smartphone users obtained significantly lower accuracy
rates than nonusers in the information processing task. Further analyses with the use of
electroencephalography (EEG) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) indicate lower
prefrontal long-interval cortical inhibition (LICI) in extensive smartphone users group as
compared with nonusers. What is more, in the second part of the study the researchers
divided nonusers into two groups: an experimental group, that started using smartphones,
and a control group (that continued not to use smartphones). After three months it was
found that the participants from the experimental group experienced a significant decrease
in information processing capacity (whereas the effect did not occur in the control group).
227
On the other hand, Loh and Kanai [48] found that media multitasking, i.e. simultaneous
use of many ICT tools (e.g. computer and TV) and simultaneous use of ICT tools and carrying
out other activities (e.g. using a smartphone while walking) negatively affects the human
brain. Researchers calculated the Media Multitasking Index (MMI) of 70 volunteers (healthy
adults) and then examined them with the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
method. It turned out that participants with a higher MMI had smaller gray matter density
in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) (see figure 2). ACC serves as a crucial nexus of
information processing pathways in the human brain, thus smaller gray matter volumes
in the ACC may cause poorer cognitive control performance and worse effects of learning.
It is worth adding that several studies ([49], [50]) show that using ICT tools may still have
a positive influence on the improvement of cognitive skills such as memory and attention
in older adults. What is more, other studies show that ICT tools may also positively influence
brain functioning in people with brain dysfunctions [51].
Gindrat et al. [52] found that the very use of a smartphone understood as a touchscreen
phone and consisting in clicking on a flat screen with fingers irrespective of the type of
the task carried out changes the human brain. These researchers used the electroen-
cephalography (EEG) method to examine 37 right-handed volunteers, 26 of whom used
touchscreen phones and 11 of whom used old-technology mobile phones (with a standard
keypad). They measured the cortical potentials in response to mechanical touch on the
thumb, index, and middle fingertips. It turned out that the participants who used smartphones
processed tactile stimuli in a completely different way than old-technology mobile phones
users. A detailed analysis of the EEG record shows that touchscreen phone use reorganised
the representation of the fingertips in the somatosensory cortex. It is thus another interesting
piece of evidence for the plasticity of the somatosensory cortex, one that can, however,
cause considerable anxiety. Indeed, the plasticity of the somatosensory cortex is thus
associated with the development of chronic pain, and as several studies uncovered there
is a correlation between excessive phone use and motor dysfunctions and pain. For
instance, Berolo, Wells and Amick [53] found significant associations included the total
time spent using a mobile device and pain in the right shoulder and neck. It is thus
probable that the reorganisation of the somatosensory cortex caused by intensive
touchscreen phone use correlates with the development of chronic pain (for example
in the right shoulder and neck).
It is worth adding, however, that the study conducted by Kretzschmar et al. [54] with the
use of the electroencephalography (EEG) method and eye tracking shows that in the
context of processing a written text there is no difference in what reading devices we use
(a paper page, an e-reader or a tablet computer). These researchers therefore suggest
that the overwhelming public opinion that digital reading media, though convenient,
change the processing of a text is a cultural rather than a cognitive phenomenon. As
Asakawa et al. [55] found, a similar state of affairs occurs in the context of photographs,
i.e. irrespective of whether they are printed out or displayed on the screen of an electronic
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device, they cause analogous changes of emotions. The negative influence of ICT tools on
the human brain applies not so much to the use of ICT tools itself, but rather to the type
and intensity of an activity. Thus, using ICT tools for activities such as reading and browsing
through photos should not be correlated to negative changes in the human brain.
Fig. 2. Loh and Kanai found that media multitasking negatively affects the human brain. Participants
with a higher Media Multitasking Index (MMI) had smaller gray matter density in the anterior cingulate
cortex (ACC). MMI scores are thus significantly associated with gray matter density in the ACC. Source: K.K.
Loh, and R. Kanai, “Higher Media Multi-Tasking Activity Is Associated with Smaller Gray-Matter Density
in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex,” PLoS ONE, vol. 9, no. 9, pp. 1-7, 2014, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106698.
Figure 1 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106698.g001. Under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.
At the same time, many researchers claim that the human brain “likes” ICT tools. Why is
that? Most frequently, without reference to reliable results of experimental studies, they
underline that people learn most efficiently through novel stimulus and challenges, and
ICT tools provide them with ceaseless novelties and challenges [30]. The latest studies
([56], [57], [58]) do not, however, confirm this observation. It is because ICT tools
become an attractive tool for learning only for those individuals who are cognitively
playful, i.e. for people for whom most tools available have cognitive potential.
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As the results of the latest studies in cognitive neuroscience suggest, ICT tools may
negatively affect the human brain. Furthermore, the commonly accepted statement that
all students and young people develop better when they use ICT tools seems untrue. It would
thus seem that the human brain not always (or even: very seldom) really likes ICT tools.
III. DOES THE HUMAN BRAIN REALLY LIKE BEING OUTDOORS?
ICT tools are often perceived as a kind of panacea for all the maladies of education. Many
problems occurring at schools around the world are attempted to be solved through
investments in ICT tools. To a large extent, modern curriculum designs describe the best
learning environments as technology-based classroom learning environments ([59], [60]).
However, studies do not confirm any positive correlation between students’ progress and
the level of implementation of ICT tools in education. Quite the contrary, many studies show
that changing a technology-based learning environment to an outdoor (nature-based,
authentic, experiences etc.) learning environment, considerably stimulates the effectiveness
of learning (for a brief review of this problem, see: [59]).
Outdoor learning is also perceived as a brain-friendly learning environment. It is assumed
that being outdoors stimulates the most effective forms of learning such as learning through
physical and multisensory activity [30], and at the same time supports maintaining mental
health [61]. For example, studies indicate that the more time children spend outdoors, the
more physically active they are (1 hour outdoors equals to approximately 27 minutes
more of physical activity) and that the closer children live to an area with more natural
surroundings, the less psychological distress they feel [62], as well as that, moving the
classroom to forest at least once a week improves pupils’ mental health considerably [63].
Being outdoors also stimulates attention, improves cognitive processes and encourages
learning. The open space does not, however, lead to an excessive use of the brain’s energy
that would otherwise create cognitive fatigue, but actually encourages a sense of cognitive
clarity and removes confusion ([29], [64]).
Volta et al. [65] found that during physical activity in the open space, greater activation
occurs in the human brain, as compared to a narrow space. The researchers used the
methods of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and rolling cylinder. Laying
down in an fMRI scanner, 17 participants took a walk (through a rolling cylinder) watching
two films: an open-space video clip that showed a countryside view, and a narrow-space
video clip that showed a narrow corridor. It turned out that greater activation in the
primary visual cortex (see figure 3) occurs while processing the open space as compared
to the narrow one. The open space includes more different elements (grass, road, houses,
street lamp, mountains, and so on) than the narrow space, thus processing this space
stimulates cognitive activity more ([66], [67]). In short, physical activity outdoors has a
considerably higher potential for cognitive processes than indoor physical activity.
230
Fig. 3. Volta et al. found that (A) while processing the open space greater activation in the primary
visual cortex occurs (B) as compared to the narrow one. The open space includes more different elements
(grass, road, houses, street lamp, mountains, and so on) than the narrow space, thus processing this space
stimulates cognitive activity more. Source: R.D Volta, F. Fasano, A. Cerasa, G. Mangone, A. Quattrone,
and G. Buccino, “Walking indoors, walking outdoors: an fMRI study,” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 6, 2015,
doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01502. Under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.
Shin et al. [68] found, however, that not every type of open space stimulates cognitive
processes positively. The researchers analysed the cognitive effects of a walk through
a pine forest versus downtown streets. One day, participants took a 50-minute walk in a
forest, and another day a walk of the same length in a city. Before and after each walk
they underwent cognitive and mood assessments. It turned out that the walks in the forest
caused much better mood improvement than the city walks. What is more, only after
walks in the forest participants’ cognition was observed to improve. Similar results were
obtained by Weinstein, Przybylski, and Ryan [69]. They also indicate that immersion in
natural environments correlates positively with the fulfilment of psychological needs.
On the other hand, Nisbet and Zelenski [70] found that outdoor walks in nearby nature
increase the feeling of happiness.
In a meta-analytic study, Cassarino and Setti [71] show, however, that in some studies
the city activity’s positive influence on cognitive processes was noticed, e.g. on the ability
to focus attention. Yet, this positive increase is always positively correlated with the cognitive
load and many disturbances in the process of scanning the environment.
As suggested by the results of the latest studies in cognitive neuroscience, being out-
doors, close to nature, may influence the human brain positively. It seems therefore that
the human brain almost always really likes being outdoors.
231
IV. DOES THE HUMAN BRAIN REALLY LIKE TECHNOLOGICALLY-
ENHANCED OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES?
Knowing about the beneficial influence of physical activity on our health—physical and
mental—attempts are made at creating ICT tools that will encourage physical activity [72].
Many studies show that indeed ICT tools may stimulate activities. For example, Lubans et al.
[73] found that a smartphone application called ActiveTeen Leaders Avoiding Screen-time
(ATLAS) may promote physical activity and—interestingly—reduce screen-time behaviours.
What is more, Stuckey, Kiviniemi and Petrella [74] prove that applications of the mHealth
type implemented for smartphones can stimulate activities in a way that improves heart
rate variability (HRV) by increasing and decreasing high and low frequency powers in
normalised units, respectively, which may be incredibly meaningful in the context of
diabetes and prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Attempts at combining ICT tools and
physical activity can also be exemplified by the already common active video games (AVG)
and technologies of the Microsoft Kinect and Nintendo Wii type [75].
There are also several ideas about how to include ICT tools in outdoor activities. Apart from
the CyberParks concept discussed in this work, projects that fit the trend of technology-
enhanced outdoor learning experiences can be enumerated, for example: Adventure
Learning at Taylor Wilderness Research Station, Adventure Learning at Main Salmon River,
CreekPlace Summer Camp, Adventure Learning at MOSS (AL@MOSS), YoTeach!: Adventure
Learning in a Higher Education Setting (for a brief review of these projects, see: [76]).
Nevertheless, it has to be stressed that numerous opposite projects are also created as far
as the idea for including ICT tools in outdoor activities which are based on the assumption
that for the good of our physical, mental and cognitive health outdoor activities should be
freed from ICT tools [29].
Studies in cognitive neuroscience confirm that the above assumption makes sense. For
instance, Uhls et al. [77] found that outdoor activities without screens improved preteen
skills with nonverbal emotion cues. The researchers organised a 5-day nature camp for 51
preteens. During the camp the preteens were not allowed to use TV, computers and
mobile phones. Before and after the nature camp preteens underwent a test that required
participants to infer emotional states from photographs of facial expressions (the second
edition of the Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Behaviour—DANVA2—was used for this
purpose) and videotaped scenes with verbal cues removed (The Child and Adolescent
Social Perception Measure—CASP—was used for this purpose). Their results were compared
with the results of a control group comprised of 54 preteens who used ICT tools normally.
It turned out that the experimental group’s recognition of nonverbal emotion cues improved
significantly more than that of the control group for both facial expressions and videotaped
scenes (see figure 4).
Outdoor activities without ICT tools are thus something of a mental break [29] and improve
a human’s understanding of nonverbal emotional cues [77]. What is more, cognitive
neuroscience calls outdoor activities with ICT tools, such as a smartphone used while walking,
232
dual tasks, which require an appropriate allocation of cognitive and physical resources to
each task. A dual task, i.e. cognitive-motor interference, leads to an overload of central
resources, and thus to destabilisation of the course of cognitive and physical processes,
whose consequence is the weakening of both cognitive and physical tasks. This is why
using ICT tools while outdoor activities increases the risk of a fall and disrupts the processing
of the open space. This effect is called dual-task cost in cognitive neuroscience [78].
Fig. 4. Uhls et al. found that a nature camp without screens (such as TV, computers and mobile phones)
improves preteen skills with nonverbal emotion cues. (A) In the experimental group (that took part
in the nature camp), a significantly bigger error reduction occurred from pre-test to post-test in assessing
emotions on DANVA2 faces than in the control group (that did not take part in the nature camp).
(B) The same effect was observed using CASP: ability to correctly identify emotions of actors was
significantly greater for experimental group than for the control group. Source: own work based on:
Y.T. Uhls, M. Michikyan, J. Morris, D. Garcia, G.W. Small, E. Zgourou, and P.M. Greenfield, “Five days
at outdoor education camp without screens improves preteen skills with nonverbal emotion cues,”
Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 39, pp. 387-392, 2014, doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.05.036.
As the results of the latest studies mentioned above suggest, ICT tools may positively
influence the level of outdoor activities and encourage those types of physical activity that
have a positive impact on our physical, mental and cognitive health. Using ICT tools during
outdoor activities may, however, negatively affect the human brain, and destabilise
cognitive, emotional and physical processes. Outdoor activities can thus be stimulated
or brought about by ICT tools, yet it is more recommendable for them to occur without
ICT tools, as the human brain rather dislikes technologically-enhanced outdoor activities.
V. D IS CU SS IO N: D O T EC HN OL OG IC AL LY- E NH AN CE D O UT DO OR AC TI VI T IE S
REALLY INCREASE THE QUALITY OF LIFE?
The studies presented show that the human brain rather dislikes ICT tools. Intensive use
of ICT tools negatively affects the information processing capacity and reorganises the
human brain in a negative way, the consequence of which can be, for example, the
development of chronic pain. Media multi-tasking has a particularly negative impact on
the human brain. What is more, the cognitive neuroscience perspective shows that ICT
233
tools can be an attractive learning tool only for a narrow group of people who are
cognitively playful.
Being outdoors is a completely different story. The human brain likes being outdoors very
much. Being outdoors activates the human brain, improves cognitive processes and is a
context for maximally optimum learning. The best form of outdoor activity for the human
brain is activity in nearby nature. Immersion in natural environments stimulates the human
brain, improves ones mood, improves cognition and increases the feeling of happiness.
ICT tools may encourage outdoor activities, yet they should be free from ICT tools. The
simultaneous use of ICT tools and physical activity is a form of dual task, a type of activity
that leads to the destabilisation of the course of cognitive and physical processes, which
leads to the weakening of the effects of both cognitive and physical tasks.
From cognitive neuroscience’s point of view, CyberParks, which are supposed to be a space
for technologically-enhanced outdoor activities, are thus not a solution the human brain
really likes. Certainly, it is only one of many possible perspectives. It is also worth adding
that cognitive neuroscience includes projects directed at the strong development of ICT
tools, thus at variance with the results of the studies presented. For example, smartphone
applications are created to monitor physical activity [79], smartphones are used in
experiments (e.g. in laterality research) ([80], [81]) and called pocketable labs for mobile
brain imaging and neurofeedback [82] or portable real-time neuroimaging systems [83].
It is even said that the smartphone technology “presents exciting opportunities for cog-
nitive science as a medium for rapid, large-scale experimentation and data collection”
[84]. Furthermore, visions for transforming smartphones into cognitivephones are created
where they would monitor and stimulate a human’s physical, cognitive and mental health,
as well as modify their behaviour or even control their brain [85].
Outdoor activities in nearby nature, for example in a park or forest, seem to be one of the
few activities that can still be carried out without ICT tools. What is more, while outdoors
in nearby nature the human brain can function optimally and relax from the overburden
resulting from the use of ICT tools. Thus, should the attempt at combining technology tools
and nature be supported? Do technologically-enhanced outdoor activities increase the
quality of life? To answer this question—and as a means to conclude this paper—it is worth
recalling the message of the famous essay written in 1928 by Benjamin and titled
To the
Planetarium
.
At the beginning of the essay [86], Benjamin remarks: “Nothing distinguishes the ancient
from the modern man so much as the former’s absorption in a cosmic experience scarcely
known to later periods”. What Benjamin resonates about is that the cosmos was enacted
for the first time on a planetary scale, through the spirit of technology during the First
World War, whereas “the ancients’ intercourse with the cosmos had been different: the
ecstatic trance”. The modern man’s lust for power, and misreading of technology, that is,
technology as the mastery of nature—just like the “imperialist teach”, claims the philosopher
—led technology to “betray man, turning the bridal bed into a bloodbath”. The revolutionary
234
character of modern technology, and the cosmic experience, was only attained by the
destructive powers of modern warfare. Here, the emancipatory potential of technology
thus turned into its very opposite. The important proposition to be grasped is that technology
does not mean the mastery of nature but the mastery of the relation between the man
and nature. Benjamin continues: “Men as a species completed their development thousands
of years ago; but mankind as a species is just beginning his”. “In technology, a physis, is
being organized”. Therefore, technology cannot be regarded as an instrumental medium,
but rather a way to reach the cosmic experience, as it renders possible the relation
between individuals and nature. Nevertheless, only communally can humans ecstatically
connect with the cosmos, and the organisation of this collective body requires both
nature and technology. As technology, a pure mediation between mankind and cosmos,
plays the role of a connector, the Planetarium (the theatre of projection) is the allegorical
figure for this global constellation. Hence modern technology is the way to the Planetarium,
which will bring a productive, harmonious interplay between humans and nature. This
short essay bears Benjamins political considerations at the outset of the 1930s. Technology
can be seen here as a fetish of doom when regarded as a means of domination, but particularly
as a key to happiness when it connects with nature on a global scale through a connection
mediated with technological communication tools.
Within this scenario, a CyberPark can be seen as the mechanism through which the
collective (humankind) can begin to take its own technological potential to foster the joyful
connection between humans and nature. The German philosopher wisely identifies the
biased reception of technology in the twentieth century: technology produces not only
new objects but also new relations and new subjects. Therefore, instead of generating
wars, Benjamin claims that politics should concentrate exclusively on bringing forth the
organisation of a happy human community, where ultimately technology must subserve
the constitution of this global park. This does not mean any cybernetically enhanced
humanity, but rather a means to human self-overcoming.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT
The study was supported by European Cooperation in Science and Technology Action:
Fostering
knowledge about the relationship between Information and Communication Technologies
and Public Spaces supported by strategies to improve their use and attractiveness
(CYBERPARKS)
(TUD COST Action TU1306).
AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
This project was conceptualised by MK. Resources on the cognitive neuroscience
perspective of CyberParks were collected and analysed by MK. The Benjamin’s perspective
of CyberParks was conceptualised and analysed by CP. The manuscript was written by MK and CP.
235
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Michal Klichowski
Faculty of Educational Studies
Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan
Poznan, Poland
Corresponding author: klich@amu.edu.pl
Catarina Patrício
Centro de Estudos de Comunicação e Linguagens
Faculty of Social and Human Sciences
University NOVA of Lisbon
Lisbon, Portugal
239
... Moreover, hybrid spaces open learning to the disabled, for example blind or visually impaired (Benton, 2011). What is surpassing, little is known about learning in hybrid spaces (Klichowski, 2017). Thus, in this paper selected key terms for hybrid spaces are discussed. ...
... Thus, in this paper selected key terms for hybrid spaces are discussed. As Fig. 1 shows, because, from the perspective of learning theories, learning in hybrid spaces assumes the form of technology-enhanced outdoor learning (Veletsianos et al., 2015;Klichowski, 2017), the most crucial terms are: technology-enhanced learning and outdoor learning. Thus, the first two paragraphs are dedicated to these terms. ...
... Further paragraphs refer to other less fundamental terms. These are: technological requirements for technology-enhanced outdoor learning, selected technologies of technology-enhanced outdoor learning such as: personal digital assistant, e-library, quick response codes, Kinect-laptop-integrated system, geographic positioning system, digital textbooks, cloud computing; and finally design guidelines for technology-enhanced outdoor learning (for more, see Klichowski, 2017). ...
... According to Stadler (2013), new ICTs bring new opportunities and can significantly enhance public spaces, their governance and maintenance as well as encourage interaction among people and dialogue between citizens and administrations. Within the use of ICTs the behaviours, motivations and constraints that users face while using them have been discussed (Klichowski& Patricio, 2017;Verkasalo et al., 2010). Although digital tools have proven to offer endless opportunities for enhanced inclusive urban practice (Klichowski& Patricio, 2017;PPS, 2014), neuroscience suggests that human brain may not yet be ready to fully accept the logic of technology at least not using it while moving and/or spending time outdoors (Klichowski& Patricio, 2017). ...
... Within the use of ICTs the behaviours, motivations and constraints that users face while using them have been discussed (Klichowski& Patricio, 2017;Verkasalo et al., 2010). Although digital tools have proven to offer endless opportunities for enhanced inclusive urban practice (Klichowski& Patricio, 2017;PPS, 2014), neuroscience suggests that human brain may not yet be ready to fully accept the logic of technology at least not using it while moving and/or spending time outdoors (Klichowski& Patricio, 2017). ...
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This chapter focuses on providing an overview of the pilot experimentation conducted in two case study cities in Slovenia (Maribor & Ljubljana), part of a project titled “Social Cooperative Monitoring Tool for the Production of Inclusive Public Spaces”. It aimed at investigating the challenges that modern cities face in regard to understanding public space users with disabilities, their needs and perceptions of the use of public spaces. Additionally, with the penetration of digital tools into everyday lives, we assume that these can play an important role in enhancing interactions, mediations and support. Thus, they can contribute to understanding urban challenges and citizens’ needs, as well as help stakeholders respond adequately. Building on this assumption, our experimentation involves an investigation of the role of digital tools in enhancing inclusive urban planning and design to fit the needs of disabled citizens. Ethnography as a strongly user-centred methodological approach enriched with the use of digital tools was primarily used. A great amount of deep qualitative data was collected during the fieldwork and will be subject for further post-fieldwork analysis and interpretation. However, some preliminary conclusions have been drafted to guide future research and related discussions. This chapter sheds light on the gaps identified, proposes further research and practice oriented directions, and contributes to the discussion on inclusive public space design.
... So as for the human species, there was simply not enough time to adapt to an artifi cial urban environment and nature still represents a vital environment that can eliminate increased stress and mental health problems (Beatley, 2011;Kellert, 2018). The results of research at the interface of neurology, cognitive sciences, and environmental design have shown (Klichowski & Patricio, 2017) that the natural external environment signifi cantly positively aff ects the cognitive functions of the human brain, in contrast to the artifi cial urban external environment. The quality of natural elements and green infrastructure thus represents a necessary factor for the satisfaction of the inhabitants and for the overall quality of the city (Joklová et.al, 2019;Noszczyk et al., 2022). ...
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Analysis of urban green infrastructure is used to identify the concepts of its planning, implementation, and management at the level of the whole city as well as its individual parts. Green infrastructure, as a planned network of natural and semi-natural elements in cities, delivers a wide range of ecosystem services and improves urban environmental conditions. Planning the network of green infrastructure becomes a standard part of urban and spatial planning. Implementation strategies of green infrastructure in urban environment include applications of new specific elements and nature-based solutions. Green infrastructure research covers a wide range of topics. Our research focuses on the selected aspects of spatial analysis of green infrastructure in the city of Warsaw: distribution of main public green areas at the urban scale – forests and parks in the urban fabric, the forms of their protection, the use of linear elements of green infrastructure along communication routes, and the implementation of new elements of nature-based solutions in the urban environment – green roofs, green facades, and rain gardens. Based on the analysis of the studied selected aspects, recommendations were formulated for strengthening the interconnectivity of the green infrastructure system at an urban scale and implementation of new green infrastructure elements and in the intensively built-up districts where the number and size of green areas are insufficient.
... However, good digital tools are not easy to design. Their use can still be frustrating and distressing, especially in outdoor environments (Klichowski and Patricio 2017). When considering users with impairments, the drawbacks may become even more apparent, and tools may soon turn into disablers (Macdonald and Clayton 2013) rather than enablers of accessibility and socio-spatial inclusion (Pankau 2019). ...
Article
Successful inclusion is a subject that addresses the question of how well a society can prevent discrimination and ensure access to information, products, services, and spaces for all. Disability may not necessarily lead to exclusion, unless society fails to respond to the needs of people regardless of their impairment. Digital tools combined with ethnographic research may help researchers explore users’ needs, perceptions, behaviors, and attitudes and can aid in understanding the interactions between the human, the space, and the digital within the urban realm. This paper thus outlines a diversity of digital tools in the context of the disability-inclusive city. Through ethnographic encounters with Joe, Ann, and Vanessa, we then explore how these tools can be applied to practice. Centering on Joe, we attempt to exemplify some of the key issues that need to be addressed when looking into the terrain of disability, the city, and digital tools. • Points of interest • This paper explores how mobile phones and mobile applications can support people with disabilities in accessing the city and its services. • The research also explores how modern technology, such as mobile applications can support city officials in understanding better what makes cities more disability friendly. • With the help of Joe, Vanessa and Ann from Maribor, Slovenia, the authors have tried out a selected number of mobile applications and observed how these can help people with disabilities use the city and its services. • The research with Joe, Vanessa and Ann showed that mobile phones and mobile applications can be useful for moving around the city, but people with disabilities may still face difficulties using mobile phones while moving. • The research also showed that technology can make cities more disability friendly, but it cannot remove all the barriers that people with disabilities face in their everyday lives.
... Cognitive neuroscience (in both behavioural and neuroimaging paradigms, see Klichowski and Kroliczak 2017) provides another learner-centric framework. Klichowski and Patricio (2017) show that learning in cyberparks combines two types of cerebral operations: motor and cognitive control. Many times, this involves learning with digital tools while on the move . ...
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This chapter discusses the recent conceptual developments about CyberParks and their educational potential. Key learning characteristics and pedagogical principles will be identified through a review of learning theories and studies from cognitive neuroscience. Relevant pedagogical models are reviewed to develop one that describes learning in CyberParks, which will be used to design and evaluate learning in such context. An innovative connectivist-inspired process-oriented pedagogical model is proposed to serve as a signpost in the process of developing adaptive expertise through which new pedagogies and innovative uses of CyberParks address the evolving needs of citizens.
... Although the benefits of digital tools are generally evident, at least for research, professional and utilization purposes (Brighenti, 2012), and their rapid penetration is in progress, we conclude our research with great concerns related to the actual role of technology in participatory urban planning, design and governing practice. People still seem to prefer personal contact over digital tools (in which the trust-building ethnography fills in the gap), and as noted by Klichowski et al. (2017), the human brain is still not ready to use technology outdoors. In addition, with disabled people, the specifics of their impairment need to be respected. ...
... However, good digital tools are not easy to design. Their use can still be frustrating and distressing, especially in outdoor environments (Klichowski and Patricio 2017). When considering users with impairments, the drawbacks may become even more apparent, and tools may soon turn into disablers (Macdonald and Clayton 2013) rather than enablers of accessibility and socio-spatial inclusion (Pankau 2019). ...
Research
The research aims to propose a holistic model for disability inclusive urban planning, design and governance, supported by digital tools that enhance collaboration between public space users, specifically with disabilities, and public space agents, such as urban planners, designers, architects, community agents, maintenance companies, public administrations, and other relevant governmental bodies, in the process of the production of inclusive and cohesive public spaces (cities). For this purpose, the research aims at exploring first, the needs of persons with physical and sensory impairments in regard to accessibility of public spaces; second, the use of digital tools that support disabled people in accessing and enjoying public spaces on one hand, and support their collaboration as public space users with the public space agents on the other hand; and third, existing collaboration models and practices, as well as collaboration, satisfaction and motivation levels between disabled people and the public space agents. Finally it aims at proposing a holistic approach to planning, design, governance and the production of inclusive public spaces (cities) through ethnographic participatory practices and ubran planning techniques to fit the needs of the most vulnerable groups of public space users (citizens). METHODS USED: exploratory study on literature review, documents analysis, digital tools research, digital tools analysis, users needs analysis, case studies, ethnographic participatory research, behavioural mapping, post-occupancy evaluation, comparative analysis, SWOT analysis. MAIN RESULTS (to this point): - Vision of a Smart city addressing the needs of disabled citizens - A proposal of a holistic and integrative approach to inclusive city design - 4-dimensional model for inclusive urban planning and design (human, environmental, technological, relational dimension) - Combined methodological approach (CMA) to inclusive urban planning and design (ethnography, behavioural mapping, post-occupancy evaluation) - Digital tools overview for ethnographic research & inclusive public spaces - 5 case studies in Slovenia (Maribor-Slovenia, Ljubljana-Slovenia, Pultusk-Poland) - Disability Inclusion Evaluation Tool (DIETool) for measuring disability inclusion performance in cities
... As it has been discussed by previous authors [14], [16], [29] "users play an important role in sustainable spatial development" and it is highly important to know how they experience open space and how their "environmental perception reflects their priorities, and consequently, their use of open space" [29]. In the same way, it is clearly as much important to understand also the use of digital tools in public spaces, which is still a relatively new phenomenon, and by human brain considered as a multitasking activity, which our brain still has difficulties accepting [21]. ...
Conference Paper
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There were 42 million disabled people aged 15-64 in the EU-27 in 2012. The urban population is increasing, and has according to United Nations Population Fund already exceeded 50% of the global population. Cities are becoming more and more complex. City governments face challenges in designing fully inclusive city services, spaces and information. These still tend to be designed in a way to fit the needs of an active, fully abled person, thus excluding a great number of citizens with impairments. With this article we contribute to the issues raised; first, by proposing a four-dimensional model towards addressing the complexity of the societal challenges; second, by elaborating a holistic Vision of a Smart and Inclusive City, and finally as a part of this vision, by proposing a concept of a holistic modular digital tool, namely Social Cooperative Monitoring Tool to support the inclusiveness of the city. En 2012, existían en la EU-27 42 millones de personas con discapacidad de entre 15 y 64 años. La población urbana se está viendo incrementada y, de acuerdo al United Nations Population Fund, ya supera el 50% de la población mundial. Los gobiernos municipales afrontan diferentes retos para diseñar espacios y servicios urbanos completamente inclusivos, si bien siguen tendiendo a orientar el diseño de estos aspectos a cumplir las necesidades de una persona totalmente capacitada. Este hecho excluye a un gran número de ciudadanos con algún tipo de discapacidad. Con este artículo queremos contribuir a las cuestiones planteadas; proponiendo, primero, un modelo cuatridimensional que aborde la complejidad de los retos de la sociedad; elaborando, segundamente, una visión holística de una Ciudad Inteligente e Inclusiva, y finalmente, como parte de esta visión, proponiendo un concepto de herramienta digital holística y modular, concretamente "Social Cooperative Monitoring Tool", que apoye el carácter inclusivo de una ciudad.
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CyberParks will be hybrid spaces of future cities. Learning in CyberParks will take the form of technology-enhanced outdoor learning and will become an important concept that can be used in practice in order to provide an answer to numerous problems of educational institutions, related to students’ lack of contact with nature and consolidation of their sedentary lifestyle. In this paper we discuss evidences from the CyberParks COST project and we present recommendations regarding the constructions of CyberParks. We point out, for example, that when designing CyberParks one has to think not only about the technological infrastructure, but also about making sitting spots for using learning technology. We also present the original project of such an object.
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This paper explores the link between the quality of the built environment and its value, in health, social, economic and environmental terms. This is theorized as ‘place value’ which, alongside ‘place quality’, is conceptualized as existing within a virtuous loop in which quality dictates value and value defines quality. To test this, a systematic review brought together wide-ranging international research evidence. The work confirmed a range of definitive associations between the quality of place and its place derived value. It also makes a clear link back from the evidence on place value to the sorts of qualities that enhance or detract from that value. These, in turn, define the constituent elements of place quality.
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In the following I shall attempt to outline the line of thinking held by a group of students and researchers working at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Salamanca (“Group on Media, Education and Learning”, or GOMEL). Our work has led us both to revise current models used to represent everyday culture, and to seek methodological alternatives for researching and designing cultural productions (for instance, trying to change practices or working models of communicators, or developing prototypical products for the mass media). I cannot explain our whole line of work here, but I shall try to share with you a few of our reflections and some of the hypotheses that the group has been developing — hypotheses that have emerged in the attempt to connect everyday mental contents with the contents of everyday culture. I shall present some of the projects and explain one of them in more detail.
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ICT have great educational potential. Research shows, however, that ICT are not widely incorporated into education. This situation is presented by the SCOT theory, which shows that teacher ratings of new ICT are consistently and invariably negative. We decided to verify how pre­service teachers rate the ICT solutions and the consistency of their ratings. Results showed that pre­service teachers are indeed relatively consistent and invariable in their ratings. Moreover, those ICT solutions that can be incorporated into the traditional educational model without requiring significant technological framework receive better ratings than those that deviate from this model by requiring significant need for implementation of technology to be used in the educational setting.
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