Interpretive Technology in Parks: A study of visitor experience with portable multimedia devices
The GPS Ranger is a new portable technology that provides visitors to Cedar Breaks National Monument (CBNM) with interpretive information specific to a location. The GPS Ranger uses a built in global positioning system to trigger video, audio, or slideshows that are displayed on a 4 inch display.
The GPS Ranger is new to natural area parks like CBNM. Technological advancements have enabled devices like the GPS Ranger to be used in many new places. Researchers have a history of investigating and publishing literature on park visitor experiences with interpretive media. However, no exploration of the experiences visitors have with technology
like the GPS Ranger exists. The purpose of this study was to undertake an exploratory investigation of GPS Ranger experiences. In doing so, it will begin to fill important gaps in literature and guide land managers and researchers to make more informed decisions.
Specifically, this study used the qualitative process of hermeneutics to guide the investigation of the experiences GPS Ranger users have at CBNM in southwest Utah. The following central question guided this study: What experiences do GPS Ranger users have at Cedar Breaks National Monument? In order to investigate the central question, the following research questions were investigated: 1) What expectations do visitors have when coming to Cedar Breaks? 2) What experiences do GPS Ranger users have at Cedar Breaks? 3) What are the experiences GPS Ranger users have with the technology?
Interviews were collected from 27 GPS Ranger users following their experiences at CBNM. Results showed visitors primarily expect to experience elements of nature during their visit. Furthermore, GPS Ranger users primarily had experiences focused around nature and learning. Technology was not identified as major part of their CBNM experience.
Finally, visitors experiences with the technology are positive but some problems were identified.
The GPS Ranger was enjoyed by nearly all users. They perceived the device benefiting their experiences by giving information they would have otherwise missed. The device may have caused positive and negative changes in behavior. Future research can use this study as a starting point to better understand information gathering behavior, the difference between users and non users, and to investigate potential impacts of technology on natural area visitors.
Advisor:Norma P. Nickerson, Ph.D; Wayne Freimund, Ph.D; Yolanda Reimer, Ph.D
School:The University of Montana
School Location:USA - Montana
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:department of society and conservation
Date of Publication:02/18/2009