ACI 2021 Workshop
Digital Technologies in Nature

Tues 9 November 2021

Workshop held at the ACI 2021 Conference, for interdisciplinary networking and discussions amongst people working with and researching digital technologies in natural settings.


In natural settings we are making increased use of digital technologies such as sensors, AI-powered smartphone apps, wearables for animals, smart camera traps, acoustic sensing, drones, remote sensing, GPS-based mapping and navigation - and much more. These technologies are being used for ecology and conservation, livelihoods and management of parks and remote areas, outdoor recreation and public engagement.

We believe that more interdisciplinary collaboration is needed for successful use of digital technology in nature, and to understand and minimise potential impacts and issues. In this workshop we aim to build networks of researchers and practitioners, and bring different perspectives and expertise to discussions about the challenges, opportunities and risks of these technologies, including:

  • animal welfare impacts and other effects of wearables, sensors and drones

  • how sensor technologies may be shaping environments and human-nature relations

  • cultural and ethical impacts of capturing data about natural features of cultural or spiritual significance to Indigenous peoples

  • privacy and security of biotelemetry and geospatial data

  • how people's time in nature is altered by the presence of technology (e.g. experience of solitude)

  • inequality of access and participation in nature-related activities

  • risks that "digital nature" might result in fewer rich, immersive, direct experiences of the natural world.



Hour 1: Presentations from selected participants:

  1. Existing and proposed uses of tech in nature

  2. Designing and evaluating tech in nature

  3. Ethical and cultural dimensions of deploying tech in nature

Hour 2: A series of small group discussions on:

  1. Methods of interaction design and evaluation

  2. Responding to loss of biodiversity and anthropocentrism

  3. Cultural and ethical values reflected (or absent) in tech design

  4. Potential impacts on public attitudes to wildlife and nature

Hour 3: Synthesis and wrap-up:

  1. Whole-of-workshop discussion to synthesise outcomes

  2. Next steps

  3. Wrap-up

Intended Outputs

We hope to produced from the workshop:

  • A summary of challenges related to designing for nature

  • A framework for thinking about how technology design can reflect or promote different orientations to nature

  • Avenues for developing design methods which can engage with other species and more-than-human stakeholders in nature

  • A research agenda for developing methodologies and forums for engaging diverse human stakeholders and disciplines in designing for nature

We hope to publish:

  • An article for Interactions magazine or a similar venue, outlining the research agenda that emerges from this workshop.

  • A report of workshop findings for a broad, cross-disciplinary readership - to be made open access published through an open access arrangement.


The workshop will last approx 3hrs. We intend to repeat the workshop to accommodate different time zones.

First Session:

  • UTC Universal Time 7am Tues 9 Nov

  • London, UK 7am Tues 9 Nov

  • New York, USA 2am Tues, 9 Nov

  • Los Angeles, USA 11pm Mon 8 Nov

  • Sydney, Aus 6pm Tues 9 Nov

  • Brisbane, Aus 5pm Tues 9 Nov

  • Convert to your own time zone

Second session:

  • UTC Universal Time 10pm Tues 9 Nov

  • London, UK 10pm Tues 9 Nov

  • New York, USA 5pm Tues 9 Nov

  • Los Angeles, USA 2pm Tues 9 Nov

  • Sydney, Aus 9am Weds 10 Nov

  • Brisbane, Aus 8am Weds 10 Nov

  • Convert to your own time zone


Sarah Webber, The University of Melbourne
Jessie L. Oliver, Queensland University of Technology
Wally Smith, The University of Melbourne
Helena Bender, The University of Melbourne
Kellie Vella, Queensland University of Technology
Margot Brereton, Queensland University of Technology
Alasdair Davies,
Arribada Initiative
Julia Hoy, University of Queensland
Kate Judith, University of Southern Queensland


Please join us if you are working with, or researching, digital technology for use in / with nature. We are keen to include people from a wide range of sectors and disciplines, including ecology and conservation, environmental science, wildlife management, conservation technology, engineering, environmental social science and psychology, anthrozoology, and UX / interaction design - including animal-computer interaction and human-computer interaction.

Attendees will be expected to participate actively in discussions on the above topics.

  1. Complete our Sign up form to let us know you would like to attend.

  2. We will confirm your participation.


For queries, please contact Sarah Webber at the University of Melbourne,