Call: “Nature, Health and Digital: Transcending Borders of Exclusion into Nature Through Innovation in Digital and Immersive Solutions” at RGS-IBG 2020

Call for Papers

Nature, Health and Digital: Transcending Borders of Exclusion into Nature Through Innovation in Digital and Immersive Solutions

A session at the 2020 Annual International Conference of
The Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG)
1-4 September 2020

Abstracts are due by January 31, 2020

The significance of the physical qualities of nature for the promotion of health and well-being, through healing places (Gesler 2003), therapeutic landscapes (Gesler 2005) or green and blue spaces, has been well established (cf. Rosenberg 2017a). However, not all socio-demographic groups in society have the capacity or resources to travel to these places for recreational or leisure. For example, it is known that elderly populations can experience increased social isolation as they spend up to 90% of their time indoors (Bamzar & Hous, 2016). Indeed, reduced access to recreational activities impacts people’s physical and emotional well-being, preventing them remaining active and connected in later life (Scottish Government, 2016). Recognising this and the benefits of access to nature on mental health and well-being for those who are socially isolated for a wide range of reasons, this session asks: What is the potential of digital representations of nature for the promotion of health and well-being? While some scholars postulate that our sensuous experience of place through the digital is restricted to the audio-visual dimension (Zook et al. 2004, Kellerman 2006), others underlined how an “imaginative” (Sheller and Urry 2006: 207), or “cognitive/imaginary” (Lemos 2008: 98) mobility enables the “imaginary sensuous perception of place” (Bork-Hüffer 2016: 2164). It has further been pronounced that our sense of place and nature are increasingly (co-)produced through entangled, interdependent and conflating ONline and OFFline spaces (cON/FFlating spaces, Bork-Hüffer and Yeoh 2017). This quality of the Internet and digital media becomes ever more significant through extended reality technologies (AR, MR, VR) and their digital representations of place and nature. At the same time, differences not only in the physical and material access, but also the operational, formal, informational and communication skills needed for making an effective use of the internet and digital technologies result in digital inequalities between individuals, groups and regions (van Djik 2012, Kleine & Poveda 2017).

In the face of these developments, we invite submissions that respond to such issues by addressing the following areas:

  • The effect of digital representations of nature on emotional-affective and sensuous experiences of nature
  • The opportunities afforded for connection to nature through a range of digital solutions
  • The geographies of place creation and engagements with nature in digital content creation
  • The application of digital methods/methodologies in understanding the emotional-affective connection to, and benefits of, nature for those with limited mobility
  • Digital entanglements with nature as increasing accessibility or opening new challenges of access and increasing inequalities

Please note that these are indicative rather than exclusive and we welcome submissions that attend to wider issues related to the theme of digital engagements with nature.

The closing date for abstract submissions is the 31st of January 2020. All submissions should be sent to the session convenors as follows:

Professor Tabea Bork- Hüffer, University of Innsbruck –
Professor Caroline Scarles, University of Surrey –
Professor David Sheffield, University of Derby –

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