Assessing the Disturbance from Overcrowding in Outdoor Nature Experiences

Claudio Pedica, Michelangelo Diamanti, Hannes Högni Vilhjálmsson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


We present a new device designed for field studies which have the goal of assessing the perception of overcrowding in nature experiences, with a special focus on areas subjected to mass tourism (pre COVID-19). The design of the device resulted from an interdisciplinary approach attempting to mix valuable techniques from User Experience exploratory research, with the typical way of conducting overcrowding investigations in outdoors and wild areas. We began by reframing both nature and overcrowding as experiences and defining overcrowding as a disturbance to the nature experience. This lead to a new idea for a more beneficial investigation of visitor's perception, which is moment-to-moment and in context. The device supports recording someone's subjective perception of overcrowding in space and time, with minimal task load or distraction from the nature experience. The streamlined design affords only two buttons with competing functionalities: one to signal "there are too many people at the park"and another for "the park is too empty". The device continuously records time, location, and press-down button events, storing everything locally and anonymously, within the boundaries of European GDPR. We applied our method to a field study at the Þingvellir National Park in Iceland, both a protected area and a UNESCO World Heritage. We then analyzed the collected data and visualized where and when the visitors reported overcrowding. Initial results indicate that by complementing traditional questionnaires with moment-to-moment self-reporting, we could successfully estimate the disturbance from overcrowding over time and place, thus producing a deeper insight into the quality of the experience than questionnaires alone. Our results also speak of some intrinsic qualities of the outdoor infrastructure. The outcome has the potential to make park managers, designers, landscape architects and rangers more capable of understanding the complex interrelation between infrastructure and visitor flow, thus contributing towards the goals of a long-term sustainable management of the area.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExtended Abstracts of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI EA 2021
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery, Inc
ISBN (Electronic)9781450380959
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2021
Event2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems: Making Waves, Combining Strengths, CHI EA 2021 - Virtual, Online, Japan
Duration: 8 May 202113 May 2021

Publication series

NameConference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Proceedings


Conference2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems: Making Waves, Combining Strengths, CHI EA 2021
CityVirtual, Online

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would especially like to thank summer interns Sofa Basílio Valente da Silva and Hallgrímur Snær Andrésson for their hard work. The staf at Þingvellir National Park also deserves appreciation for their enthusiasm and support. The study was supported by grants from the Icelandic Student Innovation Fund (#196130-00911) and the Icelandic Research Fund (#174444051).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Owner/Author.

Other keywords

  • in the wild method
  • nature experience
  • overcrowding
  • spatio-temporal mapping


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