26 February 2008

Videophilia, or Why people don't go outside anymore

You may be wondering, what is videophilia? I too had to look it up after reading a paper in the Feb 19, 2008 edition of PNAS by Pergams and Zaradic titled "Evidence for a fundamental and pervasive shift away from nature-based recreation".

(If you don't have PNAS access, a free pdf can be downloaded on their webpage, or if you'd rather hear one of the authors give a summary, they have an audio track there too)

Pergams and Zaradic coined the term "videophilia" to contrast with the term "biophilia" coined by E. O. Wilson to describe people's innate affinity for nature and natural areas. Visits to US national parks have been in a decline starting somewhere between 1981-91. In a 2006 paper, Pergams and Zaradic found that 4 variables could describe about 98% of this decline: time spent on the internet, time spent playing video games, time spent watching movies, and increasing oil prices. So videophilia is a term to describe this phenomenon, that as time spent on electronic media increases, visits to natural parks decreases.

Videophilia: The new human tendency to focus on sedentary activities involving electronic media. (from here)
This most recent paper expanded the study to look also at natural area use in Japan and Spain, and found that this decline is not just restricted to the United States.

I think this trend is something that many people have noticed, over the past decade in particular. I think that it's great that someone has looked at this correlation in a scientific manner so that it goes beyond just anecdotal theories. As the authors caution on their website "less contact with nature is likely to translate to less support for the environment in future generations".

Why am I still writing this blog entry? I'm going to go play outside.

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