Technology & the Public Garden Experience

For several years I have been thinking about what may appear to be an “odd couple”. That is: technology and public gardens. Americans are great users of technology and public gardens are loved by millions of people throughout our country. How are these two very different aspects of our lives converging or remaining dichotomous?

Not surprisingly, many of the fantastic and professionally managed American public gardens use technology to support interpretive experiences and even the fundamental visitor experience. When I say “technology” within this line of thinking – I’m not referring to tools associated with the installation and management of plant material and garden features. Instead, I’m interested in the tools that may enhance our view, understanding, and engagement with garden spaces.

The most obvious form is already quite common at destination gardens and can found in visitor centers and integrated into featured display areas (e.g. interpretive interactive displays within the lobby of a conservatory). What’s sometimes overlooked in this arena of digitally based visitor tools is the interaction that comes before and after a visit. How many visitors explore the garden online before visiting? How many visitors take digital photographs and videos to enjoy and share after a visit (even during a visit through mobile social media posts!)? My assumption is that most public garden visitors have some type of extended experience thanks to digital content and the technology enabling that content!

We live in a world where digital content is being created by almost everyone. Technology allows increasingly valuable visitor experiences to occur before and after the actual garden visit. I believe public gardens have a significant opportunity to improve public engagement by inviting and hosting more visitor-based content through the creative integration of technology.

The “odd couple” of technology and gardens may not be that odd after all. If we work together, we may discover more about ourselves and humanity by combining both. Imagine a public garden that invites people to leave a digital footprint of themselves through recorded stories, photos, and videos that are tagged to the garden spaces that inspired that content.

It sounds good to me! How about you?

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