I'm interested in how technology influences how we think. I've written many articles about cell phones and driver distraction (see www.psych.utah.edu/lab/appliedcognition). I've also been very interested in what happens when we "unplug" from technology. For the last five years, I've taught a course at the University of Utah entitled "Cognition in the Wild" that, among other things, examines how being in nature can have restorative effects on attention.
The idea is that in our daily routine we are confronted with many things that compete for attention (cell phones ringing, incoming e-mail, cars honking, sirens blaring, etc. etc.) and that these interruptions tend to deplete executive attention (Stephen Kaplan and Marc Berman have written an excellent article on this idea Perspectives on Psychological Science-2010-Kaplan-43-57). Interacting in nature is thought to have restorative properties that produce important benefits to attention.
One of the things that we are really interested in is what is being restored in the brain as we interact in nature. To pursue these issues in greater detail, I invited five leading cognitive neuroscientists and talented landscape artist Richard Boyer to join me on a 5-day wilderness experience rafting and canoeing down the remote sections of the San Juan river in southern Utah. If you read the NY Times article by Matt Richtel, you can find out a bit more about the trip and our discussions.
If you watch the multimedia videos on the NY Times web site you may wonder if we ever got my canoe off the rocks. We didn't, but when the water level dropped a few rafters were able to extract it (although it was no longer seaworthy).