Last Child in the Woods

Richard Louv’s book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder” was first published in 2005 but still receives a lot of attention from concerned parents and education professionals. Louv identified a syndrome he calls ‘nature-deficit disorder’ which implies that people, especially children, who have little access to the natural world can exhibit psychological damage. His work has been received with skepticism in some quarters, although it is often the driver behind activism related to digital detoxing and other ideas seen to be remedying the supposedly negative effects of technology. According to Wikipedia, Louv has said that “nature-deficit disorder is not meant to be a medical diagnosis but rather to serve as a description of the human costs of alienation from the natural world”.

In the decade since the book first came out, we have become gripped by our online lives in a way Louv probably didn’t – couldn’t have – anticipated. Concerns about alienation have grown with the evolution of a very digital-savvy generation and certainly there are issues here to be discussed. But there’s a problem, I think, to do with the appeal this kind of claim has to a hungry press media always looking for the next big panic.

“Last Child in the Woods” is an eloquent and moving read. I’d love to see an updated version that takes into account projects like the Digital Archaeology Weekend held in the New Forest in early 2016.  Hundreds of children and their families joined experts for a weekend of gaming and archaeology including laser mapping, Minecraft, Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard.  There’s a lot of that kind of thing going on, and I’ll be reporting on it here.

Digital archaeology weekend is runaway success

The New Forest’s first Digi Arc weekend proved hugely popular, with hundreds of children and their families joining experts for a weekend of gaming and archaeology.

More than 800 people attended the event to discover how researchers have used cutting edge technologies to bring the forgotten history of the New Forest to life.

The weekend was organised by the New Forest National Park Authority and held at the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst. Visitors tried their hand at a range of activities including exploring virtual reconstructions of archaeological sites found in the New Forest and immersing themselves in augmented reality worlds; experiencing virtual reality through Oculus Rift goggles and through their phone with Google Cardboard; viewing 3D models of shipwrecks, produced the Maritime Archaeology Trust, and creating their own Minecraft archaeological model and having them judged. The best over the weekend won a personalised map, courtesy of Ordnance Survey.

Diana Edwin from Totton, who visited the event with her son Xander, said: ‘My 10 year old really loved coming to the Digi Arc weekend and seeing all the laser mapping images and the local landmarks you had created in Minecraft.

He has been inspired to look online at the laser mapping images for our favourite walks in the Forest and create some more historical buildings in Minecraft, possibly starting with our house!’

Seven year old Luke Alexander from Dibden produced a Minecraft model of the Rufus Stone near Brook

Lawrence Shaw, Heritage Mapping and Data Officer, said: ‘I’m delighted at how popular the event was. The use of new technologies and computer games have really allowed us to bring the history of the New Forest to life and hopefully inspired a new generation of digital archaeologists. We hope to run similar events in the future so keep an eye on the National Park Authority website and our twitter account for more details.’

The Digi Arc weekend took place on 16 and 17 January 2016 and was kindly supported by Ordnance Survey, Bournemouth University, Maritime Archaeology Trust and Wessex Archaeology.

To find out the winners of the Minecraft competition and see behind the scenes of archaeology in the New Forest, follow @NewForestArch on Twitter.