Advances in technology have expanded the range of media available for interpretation in parks however their effectiveness in nature-based settings has not been well established. This study compared the performance of modern technical media, namely a GPS-triggered multi-media tour and an MP3-player audio tour, with traditional media: text-rich versus image-rich pamphlets and signs. Performance was evaluated by a questionnaire-based survey along with GPS tracking of visitors who used the different media along a scenic walking track in an Australian national park. The GPS tracking proved to be an efficient and versatile tool to ascertain three performance measures for interpretive media, specifically, the attracting, holding and distracting powers of interpretive media. The latter is defined first in this study as their power to encourage people to visit attractions off the main path.
The GPS navigation tour performed well compared to traditional media in achieving an intermediate attracting power, the highest distracting power and the highest holding power. Compared to the audio tour, it was rated more highly for the overall experience with the medium and for facilitating fun. Further, visitors were more willing to provide word-of mouth recommendation for the GPS navigation tour. Both modern media achieved the highest satisfaction ratings for discovery and learning and were most efficient at facilitating factual learning.
Traditional media were more conducive to socialising and more relaxing and consistent with a nature-based experience. Signage outperformed pamphlets by achieving stronger attracting and holding powers, higher overall satisfaction with the medium and greater word-of-mouth recommendation. The minor differences between image-rich and text-rich media were that the former received a higher satisfaction score for facilitating a fun experience but it achieves a lower degree of factual learning.
Whilst our study demonstrated that modern technical media can be effective tools for park interpretation, traditional media continue to play an important role in nature-based experiences without the intrusion of technology.