Courtesy of J. Adam Fenster, UR photographer

A walk down a New York City block is an assault on your senses. The sights, sounds, and smells can quickly become overwhelming. As is often seen in major cities, the city’s residents become desensitized to their surroundings, focusing solely on their journey as they travel through the concrete jungle.

Assistant Professor of Art Cary Peppermint and sustainability lecturer Leila Nadir have been working to change that, with the release of a mobile application called Indeterminate Hikes + (IH +), a project of their organization, EcoArtTech.

“We wanted to create an alternative that took advantage of the unpredictability of the city and helped people reimagine Manhattan as an expanse of urban wilderness and ecological wonder,” Peppermint said.

Introduced a year and a half ago as a prototype that functioned only within New York City, IH+ has expanded to the rest of the United States and parts of Europe.

Users input a starting point and a final destination before the app designs a route along a randomly generated path.  The route won’t take users the most direct way but that’s exactly the purpose, Peppermint said.

“IH+ interrupts the conventional use of mobile, networked devices by presenting [to] participants non-linear hikes filled with randomized vistas and points that they would not otherwise stop to contemplate and consider,” he said.

When users are following a route that’s been laid out for them they’ll encounter several prompts asking them to take a picture field note at a certain location.

The app notifies users of their surroundings, encouraging awareness of how wild the urban setting can be.

Peppermint and Nadir have been working together since 1996 and EcoArtTech is a compilation of their work.

Their web site describes their desire to craft “art in the biological, cultural, and digital wilderness.” The pair share a passion for the cultivation of a sustainable society and the desire to spread that belief.

Nadir described her vision: “Wilderness is all around you and the app encourages users to give the same attention to inner city parks and rain gutters that we do to landscapes like canyons and gorges,” she said.

Smith is a member of the class of 2014.

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