Communicative ecologies and the value of MyFireWatch to the community of Kununurra
School of Arts and Humanities
This paper is the culmination of a research project involving four fieldtrips to the remote northwestern Australia town of Kununurra. The primary purpose of the research was to engage Kununurra’s visitors and residents in a participatory methodology for scenario based design to create a community-focused version of a professional fire mapping service, FireWatch. The research resulted in the development of MyFireWatch, a map based website which shows fire hotspots derived from satellite images across Australia, bringing this critical information to non-specialist users. The review of the take-up of MyFireWatch was conducted some 13 months after its launch in Kununurra, and the twelve interviewees involved were very positive overall. Their major concern was that visitors to Kununurra – especially backpackers and the senior self-drive tourists that Australians call ‘grey nomads’ – might not know about the service. A review of the tourist-focused sites in Kununurra reveals that organisations that promote tourism are reluctant to inform tourists about the potential dangers of their holiday destination. Thus, the culture and communication practices of tourism organisations are demonstrated to undermine the usefulness of otherwise valuable technological advances.