Accepted paper:

Meanings and myths: Semiotics of Edinburgh Castle


Louise Todd (Edinburgh Napier University)
Tanja Furger (Edinburgh Napier University)

Paper short abstract:

We will present initial themes from our study into the semiotics of Edinburgh Castle through analysing shared online images. As a semiotic sign, Edinburgh Castle is an iconic tourist sight, a backdrop to the 'festival city', and the most popular paid-entry visitor attraction in Scotland.

Paper long abstract:

In sightseeing the semiotic essence of any visitor attraction is the triadic relationship amongst a visitor to the attraction; the material sight of the attraction; and a marker or representation of the sight (MacCannell, 1976). The collection of buildings and artefacts that constitute Edinburgh Castle has sat upon the volcanic rock formation above Scotland's capital for centuries and the site has been occupied by humans since the Bronze Age (Tabraham, 2003). The contemporary Edinburgh Castle visitor attraction is both a material 'site' and an iconic 'sight' (Berger, 2011). As a semiotic sign of tourism (MacCannell, 1976), it visually dominates Edinburgh's skyline and separates the UNESCO World Heritage sites of the Old and New Towns that converge to form the city. The Castle provides a physical stage for the transformation of Edinburgh into the world's leading 'festival city' (BOP Consulting & Festivals and Events International, 2015); and is the most popular paid-entry visitor attraction in Scotland, drawing more than 1.7 million visitors in 2017 (Historic Environment Scotland, 2017). Our research approach involves a semiotic study of meanings and myths (Barthes, 1993) within visual portrayals of Edinburgh Castle via the marker of 'Instagram' social media platform, as used by tourists and other stakeholders of Edinburgh as a destination. Our paper presents preliminary themes of the ways in which Edinburgh Castle is engaged with, consumed, and represented by tourists, as an iconic semiotic sign (Echtner, 1999). By reflecting upon these we contribute to the understanding of semiotic tourism practices (Ribeiro, 2009).

panel P106
Tourist Art and Commodification