(P106)
Tourist Art and Commodification
Location SOAS Senate House - S208
Date and Start Time 02 Jun, 2018 at 09:00
Sessions 1

Convenor

  • Louise Todd (Edinburgh Napier University) email

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Short abstract

The visual consumption and depiction of material and experiential phenomena have become increasingly pertinent in contemporary tourism contexts. This panel explores the gazing upon and commodification of tourism experiences through tourists' art and visual representations.

Long abstract

The visual consumption of tourism phenomena has been long recognised. The tourist gazes upon material and experiential elements of destinations, attractions and culture. In doing so, the tourist seeks to engage, make meaning, and remember the materials and experiences of tourism. This panel explores the gazing upon and commodification of tourism experiences through tourists' art and visual representations of phenomena and experiences in tourism settings. It explores the methods and vehicles of tourists' art and commodification: from the material and analogue souvenir; to temporal visualisations and digital depictions of tourism practices and performances.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Consuming the large in tourism - the city

Author: Paul Cleave (University of Exeter) email

Short abstract

Consuming the city in tourism. Cities often are consumed as an entity, the large. A case study, utilising archive material from 1911 suggests tourists are still drawn to parts of the whole, in their consumption of the large.

Long abstract

Cities encapsulate culture, history and modernity, and in the context of tourism have an enduring and evolving appeal. Cities offer differentiation, through; size, culture, history, architecture, nostalgic enchantment, and experiences provided. Tourists tend to refer to the city as an entity, rather than the small portion they may actually consume, city break, or longer holiday.

This paper looks at consumption of the large in the context of the city and tourism. Its focus is Dresden, and the English visitor. Utilising an unpublished holiday journal written in 1911, it draws parallels and contrasts in the way in which cities were consumed in the early twentieth century, and might be consumed today. It suggests a synergy including the tangible, and intangible, and elements of the past. Consuming the city in the large, indicates that it is often experienced in smaller parts, the Central business district, historic and cultural areas, rurban and gentrified areas.

Souvenirs and miniature reminders of the city, symbolise consumption of the large, in images and representations of buildings. In the case study example of Dresden, Semper Opera house, and Frauenkirche fridge magnets, books, and postcards, reflect larger dimensions of the city, its aesthetics,and history.

A city by definition is large, physically and conceptually. Although tourists want to experience the city - the large, many will only consume small parts selected by tour operators and DMOs. They see the major attractions or features and the city is 'done', then move on to the next on an itinerary of consumption.

Meanings and myths: Semiotics of Edinburgh Castle

Authors: Louise Todd (Edinburgh Napier University) email
Tanja Furger (Edinburgh Napier University) email

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.

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).

Small Lenses, Bigger Pictures- Representing the Large on Instagram

Author: Ana Clara Oliveira Santos Garner (City University of Hong Kong) email

Short abstract

Visual consumption has become one of the dominant ways in which societies intersect with their environments (Crawshaw & Urry, 1997). This paper looks at how people are representing large objects on Instagram to narrate their travels.

Long abstract

The confluence of smartphones, high speed internet, and social media, make it possible for many people to share their travels online and this has had an impact on the ways in which we experience and interact with places. Some authors (Pan, Lee, & Tsai, 2014; Urry, 1990) have argued that tourism is fundamentally related to visual experiences and that changes in travelling practices could be related to the way people gaze at objects and places. This is why it is important to understand how this gaze is changing. One way of doing that is by exploring how people are adapting the travel photo album to the social media era. Many people use Instagram to narrate their trips via posts that are composed not only of images, but also of text, emoticons, hashtags, and geotags. Some large objects, such as iconic buildings and museums, often become representative of a place and the constant repetition of many people posting about it may influence the desire to visit and the perception of the place itself. Via ethnographic interviews and participant observation, this paper uncovers techniques that people use to capture and represent the large in the places they visit. These include: the use of the geotag search function for photo inspiration; employment of tools like selfie sticks; unusual camera angles and settings; collages; inclusion of titles; and other image editing. We will also discuss how others react to the posts, via comments, likes and shares.

Tracing the Production of Chamula Dolls: A Journey of the Imagination

Author: Emma Jackson (University of Reading) email

Short abstract

By tracing the development of Chamula dolls from Mexico, the process by which artisans adapt their crafts and working practices to both reflect and engender important socio-political change is clarified. Furthermore, by assessing the stock of specific artisans, individual creativity is highlighted.

Long abstract

Souvenir dolls clothed in national or regional dress have often been dismissed as "kitsch" objects of little cultural or aesthetic significance. However, by tracing the life story of specific types of such dolls, the process by which artisans adapt their crafts and working practices to both reflect and engender important socio-political changes is clarified. With this perspective in mind, this paper focuses on Chamula dolls from Mayan Mexico, as an example of material culture produced by indigenous people specifically for external consumption. The dolls are notable since they are dressed in the same handwoven felted wool cloth as the Chamula women who make them. Chamulas' inventive adaptation of their own clothing to make dolls for tourists was driven by poverty in the 1970s. However, a diachronic assessment of the dolls produced since then reveals how changes in their production context have resulted in continuous adaptations to their form. A key example is the development of Zapatista dolls, which are clothed in typical Chamula dress, but with the addition of black ski masks, cartridge belts and wooden guns. These symbols are used in order to represent members of the EZLN; a group of insurgents comprising primarily rural indigenous people from Chiapas, Mexico. In tandem with tracing these general trends, by assessing the stock and production processes of specific artisans, this paper also reveals extensive individual creativity within Chamula doll production. Although routed in Latin American Cultural Studies, this ethnographic investigation works with anthropology and material culture.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.