Subproject 4

Germany

Tourism 2.0 – Network-Based Forms
of Participation and Digital Detox

Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Urs Stäheli (University of Hamburg)

Luise Stoltenberg
Thomas Frisch
Gertruda Kaczmarek

Summary

‘Tourism 2.0 – network-based forms of participation and digital detox’ explores the impact of digital media on classic tourism. Although the tourism industry belongs to one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world (cf. UNWTO 2014), it is nevertheless underrepresented in actual media studies and consumer culture research. In the light of media theory, however, the study of tourism becomes interesting, because it produces new spaces of experience. These new spaces are hybrids which combine online and offline realities, and in doing so they create novel possibilities for tourists to experience their holiday. These hybrids blur the traditional dualistic distinction between everyday life and extraordinary life and between ungenuine and authentic. However, this does not mean that the desire for authenticity has vanished, but that the production of authenticity has changed with the advent of tourism 2.0. Our underlying hypothesis is that authenticity is transforming into a temporary and common shared community experience.

To investigate our assumption, we have developed three subprojects: a) First we want to explore the new forms of tourism based on P2P-networks such as Couchsurfing since these networks promise ‘authenticity’ as a shared participation in a foreign everyday life; b) the second subproject deals with the practices of online reviews and rankings and their role for control techniques and the creation of a desire for evaluation; c) thirdly, we want to examine the ‘digital detox’-movement, a new form of tourism that is based on a temporary media abstinence. The promise of this form of tourism rests upon resisting the expectation of ubiquituous connectivity. All of the three subprojects deal with different aspects of the influence of digital media on tourism. Nevertheless they overlap in essential issues and produce similar tensions: notably, the understanding of media as actants which participate in the production of ‘authentic’ experiences.

For the empirical analysis we will use a mix of qualitative methods such as ethnographic and netnographic observations, discourse analysis and expert interviews. Based on these case studies we aim at dealing with the following questions: How do digital media become part of the community they help to establish? How does the configuration between ‘authenticity’ and community change in tourism 2.0? Which media processes support the creation of a desire for evaluation? How is the desire to become ‘disconnected’ mediatized, and which spaces of experience are thereby constituted? By doing this we address broader social and media theoretical issues beyond the field of tourism studies. The case studies offer the opportunity to analyse the daily operations of ‘digital dualisms’ like on-/offline and real/virtual and to rethink this dualism in terms of hybrid and blended spaces of common experience.

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