Monday, January 10, 2011

Taking in the Sights

Dean MacCannell's "The Ethics of Sightseeing" will be out later this year, and the University of California Press website has the first chapter available for preview.
It seems MacCannell will take on the relative shallowness of most "tourism studies":
Few assessments have been made more often or contested less than "tourism is the world's largest industry." Several recent empirical studies qualify this statement, finding most trips classed as tourism began as family visits. If that is true, it would be no less accurate or more absurd to say "family is the world's largest industry."
We know little more today about tourist experience and tourist subjectivity than we did thirty years ago. Tourism researchers conduct surveys, form and test hypotheses, undertake ethnographic field studies, and make mathematical models. They seem to assume, in Goffman's words, "If you go through the motions attributable to science, then science will result."
MacCannell also seems to be offering a challenge for the practice of tourism, along with furthering his analysis:
Sightseeing can shift the foundations of existence and, as Stendhal never fails to remind us, establish new possibilities for shared subjectivity. This sharing is not limited to exchanges between tourists and their hosts. It extends to every relationship an ethical tourist will ever have.
This, of course, reminds us of one of our early influences, Gregory Ulmer and the Florida Research Ensemble. Here's a video of Ulmer discussing some of those initial concepts.

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