July 6, 2009

Material Tourism

This is more of a note than anything else. I am still in Baja California doing some preliminary research for my future dissertation, which is about the histories of development and tourism here.

Just the other day I was thinking about the material remains of tourism--what evidence does the tourism process leave behind? What material artifacts do tourist leave behind (or take with them) when they go from one place to another? I am thinking less about hotels, cars, and airplanes, and more about souvenirs, maps, books, guidebooks, sunscreen bottles, trash, business cards, money, shoes, sandals, grocery bags, food waste.

When tourists sweep through, what traces do they leave?

Part of what I plan to focus on is how media is a part of the process. This obviously includes websites, TV commercials, and the internet. But it also includes more concrete material media, such as maps and tourist brochures, which are marketed to tourists as a way to sell certain places and destinations. So one part of this summer's research has been picking up some examples of these flyers, maps, books to see what they're all about.

It will be interesting to see how tourists actually use these materials. There are many free guides and maps in places like San Jose del Cabo--what I am wondering about is the life of those little glossy pieces of paper. Where do they end up? How are they used? Do they serve the intended purpose of those who publish them?

More about this later...


Conor said...

Im intrigued. And not that you are particularly interested, but i generally take my maps home with me. I just got one from Seoul. And now one from Siem Reap. they just stay packed away in a drawer at home until i figure out what to do with them haha.

Do you think the maps that currently define "important places to visit" will change based on what is left behind and/or defaced by tourists?

R.A. said...

Ya, I think I usually take my maps with me too.

I think that the "place to visit" on the map depends on the type of traveler/tourist and the type of site. Major sites like Chichen Itza have the marks of tourists and tourist traffic all over them.

But then there are the other places, where the tourism is all about finding a new or remote or so-called "untouched" place...I think those places change or get altered once tourists start to arrive an leave their mark. Kinda like the whole phenomena that book "The Beach" talked about.

Funny though. The whole idea of a map means SOMEONE has already been there, at least once!

Conor said...

maybe i need to travel to an unmapped place then create my own map for keeping afterwards haha.