#travelgram: live tourist snaps have turned solo adventures into social occasions



If you didn’t post it, did it even happen?
Shutterstock

Michael James Walsh, University of Canberra; Naomi F Dale, University of Canberra, and Raechel Johns, University of Canberra

In the years since selfie sticks went global, it has become clear that the mobile phone has changed the way we travel.
The ubiquity of social media means tourists can now produce content on the move for their networked audiences to view in close to real time.

Where once we shared slideshows post trip and saved prints and postcards as keepsakes, we now share holiday images and selfies from the road, sea or air — expanding the “tourist gaze” from the traveller to include remote audiences back home.




Read more:
#MeTourism: the hidden costs of selfie tourism


Instagram-worthy

Travelling has gone from a solitary quest to a “social occasion”. As such, gazing is becoming inseparably linked with photography. Taking photos has become habitual, rendering the camera as a way of seeing and experiencing new places.

Travellers take selfies that present both locations and people in aesthetically pleasing and positive ways.

Indeed, the “instagrammability” of a destination is a key motivation for younger people to travel there – even if filters and mirrors have been used to create a less than realistic image.

This transforms the relationship between travellers and their social networks in three important ways: between tourists and destination hosts; between fellow tourists; and lastly, between tourists and those that stay home.

The urge to share travel imagery is not without risk. An Australian couple were released from detention in Iran in October, following their arrest for ostensibly flying a drone without a permit.

Other tourists earned derision for scrambling to post selfies at Uluru before it was closed to climbers.

Meanwhile, there is a sad story behind the newly popular travelgram destination Rainbow Mountain in the Peruvian Andes. It has reportedly only recently emerged due to climate change melting its once snowy peaks.

Testing the effects

To understand the way social media photography impacts travelling, we undertook an exploratory study of overnight visitors at zoological accommodation in lavish surrounds.

We divided 12 participants into two groups. One group was directed to abstain from posting on social media but were still able to take photos. The second group had no restrictions on sharing photos. Though the numbers were small, we gathered qualitative information about engagement and attitudes.

Participants were invited to book at Jamala Wildlife Lodge in Canberra. The visit was funded by the researchers — Jamala Wildlife Lodge did not sponsor the research and the interviewees’ stay at the Lodge was a standard visit. We then conducted interviews immediately after their departure from the zoo, critically exploring the full experience of their stay.

The study confirmed that the desire to share travel pictures in close to real time is strongly scripted into the role of the tourist; altering the way travellers engage with sites they are visiting, but also their sense of urgency to communicate this with remote audiences.

Pics or it didn’t happen

Participants Mandy and Amy were among those instructed to refrain from posting pictures to social media while at the zoo. They described having to refrain from social media use as a disappointment, even though it seemed to further their engagement.

Interviewer: Did you look at your social media throughout your stay or did you refrain?

Mandy: A bit yeah. But even then, probably not reading it as much as I often would. I don’t think I commented on anything yeah.

Amy: Even today when we put something up [after staying at the Zoo] about the things we’d done today and only a few people had liked it, there was that little bit of disappointment that ‘Oh more people haven’t liked my post.’ Where we didn’t have that for the previous 24 hours [because of the experiment] … because nobody knew about it.

The tension between capturing and experiencing travel is ever-present.
Shutterstock

The desire for social media recognition resumed after leaving the zoo. For Michelle, posting after the experience presented new concerns:

Interviewer: How did you feel about not being able to post?

Michelle: Spanner in the works! For me personally not being able to post was a negative experience because I wanted to show people what we’re doing, when we’re doing it.

And I also feel, like a couple of people knew we were going to the zoo, right, and knew that we couldn’t use social media. So, when I eventually post it, they’re going to go, ‘She’s been hanging on to those and now she’s posting them and that’s just a bit weird.’ Like, to post it after the event. Everyone normally posts it in real time.

Later, Michelle commented that withholding content from posting to social media also diminished a part of the experience itself:

I sort of feel like if we don’t share the photos it’s like a tree fell down in the forest and no one heard it, like, we’ve had this amazing experience and if I don’t share them, then no one’s going to know that we had this experience, you know, apart from us.

Tips garnered from travelgrammers fill lots of online video tutorials.

Centre Stage

Digital photography and social media transform the relationship between the travelling self and its audience, as individuals have an expanded — and potentially diversified — audience.

Selfies in tourist contexts reflect the tourist gaze back at the tourist, rather than outward.

The perfect digital postcard now incorporates the self centrestage. As one participant suggested:

Shannon: It almost feels like it’s kind of an expected behaviour when you are doing something touristy … We’ve actually had tour guides before … kind of a bit disappointed if you don’t take a photograph.

The purpose of photography has shifted from a memory aid to a way of sharing experience in the moment. There is tension now between the need to capture tourist experiences for digital sharing and individual engagement in the tourist activity. Decrying the desire to use photography as a way of communicating experience will not constructively address this tension.

To ensure tourism sustainability, and engagement with their target market, tourism providers need to explore better ways to manage travellers’ face-to-face and digital engagement.

Digital engagements have become a defining part of travel, and organisations should be encouraged to promote online sharing of experiences — phone charging stations and photo competitions were two suggestions offered by our interviewees.

In contrast, device-free days or activities could be another way to encourage face-to-face engagement and prompt tourists to be more considered with their online sharing.The Conversation

Michael James Walsh, Assistant Professor Social Science, University of Canberra; Naomi F Dale, Associate Professor of Management, University of Canberra, and Raechel Johns, Head of the Canberra Business School and Professor of Marketing and Service Management, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why we need some perspective on landscape photography in the Instagram age



File 20180726 106511 kp40cz.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Bardal, from Norwegian Sublime, Ellen Marie Saethre-McGuirk, 2018.
Ellen Marie Saethre-McGuirk

Ellen Marie Saethre-McGuirk, Queensland University of Technology

Thanks to the increasing accessibility of technology, many of us will try to capture the grandeur of the natural world with our phone cameras. One of the attractions is sharing images on social media and publicly staking our claim to that experience.

A quick glance at Instagram hashtags reveals over 90 million photos tagged #landscape, around 50 million #sunrise photos and over 180 million tagged #sunset. There are 40 million #trees, nearly 90 million #clouds and about 190 million #beach photos.

But our use of platforms such as Instagram is not only changing our relationship to nature (some people have even died taking selfies in perilous places), it is also changing how we frame and experience nature.

Earlier this year a man died falling off rocks in Western Australia in the pursuit of an image. And in July three social media personalities died after falling off a Canadian waterfall.

While such deaths are rare, many travellers and adventure seekers seem to be drawn towards more remote experiences of nature in lieu of the downtrodden tourist track, using Instagram as a source for visually inspiring and enticing sites. Police warn people to avoid an imminently crumbling cliff in New South Wales, while amateur photographers continue to ignore signs and fences.




Read more:
The deadly selfie game – the thrill to end all thrills


Just as nature can harm people, people can harm nature. Two of the social media personalities who died in Canada had spent a week in jail for violating US national park regulations. In Tasmania, professional photographers have warned of the damage that could be done to the environment by hordes of people chasing views they have seen on social media. And in Esperance, Western Australia, people are trying to figure out how to capitalise on an influx of visitors driven by its discovery by Instagram users.

As part of my research, I have looked at how we present experiences of nature through new technology and social media. Most photos share traits we might describe as “a social media aesthetic”. Think of leafy paths, mountain vistas, sunrises and sunsets – often with filters or the same kinds of photo composition.

Svalbard, from Norwegian Sublime, Ellen Marie Saethre-McGuirk, 2018.
Ellen Marie Saethre-McGuirk

In my art-as-research project, the exhibition Norwegian Sublime, I used these “Instagram standards” to take photos at different locations in Norway, both well-known places such as Svalbard and less famous islands like Tomma of the Helgeland archipelago. Although they seem remote and difficult to get to, I deliberately chose places that were frequently visited and where tourism was controlled, as well as places that were literally right next to main thoroughfares, showing how the perfect picture of untouched mountain solitude can be at anyone’s fingertips. In fact, those less exotic sites around you might actually hide some of the most striking nature.

No location, from Norwegian Sublime, Ellen Marie Saethre-McGuirk, 2018.
Ellen Marie Saethre-McGuirk

Together, the images link up art photography and the history of photography with diminutive tell-tale signs typical of iPhone and social media photography. I framed clouds with Instagram squares, referencing art photography and weather studies from the early 1900s. I gave aerial photography a contemporary twist by taking photos from the window of today’s commercial flights, forever shuttling tourists back and forth.

No location, from Norwegian Sublime, Ellen Marie Saethre-McGuirk, 2018.
Ellen Marie Saethre-McGuirk

In other photos, I left those patches of surfaces that are difficult to photograph with a phone, such as reflective, wet leaves and shiny rocks, washed out and bleak. And even in the seemingly romantically remote locations I intentionally left speckled signs of people in the frame.

Voksenkollen, from Norwegian Sublime, Ellen Marie Saethre-McGuirk, 2018.
Ellen Marie Saethre-McGuirk

Landscape photography is a diverse genre, encompassing a wide range of contemporary practice. Yet, for many, iconic figures such as American photographer Ansel Adams embody what landscape photography is. His technically advanced images of the grandeur of nature are perfectly framed snapshots of near-other-worldly, untouched environments.

The Tetons and the Snake River, Ansel Adams, 1942.
Wikimedia

In a similar way, when we share landscape photos on Instagram, we often seek to show the beautiful, the staged, or the perfectly composed. We applaud these images, through liking and sharing them. And, conceivably, we increasingly picture nature as a similarly idealised aesthetic experience. We end up with very little visual diversity in how we present – and chose to experience – nature.

Tomma, from Norwegian Sublime, Ellen Marie Saethre-McGuirk, 2018.
Ellen Marie Saethre-McGuirk

Instagram ultimately boils down to two people – the one who took the picture and the viewer. Perhaps it’s time for us as Instagram photographers to think a bit more deeply about the less exotic, but no less enchanting, places around us. We should challenge what we take photos of, and how we present nature. Nature, after all, is more than #trees and #clouds.

The ConversationAnd, as Instagram viewers, we should think carefully about how we encourage different experiences of nature. Should we “like” the images and follow people and groups who clearly are pushing limits to both their own safety and the environment? Instagram is a fantastic social media tool to share the world – but it’s clear we need some perspective in using it.

Ellen Marie Saethre-McGuirk, Visiting Fellow (Assoc. Prof. Nord Univeristy), Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.