Holyfield, L. (1999) 'Manufacturing Adventure The Buying and Selling of Emotions', in Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 28 (1): 3 - 32.
People who like risk prefer 'more interactive settings' so they can contribute more themselves to feelings of fear and excitement. Outdoor adventure in particular seems suitable, and now takes its place as 'just one alternative among many (e.g., therapy, self-help books, and religious experiences).' (4).
Many people have commented on the benefits of experiencing danger and adventure, including Goffman (1969 Where the Action Is) , Simmel and Lyng. Risk and danger have 'symbolic weight in our routine lives' (4). They may deliver a shock helping us to realise what is really important and meaningful. They may encourage 'flow'. Apparently natural surroundings also 'add a sense of authenticity to the experience', adding the symbolic importance of nature, and the '"wild and scenic" add even more to the experience as they are interpreted as places that can build character' (4). Mead has also written about aesthetic experience which helps us to reflect 'our ability to both act and appreciate our action' (4). It is usual to contrast this notion of adventure to the 'dehumanizing constraints of modernization', routine and the lack of control in organisations (5).
Commercial organisations must provide these experiences for a range of customers including novices, but also balance the costs. [They also add value -- hence manufactured adventure -- partly to encourage more consumption such as shopping for souvenirs]. Exploring how novices cope with this balance is the topic of this participant-observation study, including how novices manage fear and excitement. There is also the issue of the 'relationship between situated cues and felt arousal... [and the effects of]... organizational scripts and the social context' (6).
[Details of the experience follow as Holyfield researches the experience in the role of novice guide on a river rafting enterprise. There is a good account of what happened when she fell out of the raft and experienced her own balance of fear and excitement, and how the guides managed to help her get over it . The research took 11 months and included 47 interviews and 10 actual rafting trips.] Findings included:
1. Guides play a major part in structuring the experience for guests. They need to provide each guest 'with the pleasurable, yet challenging and adventurous experience', while disguising the more commercial aims of the company. They need to mediate the dangers of the trip, and regulate the amount of information that the guests need. They have to manage their own slight contempt for the customers as well. They also have to time the trips, since 'The goal of the choreographed event is for no commercial trip to see another, giving the impression of a wilderness experience' (18). Guides learn that guests who ask how far it is to go are offering 'a clue that a guest is either not enthusiastic or afraid' (22).
2. Guides develop important people skills, including being able to diagnose particular possible problems offered by particular guests, leadership skills, and 'whether individuals can keep their calm in uncertain and perhaps dangerous situations' (8). Being able to deploy humour is important.'... humor not only reinforces social order but it is abundantly complex and ambiguous, providing something for every one' [examples on pages 11 and 12] (11). Humour is used strategically, at places where customer fear or anxiety is most likely [example on pages 15-16], and is used to lighten sessions on safety procedures. Humour generally manages social relations among people facing social disruption, and 'decreases the distance between audience members as much as it increases their collective distance from its topic' (24 , quoting Davis 1979) .
3. Generally, emotional labour is required, including the work to conceal the routine nature of the job from the customers, and to provide them with appropriate cues, such as that the ride is exciting. If the ride proves to be less exciting than usual, guides add 'polished narratives', for example to talk up the wild and scenic (10). Guides also follow 'organisational scripts 'designed to 'frame the activity and provide the appropriate emotional tone' (10). Some of the scripts include the importance of conservation and preventing pollution. More generally, 'guides share anecdotes, local history, jokes, and tell stories... [which]... establish emotional footholds... [and]... establish and legitimate authority' (14). After the trip, guides can also help guests interpret the experience, and often congratulate them for being tough .
[Much of this is applied in the account of her own experience when she was ejected from a raft and experienced a frightening 'hydraulic' which swirled her about for a bit before her pretty rapid rescue. The fear manifested itself in her body feeling weak and shaky, and a certain emotional turmoil. She felt embarrassed at displaying these signs of fear, especially as she was supposed to be a trainee guide -- "River guides cannot show fear, especially in front of customers... [but]... must embody culturally valued traits, such as bravery, ruggedness and calm' (20). The other guides helped her to recover with jokes and mild mockery, as well as calm reassurance. The intention was 'to redefine the situation from fear of more mishaps to anticipation of fun and excitement' (21). Holyfield realises that customers also have to manage their emotions and attempt to be humorous. She discovered that hard physical work, such as strong paddling, is a good remedy to cope.
Later reflection included realising that emotions can be physically embodied, that the immediate group and the context can have a tremendous influence on the management of emotions, and that 'antistructure' episodes like falling in heightened emotions and weakened social and organisational supports. Overall, 'We depend on interaction, be it past, present, or future, to interpret our own and others' behaviours' (23).]
Commercially provided adventure can help produce a balance, and 'a smooth transfer from fear or to thrill, excitement, and fun' (23). The experience can build solidarity between individual guests. The process seems to involve a detachment from conventional social structure first, followed by a new temporary set of relations. There is therefore more management of the experience than appears apparent, and important 'ritually guided processes' to manage the guests (24). It is these that are crucial in guests deciding that they have had an 'authentic, spontaneous, or natural' experience (24).
Does it matter that these experiences are commercially provided? There is a view that real adventurers would never let any organisation frame the experience for them. Simmel, for example insists that adventure must be spontaneous if it is to transcend routine, and the others cited have similar views. Lyng, for example, stresses the individual's role in pushing towards self defined edgework. Regulating flow is also a personal matter in controlling the balance between risk and competence. Elias and Dunning are mentioned in describing how spontaneity is replaced by the semblance of it, and how commercial enterprises can only offer artificial and commodified experiences [Rojek is also cited here, p.26].
Holyfield herself sees more of a continuum between commercial and real adventures. Commercial adventures are particularly good at helping novices experience adventure. They are also capable of breaking out of the frame offered by a commercial company, heading more towards the 'antistructure' pole of activity. Commercial white rafting certainly does not allow passive consumption. The experience of novices themselves can approach real adventure, even though experienced adventurers see them as routine. Of course, escape is only limited, and some control of risk is imposed, but the experience can still have symbolic value and 'in the end, the emotions exchanged are more than just reactions to events' (27). Commercial activities may even be democratised in adventurous leisure [very familiar dilemmas here -- wider access versus commodity form]. The goal is still to generate emotions and spontaneity, not to repress them, and emotions can still be felt even in commercial settings. Overall, 'manufactured adventure may limit the intrinsic pay off for some... [but]... it does not destroy the possibility of a flavourful experience for others' (28).
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