Selected notes on: Urry,J. (1990) The Tourist Gaze. Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies. London: Sage [It's still going and now in its 3rd iteration]

Dave Harris

Chapter 1. The tourist gaze is as socially organised and systematised as the medical gaze, but without institutional support. It often refers itself to an opposite activity — work. There are implications for the notion of normal social life. It is sustained by other texts — film, TV, literature, magazines. It is heavily signified, for example the number of metonyms for Paris, and this requires the tourist to become a semiotician. The gaze can be fitted to a stratified market in terms of class, gender, and generational taste. It is associated with the modern era [with examples from past historical figurations]. Tourism is the best example of hyperreality, as we can see with the ongoing debates about authenticity. It can be used to inform mass society theses where tourists come to reproduce their home. Some tourists reject organisation and become overwhelmed by sense impressions [Simmel is the example, but Stendhal would do even better]. Some tourists are after authenticity, and can even be critical, but there is also 'staged authenticity' (9). Tourism can be a semi-religious activity involving the sacralisation of objects or pilgrimages. There are even post tourists who gain pleasure from the second-order semiotics of organised tourism. Tourists have to read their experiences, and there are limitless ways to read life as 'extraordinary', which is at the heart of the tourist experience (12). This links with the imaginary pleasures of consumption, which are equally constructed. There is a connection to post Fordism [a range of references, p. 13], especially to post fordist consumption, which features more consumer control, more volatility and the emergence of a range of commodities which include 'natural' ones. If the holiday camp is fordist, there are now holidays that offer access to new worlds, and which offer freedom. Overall, post-modern aesthetics are clearly detectable in tourism, especially play, pleasure and pastiche.

Chapter 2 is on the rise and fall of the British seaside resort. There is discussion of holiday camps (36F), and an acknowledgement of the role of the TV sitcom set in a holiday camp hi de hi. However these fail to engage fantasies these days, and seaside experiences are now available anywhere, for example in leisure centres.

Chapter 3 economics. Tourism depends on external economic growth and technology. The revenue tends to accrue to international companies rather than anyone indigenous or local.

Chapter 4. The nature of the jobs provided can clash with cultural practices. In particular, modern notions of 'service' is difficult to manage and organise in a way that meshes with customer expectations. The workers can resist, for example by refusing to smile (70) [There was an actual war of the smiles, I recall, on an airline] . The industry is characterised by low pay, and a preponderance of women. The outcomes are intangible, for example there is a certain volatility to the catering industry, vulnerable to new technologies [a modern example would be online ordering and delivery]. The workforce needs to be particularly flexible, and these conditions often mean they are difficult to train [recently, of course we have had a good supply of overeducated foreign nationals from the EU].

Chapter 5. Boundaries are now blurred between tourism and other activities, as you would expect with post-modernism as a 'regime of significations'. There is the familiar collapse of internal differentiation. There are trends towards the anti-auratic, sometimes expressed in demands for audience participation, and images and representations tend to merge with reality [a good discussion of this page 80 2F]. There are residues of modernism too.

Tourism is an early example of spectacle and implosion of boundaries. This fits nicely with the emergence of a collective tourist gaze, although the individual romantic gaze is still auratic. However even here there can be problematic representations, for example in photographs, rather than simple perceptions of reality.

There is a connection to class power, but as in Bourdieu (87) and allowing for different cultural economies [a good summary of the implications 88F]. So the new petty bourgeoisie are strong on cultural capital and offer an emerging new market or audience in the struggle against the traditional bourgeoisie. Their habitus (defined as an unconscious system of classification) is relatively weak in terms of classifications and boundaries. This means they can attack the traditional bourgeoisie as elitist, and the proletariat for vulgarity (classically, too close to nature).

The service class tends to possess no land or conventional capital, to have relatively good work conditions, and to try and regulate entry to their occupations by educational credentials. The growth of this class is associated with the baby boom [and, controversially, with steady economic growth post-war].

Intellectuals tend to manifest best the romantic gaze according to Bourdieu. [Back to the NPB?] There has also been a growth in cultural work who are aware of the marketability of the new. Such people are often downwardly mobile, rejected by the traditional bourgeoisie and intellectuals (90). I often urge a morality of pleasure as a duty and claim it is 'ethical not to have fun', especially if this involves bodily expression [all drawn from Bourdieu in Distinction]. This group has particularly provided a basis for post-modernism.

The media tend to weaken conventional classifications — 'grid' [so this is Mary Douglas?] and 'group' involving boundaries between the internal and the external. This has produced a kind of 'institutionalised voyeurism' (91). Both grid and group are particularly weak for the NPB, partly because some of them feel guilty at being middle class, especially the younger ones. So they have to live in a perpetual present or immediacy, enjoying pastiche and parody as in Jameson, or 'calculating hedonism' as in Featherstone, which includes a 'myth of self-actualisation' (93). Overall there is an aesthetic of 'irresponsibility, self-indulgence, and an isolationist detachment [seen as] middle-class virtues and even signs of health' (93).

As an example, Orwell and Hoggart saw holiday camps as uncivilised and vulgar, and dealt with only through pastiche, and stressed instead things that were 'natural', 'authentic', that involve travel rather than tourism, and promoted a romantic rather than a collective gaze — although there is now a market for them as well.

The romantic view of the countryside and heritage appears as anti-modern, some pre-social intervention. It clearly involves a selective perception, for example removing all the machinery from the 'landscape'. It can be playful to, for example as in advertising campaigns. It has a use, for example in informing various working-class trespass campaigns, but it emerges mostly as a 'theme' [which seems to be a bit like a pretext].

The post tourist is able to enjoy a variety of media gazes ranging between high culture and the pleasure principle, as well as the pleasure from playing a game — all of them raising expectations of the extraordinary.

Chapter 6. The heritage industry is easily criticised and the first assault came from the mass society theorists. However, these were also nostalgic for a real England. There is no unidirectional change [towards massification] [as Hewison thought, as he moved from ideology critique to trying to grasp pleasures], no complexity of reading is assumed to be required (111), and there is no recognition of the pleasure available, even in being critical. The heritage industry stuff is excessively visual and ignores or trivialises social experience [he goes on to give some examples of local state initiatives 112F]. The spread of post-modernism is what provides most problems — even museums have become metonyms, and have gone in for audience participation and commercialism (129F).

Chapter 7 the different gazes are authorised in different discourses. Photography has a crucial role (136F) [enhanced by modern post-editing techniques and digital image manipulation?]. The Haussmanisation of Paris was an early example of the construction of a life of Paris, and of urbanism but also with the ability to be private, which is the essence of the romantic gaze, to be a flaneur as well. This was achieved of course at the price of working class community [and there were military purposes too]. The flaneur became a kind of hero, for example in Benjamin's work. He was also an early photographer. Photos are examples of how power and knowledge are connected and become dominant, they seem real but they are of course the result of a signifying practice which is hidden, and we need to do semiotics to grasp this. Photography also brought about democratisation and rapidly became commercial and an art form. It shaped travel: it became the point of travel.

Social class divisions structure the gaze, so do gender, generation, and ethnicity of both tourists and residents, seen best perhaps in sex tourism. Initially, single men saw clear advantages in taking holidays, but this rapidly became something for couples. Families are no central, to the exclusion of others. Black people are often excluded too, for example, especially in the heritage industry. [There is a hint on Englishness being interpellated by the heritage industry 143]. Asians were seen as exotics. History is clearly 'distorted' (145). We can see how hyperreality works by looking at the Jorvik exhibition [Viking life, in York]. [Urry's objections to the idea of fake nature almost become criticisms of cinematic realism].

A nice example of pastiche is the Metrocentre in Gateshead. Shopping malls can also be seen as deliberate spectacles, highly policed and surveilled. There are also 'post shoppers' who play in shopping malls, for example as in Fisk on 'proletarian shopping'[a leisure activity where you try on lots of clothes but never buy any]. This can empower women.

Other examples include world fairs, various themed environments which often depict post-modern aestheticism. There can be national stereotypes on display [he chooses Expo 88, but I think Epcot in Walt Disney World is a cracker]. Generally though, 'no single set of hegemonic messages' is conveyed. There can also be micro tourism, enjoyment of simulacra, which reproduce the tourist experience to some extent.

Edutainment is growing, with the development of things such as factories becoming museums [or whole villages as in Morewellham]. Professional historians are often consulted, and sometimes the displays can be critical — as educational and tourist conventions interpenetrate.

Finally, we end with Foucault, but tourist gaze and the 'spectacle – ism' of space is much more important than surveillance technology as modes of development of contemporary societies.

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