Revista: Turydes Revista Turismo y Desarrollo


Autores e infomación del artículo

Korstanje Maximiliano

Babu George


El presente trabajo contextualmente se encuentra estructurado para dar una discusión filosófica sobre el problema de la autenticidad, en un mundo globalizado. La tecnología y los avances de la modernidad han creado las condiciones para la expansión del sistema turístico como hoy lo conocemos. El concepto de la autenticidad permite la creación de segmentos, como si fuesen stocks, de mercancías que permiten comprar y vender tradiciones, historias, hasta etnicidades. En este trabajo consideramos a la autenticidad como un proyecto imposible pues solo opera como categoría de mediación entre el self y su espacio.

Palabras clave: Autenticidad, Epistemología, Tecnología, Marketing, Globalización.

Abstract: The present paper is conceptually weaved to provide an overview of the debates on authenticity in the new context of tourism whose boundaries are exceedingly being laid down by the all-pervasive forces of globalization and technological revolutions which were until now treated as variables exogenous to the tourism system. It takes stock of the historical development of the conceptualization of authenticity by research communities rooted in the various contributory disciplines to tourism and attempts to re-situate it in the light of the new realities. In this process, a few avenues for the conduct of future research in this domain are highlighted, too.
Keywords: authenticity, media, epistemology, technology, marketing, globalization.

Para citar este artículo puede uitlizar el siguiente formato:

Korstanje Maximiliano y Babu George (2014): “Consuming tourism as its media representations: the widening gap between being and media mediated knowing”, Revista Turydes: Turismo y Desarrollo, n. 17 (diciembre 2014). En línea:


‘If a destination is not on the Web then it may well be ignored by the millions of people who now have access to the Internet and who expect that every destination will have a comprehensive presence on the Web. The web is the new destination-marketing battleground and if you are not there fighting then you cannot expect to win the battle for tourist dollars’ (Richer, P. et al., 2000, p. 4).

The question of authenticity resulted from the philosophical discourse of discovery. The first rationalists imposed the scientific discourse arguing that the natural world covered events and reasons. The goals of science were given in the discovering of “necessary conditions”. The perception was not enough to interpret the events in this world. The project of rationalists focused on the vision (over other sciences) as a valid mechanism to unravel the truth (Hollis, 2011). Similarly to medical discourse, pleasure of sightseeing engendered a psychological need in the subject. May we consult experts when have a problem, or are experts resulting from the obstacles we come across with?.

To put this in bluntly, doctors revise their patients to find a problem, a pathology which should firstly be diagnosed, secondly corrected. The medical eye needs to find a lack so that its proposition of cure to be widely accepted. Not surprisingly, western societies have developed a prone to vision to control the environment, as an external object. The same ocular-centrism, which has created the capitalist logic, exerted the control of epidemics and illness. Whenever we travel to other landscapes, the other is controlled by mans of our gaze (Jay, 1988; Carspecken, 2003). From this moment onwards, the needs of finding the authentic were an obsession in West. Though this issue was widely explored in philosophy, little attention was given in tourism field which studies are pretty naïve and marketing-oriented. The problem of value as the main conception of tourism blurred the connection between the reality and what can be done to keep the success of destinations. In fact, tourism-related scholars understand that the concept was originally introduced by sociology to show the pernicious effects of modernity advance. At some extent, the efficiency of capitalism to keep the workforce under control depends on its ideological apparatuses. Any worker, subject to its impossibility to know their skills to break the elite’s hegemony, adopts top-down policies which alienate its will. Tourism, in this discussion, is one of many other disciplinary mechanism of indoctrination (Maccannell, 1973). The guiding question is how does authenticity work?, is authenticity a mechanism of alienation imposed by capitalism or the necessary platform toward creativity?.

The Marxist-humanist literature says that authenticity corresponds with the imposition of a false consciousness by which capitalism paves the pathways for the introduction of more sophisticated means of exploitation. Workers produce for their salaries to be absorbed by capital-owners by the adoption of leisure and tourism (Ingold, 2000; Krippendorf, 2009; Busby, Korstanje & Mansfield, 2011). It is unfortunate these remarks were employed by a bunch of marketing specialists to change the entry of discussion. Authenticity was employed to denote the degree of attractiveness of a product or a destination for international demand. To put this in bluntly, the much authentic a destination, the better.

That way, touristic gaze was conceived as the seeking after of authenticity (Cohen 1972; MacCannell 1973; Urry, 1992). Perception of the authenticity of the experience is an important mediating variable affecting tourist satisfaction. In fact, touristic space itself is structured to satisfy the desire for authentic experiences that motivate touristic consciousness (MacCannell 1973; Korstanje & Busby, 2010). Slogans without the word ‘real’ or terms synonymous with it are atypical in mass tourism promotional devises. Let things straights, this review is enrooted in what is the philosophical realism of post-Marxist philosophy. The points of entry here are based in the legacy of senior philosophers as Merleu-Ponty, or nihilists as Slavoj Zizek. Its goal, additionally are twofold. On one hand we discuss philosophically the nature and resulted function of authenticity through the lens of postmodern reader. Secondly, we launch to what an extent an ethic for authenticity, as it has been formulated by Maccannell is feasible. The point of entry in this text is that authenticity has a construe that creates a parallel (disruption) between the objects. At the time we say some object is authentic others turns unauthentic. The separateness given by authenticity engenders a gap which is fulfilled by mass consumption and hedonism. Humans, in this postmodern world, are objectified for what they may consume, their status, or purchasing power. In a moment of our cosmology where only money matters, marketing and management have become in the more authorative voices. Psychology which years ago were a science employed to guide behaviour set the pace to marketing and product-design. What would be interesting to discuss from the philosophy is how the circulation of goods in the global capital depends on the concept of authenticity. Today, aboriginal cultures and their traditions are being commoditized according to a demand externally designed (Comaroff & Comaroff, 2012). The allegory of authenticity allows the expansion of stereotypes, which works as a trade union representative. Its voice does not necessarily represent the opinion of the union, but only mediating between the workers and capital owners. The same happens with authenticity. As modelled by late-capitalism, it does not represent the reality. It is only a commodity else which can be moulded to forge identity in the citizen’s mind.

The visual and Stereotypes

Most visuals employ metaphors traditionally or stereotypically associated with the authentic: the third-world countryside and its greenery, indigenous people in exotic costumes, and so on. And, no doubt, this is absolutely demand-driven. Why we associate the authenticity with the Fourth-world?. This essay review intends to locate the discussion of authenticity in the correct place, examining not only its conceptual limitations but also inconsistencies. One of the aspects introduced by capitalism as an axiom was that we live as autonomous agents rational and dynamic pursuing and protecting our own interests. This conferred to the experts the monopoly of knowledge production. Unlike medieval times, where people had introspection, now we have to ask a third person such as a therapist, a doctor or any other expert, to opine about us (Schmitt, 1995; Kornblith, 2000; Goldman 2000). Though we must recognize much research is needed, this was possible thanks to the introduction of one ideological mechanism, separateness as an expression of objectivity which gradually led to the dichotomy between authenticity vs. staged-autenthencity.

One dominant characteristic of the present generation is the ‘new elite’ travelers who were born and brought up in the urban areas, among surroundings alienated and perverted, in the industrial landscape of the work-a-day world. While a cream of them happened to be fortunate enough to have listened from their grand parents or so stories of human life intermingling with fowl and brute in the idyllic, pristine countryside unaffected by the smoke and dust of heavy industries, for the vast majority, the only source influential in help shaping conceptions of authenticity is the all-pervading influence of the mass media complex. Given the quantum of impact the modern mass media has in shaping individuals’ and society’s conception of authenticity, an issue that is indeed worth exploring is the nature and characteristics of the media scripted authenticity: is there any ontological togetherness between the more traditional understanding of the term and its neo-modern variant, how subjective experiences are different when the gaze is for the media-constructed reality.

Authenticity: But Where to Locate it?

Philosophers from time immemorial have been puzzled by the riddle of the authentic: Is there something which is authentic and if at all the answer is yes is it possible to experience the same? (Chomsky, 2000; Kolbel 2002; Hollis, 2011). Taking cues from far back in time, dominant schools of Indian thought declared that everything but the supreme spirit (Brahman) is an illusion (Maya); that it is ignorance (Avidya) which misguides us to believe that forms and relations of existence are real and that every soul strives for liberation (Nirvana) from this tangle of illusions. But, such strivings fall short most often since human mind is too complexly illusioned to overcome.

Over decades, existentialism evinced the authenticity-seekers are prone to madness or mental illness. This happens because not only the sense of authenticity breaks the ideal of normalcy but assumes the external world is a fiction. The logic of causality that orders the events is upended. By embracing un-authenticity, the self covers its vulnerability respecting to others. In other terms, we are educated to neglect the real truth because it is unbearable. One of the dilemmas of authenticity rests on the problem it generates. At time, the fiction gives a shelter to the self, the possibility of making a decision is undermined. Rather, if we break the cocoon of fiction, madness surfaces. The point of entry that existentialist brought is that the quest for authenticity allows the adoption of new “fabricated identities” (McMahon, 2005). The paradox is given by the evidence at time we look for authenticity, what we discover is unauthentic. The Greek myth of the princess “Psyche” here is self-explanatory. She is visited all nights by Eros with the caution she never would discover his veil and see to their eyes. After several encounters Psyche falls in love of Eros, though she never sees his face. Her sisters Orual and Thessela tricked her in the belief Eros was a “monster”. They convinced Psyche to unveil the mask of Eros in one of the night meetings. Finally Eros left the princess for ever because of her curiosity. The result of this love was “voluptas”, which symbolizes the nature curiosity of the mind. Following this philosophical view, the curiosity for experiencing “authenticity” paradoxically leads people to face the opposite. The quest for authenticity is also an impossible project.

Dominant epistemological designs of shifting paradigms from time to time have influenced the thinkers of society in their manner of approaching the issue of authenticity (Taylor, 1991; Tzanelli, 2003). If defining a concept means going back to the past and looking at the different stages and societies it has gone through, realizing the difficulty to explain the word authenticity is yet an element of its own definition (Wang, 1999). Trilling (1972) noted that even while it is so intrinsic to the tourism phenomena, authenticity is an ambiguous term that resists definition. In the study of tourism, authenticity can either be the authenticity of the observed tourist object or the authenticity of the tourist’s first person experience (Wang 1999). The conception of authenticity has undergone three or more major shifts over the past fifty years, with objectivist framings giving way to social construction perspectives and, later, existentialist and postmodern ones. The last one-third of the bygone century witnessed postmodernists, some of whom argued that nothing worth naming as authenticity is purely unqualified and that claims for authenticity should at best go into inverted commas (Urry 1990). The increasing acceptance of the post-postmodern paradigm of critical realism as a bridge between the modernist and the postmodernist perspectives is another interesting development in the contemporary debates on authenticity. One of the dilemmas of heritage is precisely to what an extent heritage may express the sharing values of a society. History as experiences is in ongoing movement. Their change is subject to many factors. By imposing stability in human relations, some philosophers think the resulted product is unauthentic. Political discourses are enthralled in heritage to gain more legitimacy to citizenry (Guidotti-Hernandez, 2011).

However, ‘much of heat and very less light’ remains the overall state of affairs. Notably, discourses, though they may have good internal consistency and rigor (postmodernists are humbler in not claiming even that much), lack proper transformational devises to make them communicable with those outside of them, including the marketing discourse which identifies, legitimizes, and capitalizes the purported ‘objective’ reality existing out there in the empirical world. While it is true that tourism practitioners conveniently employ the ‘authentic’ card to woo tourists to destinations, this apparent incompatibility between the generic social science and tourism marketing discourses poses serious difficulties in analyzing the issue in its comprehensiveness.

As the previous argument given, Cohen (1988) says that the search for authenticity varies in direct proportion with the increasing level of alienation felt in a society. Tourists may go in search of unspoiled natives surrounded by landscapes of pristine beauty because these are absent in their advanced society (van Den Berghe and Keyes 1984), but conditioned by those ways as determined by the forces of their social shaping. For the early MacCannell (1976), authenticity in tourism products such as festivals, rituals, dress codes and so on can be determined straightly in terms of whether those are made or enacted by local people according to tradition. Such a position has every pitfall of inferring ontology from epistemological cues. While accepting the ultimate inability of an outsider to penetrate the destination culture, Boorstin (1961) points out that holidaymakers knowingly consume pseudo and contrived events to authentic cross-cultural encounters. Levy-Strauss (1989) writes that he is amazed at the will of tourists to believe the sacred fantasy as reality and to resist any other real as even potentially possible. Last but not least, a comparative study to measure the perception of authenticity among visitors of ‘The Rocks’, a historical neighborhood in Australia was made by Waitt (2000) which revealed important differences in the perceived level of authenticity related to gender, age, and place of residence. McKercher and du Cros (2002) argued that the Japanese happily accept faked tangible heritage assets. The tourist has become the symbol of a peculiar type of inauthenticity himself (Redfoot 1984). Probably, as the old wisdom goes, truth grows inversely proportional to sacredness. Undoubtedly, marketers and tourism-management found in heritage and authenticity two majors arguments to sell their products. In a world characterized by tolerance, plurality and multiculturalism it is good to visit other communities, by integrating the otherness. In view of that, Tzanelli is not wrong when confirms this surface discourse is only aimed at tracking attention of investors and consumers, but blue collar workers and migrants still face serious obstacles to their entrance to first world (Tzanelli, 2013). This begs a more than interesting question, is authenticity the maiden of marketing discipline?.

Authenticity as an Instrumental Value and Tourism Marketing

From the point of view of tourism marketing practitioners, authenticity is a unique capability that regions with spectacular attractions may be imputed as possessing that enhance value to their services thus help building an inimitable competitive advantage. Marketers believe that, in this way, they offer superior value to their customers. When it comes to marketing, authenticity, as Eco (1986) notes, is less historical and more visual. For the present day man, there is no means whatsoever to peep into any higher reality than is provided by the media. For the present generation, the boundaries between fictional and real landscapes can be understood only in terms of the stories manufactured by the marketing communicators whose multi-media visuals echo as the tone of the implicit dominant ideology. Boorstin (1961), for instance, wrote about the inability of contemporary Americans to experience reality and they celebrate their idea of the real by participating in pseudo-events. Baudrillard (1988) notes that no object has an objective meaning than that implied by the messages communicated to get one familiarized with that object. It is not the material object that is consumed, but objectified signs: the idea of the relation. Thus, in order to become the object of consumption, an object has to become a sign. MacCannel (1989) seems to agree with this. He elaborates the idea of markers as the characterizing feature of any object as an object of consumption.

With the benefit of hindsight, M. Korstanje (2010) argues convincingly that the obsession for heritage today we observe in tourism scholarship stemmed from the ethnology and anthropology which through XIXth century accompanied the colonial project. The social Darwinism and its thesis of the survival of the fittest associated to a linear view of history (encyclopedism). The first anthropologists, concerned by the disappearance of non western cultures, launched to visit the colonies to document all customs and habits of aborigines. Since their fieldwork consisted in reporting how their political life worked, ethnographies were read by colonial officers to gain further knowing of their enemies. Involuntarily, anthropology paved the ways for the resistance to European powers to be undermined. What was wrong also with this scientific disciplined interested in the otherness?. The concept of heritage and authenticity as formulated by Europe understands that cultures evolve in lineal stages. At the top of the hierarchy Europe not only accumulates the evolution of thousand years of primitive customs, but also is the most civilized community of the world. This mind suggests that the advance of European powers will result in the disappearance of weaker cultures. From this moment onward, the question of authenticity becomes in a priority for industrial states. To be honest, cultures are real mixtures of thousand of subcultures which are in constant state of metamorphosis. Korstanje adds that in the modern hyper-virtual times, anthropology sets the pace to tourism and heritage studies. Both draw the attention of consumers respecting to the customs of peripheral communities.

In the regular work life, increasingly, modern man lives in networked virtual (hyper-real) spaces where everything is a marker for something else. Tourism places are also being defined ever less in terms of geo-territorial integrity (Zizek, 2005). Appadurai (1990) brought out ‘deterritorialization’ as one of the greatest existential concerns of our times. He noticed indigenous and tribal populations replicating Diasporas elsewhere in the world and enacting traditions in selective ways. Web-enabled deterritorialization is but a technology powered variant of this. This entails a rupture between fiction and reality. For what we are encouraged in the authenticity world?.

Comaroff & Comaroff (2012) in their book Ethnicity Inc, explain brilliantly the problem of authenticity as it has been historically applied to making business and profits. During long time aborigines were pressed to live in peripheral zones, in conditions of extreme poverty and deprived from the basic resources to survive. Rather, the de-colonization process happened during the mid of XXth century created a new economic force that gives new rights to these actors, but becomes them in a commodity to be appreciated, as a product, by international visitors. This trend is not only ossifying the culture as anthropological unit, but also is commoditizing the ethnicity. By the adoption of legal jurisprudence that protect aboriginals giving them legal capacity to trade lands, ethnicities are produced, designed and controlled to insert these group in capitalism-machine. To validate this discourse, the concept of authenticity is aligned to others that give the agent autonomy such as entrepreneurship, governance, self determination and so forth. This creates a big problem simply because two main reasons. First and foremost, agent feels in liberty to decide by themselves beyond the authority of nation-state. Secondly, those places marked by a much deeper history of conflict employ the self determination to lead the country to civil war or ethnic-cleansing. Comaroff & Comaroff alarms on the correlation between self-determination for business and ethnic cleaning in the world. What is more than interesting to discuss is to what extent, money serves, in this occasion, as a mediator between persons and its tradition. Other problems by the concept of authenticity will be explored in the next sections.

Media ‘Media-tion’ as a Key to Authenticity

Thus, in the postindustrial era, marked by the forces of globalization and the Internet the idea of authenticity seems to have gotten with one dominant meaning provided by the mass media and any meaning incompatible with this is suppressed at its origin. This is not merely an analytical statement, and is true irrespective of one’s positing the postindustrial reality as an epoch or as a different epistemic way of looking at events. Evident to anybody is the omnipresent layers of mass media representations engineered with a view to shape the human experience and to give individuals a sense of false confidence in these representations. These representations distort even those ideological and cultural distinctions that traditionally differentiated individuals in their touristic pursuit. In a post-structurally informed world, all ultimate meaning is illusory but the existential condition created by this necessitates people to individually and collectively create meaning. According to Cohen (1988), this is the same cause that gives birth to ‘emergent authenticity’ in tourism, essentially characterized by an ahistorical spatio-temporality.

Local communities living in destination areas may tend to use mass marketed images of them to weave an emergent worldview about their identity and position in the world and then enact it circumscribing their traditional roles, thus opening themselves up for the tourist gaze (Hobsbawn and Ranger 1983). They are determined by the other’s view. This, in addition, makes the demonstration effect, which is the tendency of locals to imitate tourist behavior (Smith 1989), less artificial. Over and above, the capabilities of the new media facilitate the tourism firm and the individual traveler in co-manufacturing customized holiday meanings thereby enabling the firm to deliver ‘mass-customized’ services to each traveler by ingenious alternations in the marketing message suiting diverse customers and markets. Prototypically alienated tourists see in the media images of sites and attractions measures of their own experience (Sontag 1977). By facilitating the construction of different readings, Information and communication technologies (ICT) amplifies, facilitates, flexifies, and extends the tourist’s opportunities, knowledge-base, and experience with no particular ontological taxation. For instance, research conducted by the author revealed that internet based tour operators could successfully market the very same destination of Goa in India to diverse market segments as diametrically different interpretative readings after grabbing and assessing the customer profile from the Net and other sources (George, 2003). It is an interactive game of co-manufacturing reality beneficial to both the customer and the marketer. Brown (1993) attempted to capture this tripartite nature of the production process of symbolic meaning involving the buyer, seller, and the media by introducing the idea of a ‘pluri-signified product’.

In a situation like this, the business success of an individual who host customers at a destination will depend up on her mettle to enact and shift among as many the aforesaid multiple readings of ‘reality’ as per the demands made by the divergent segments of customers (Ashworth and Tunbridge 2000). Also, if authenticity is enrooted in the internal life of tourists, we might speculate there are multiple authenticities?.

The possibility of simultaneous production of multiple meanings for catering to the needs of diverse markets is laced with a golden opportunity too. In the marketing terminology, alternation in the fourth P of marketing, i.e., promotion is increasingly being thought of as the first and implemented as the most frequent option in any marketing strategy by destinations. The capability of the new media, if exploited ingeniously, may lead unto more sustainable development of the destinations since alternations in the first P, i.e., product, is now considered rarely as an option to meddle with according to the whims and fancies of the short-term market demand. But, the media-controlled (re)construction of meanings is also a complex political process in which many voices are suppressed while a few amplified and occasionally some new voices integrated from nowhere. The place images that emerge to represent a place as a tourist destination, for instance, incorporate only very few (ab)original elements of that place from amongst the multitudes of understandings held traditionally. These multiple meanings of place are continuously negotiated and contested by residents and visitors to the destination. Going back to our previous studies (George 2003),

The philosophical problem of authenticity, as earlier discussed through this text, is the “heuristic of authenticity”. Societies construct symbolic axis of authority by labeling the ethnicities which are subordinated to a centre. The process of labeling others avoids the centre to be re-labeled. This engenders a paradox which will be discussed in the following lines. Basically, authenticity alludes to an archetype created by West for non western native groups to adopt an imposed identity. At the time, natives are determined (by the discourse of authenticity) brave or resilient warriors, or excellent hunters, they think themselves in these terms. The paradox lies in this axiom. At the same time, one thinks something is authentic (a person, an object or anything else), it automatically becomes in the opposite, unauthentic. The same logic works for museums or Zoos. What the modern sapiens is doing, is separating the nature from social world to control the space. In so doing, they need ideological concepts that justify their actions. Neither the policies of imperial powers are placed under the lens of scrutiny nor the market when a place is named as heritage of humankind. What is important in this political act is the fact that we are devoting our efforts in protecting others to be avoided of our ethical responsibilities as conquerors. That way, authenticity determines the other’s identity by the interplay of a dialectics between exploiters and exploited (Korstanje 2012b). In other words, authenticity creates a bridge between human agency and their institutions. This will be clarified in next.

Understanding Tourism: The Media-Way

Sarah Worth (2005) has epistemologically demonstrated how and why we react emotionally to fiction as it was a real-like fact. Talking to others about our experiences creates a story which will be reminded by the rest of our lives. It is clear that in the modern world people look frenetically for consuming authentic experiences, but if they would face the real “reality” panic would surface. Like the Psyche myths, our obsession for authenticity rests on what Baudrillard called “simulacra”, this means the world we want to consume as real. The boundaries of controlled reality and fiction are very slim, Worth adds. Before fiction (for example cinema) three types of answers are possible:

The self understands that events are real and for that it is responding emotively. The self realizes the events are fictional. And Also, following b, it responds emotionality to that fiction.

In the horror movies, we know the frightening scenes are unreal. The technology not only captivates us changing our senses but also giving a story which very well would be real. Since our ontological security is not threatened, we are free to feel enjoy from the other’s pain. We even know that what we are watching is not real, and for that, we feel pleasure.

“It is clear that we do not have to believe what is going on in the film in order to be affected by it. In fact, we cannot believe what is happening if we are to have an emotionally appropriate (aesthetic) response. This is especially true when it comes to tragedy or horror. Generally, we are not amused by other tragic lives nor do we derive pleasure out of watching people chased, stalked, or murdered. But in the context of fiction, we often enjoy these things (Worth, 2005: 183)

Our entering in fictional fields learns skills and abilities we desire to have. In fiction we are set free to feel things without facing the consequences of our decisions. Two ideas are of paramount importance to discuss. On one hand, the real is based on events which are previously given, in which case we have to collect information to understand them. Rather, in fiction, our imagination flourishes. The structure of what is happening is fixed for us to fill the details as we want. The paradox of reality lies in the fact that the resulted story legitimates our sense of what is real. The same happens with the quest of authenticity in tourism. Visitors who consume authenticity are voluntarily subject to staged-authenticity. They know everything they see is not real. Like a horror-movie, tourism works as a mechanism of revitalization where the ego remains safe of its decisions. What is happening in the tourist-world is happening to others, and for that it enjoys tourists. The concept of authenticity as it has been formulated in social science rests on fiction as a primary element of constitution.

If the new media is negotiating with the tourist for the marketer in the process of constructing and consuming touristic experiences, is there a better opportunity to theorize the touristic experience in the context of globalization and ICT revolution than critically looking at the very same media, asks MacCannell (1999). The position taken by him is that the marketer’s message is not something that can be disaggregated from the media that is used to transmit it. Note that the analysis of touristic authenticity is made problematic since in the media generated world everything is a heuristic to interpret something else and no image can be finally determined to be closer to the original than the others. This is because even the so–expressed original is an image of something else. Hence, analyses get into a mode similar to that of literary criticisms that have validity only within the bizarre linguistic reality structured by the ‘montage’ (Baudrillard 1983) and hence become self-referential. McLuhan (1964), the fountainhead of modern mass media studies, while trying to make a modernist rational picture of the media and the message did not appreciate this aspect well anywhere in his studies. (Of course, McLuhan’s conception of media is much wider in scope than we envisage in the present analysis).

‘The role of advertising therefore consists of transmitting intact to the periphery . . . a model in the form of messages to which the mass media contribute the necessary force, while the larger social milieu verifies that the messages and the goods follow the expected norm’ notes, Thurot andThurot (1983). Again, the issue at stake is that the ‘larger social milieu’ has virtually no way to ‘verify’ unmediated by the media and the ‘expected norm’ itself is not independently developed without the influence of the grand media complex. The supremacy of media to deliver what the receiver expects and in the continuing process of feedback loops orient his expectations to what it can provide is increasingly evident in the applications of modern ICT and has already been discussed in this paper. The point is that, as Said (1978) noted, text acquires greater authority and use than the actuality that it purports to describe. In the tourism context, this means that, when tourists report of their recent tour as just a mockery and cheating it just connotes that their experience was something different from what the media had offered it would be. ‘What you expect is what you get’, problematizing even the basic push factors for touristic search such as ‘alienation’. For the youth of our time, alienation itself is what is set as alienation by the media. Over and above, solutions for triumphing over alienation also has to necessarily come from the media. In other words, the same media that generate the ‘other’ will automatically, as a logical necessity, generate clues to its opposite, the non-touristic identity. Yet, as an economic rule, commercial media do not for itself help mould one’s self, since demand for marketed commodities can be generated only by pointing out what is lacking in one rather than what one is having.

Marxian criticism posits that the more industrial the societies are the more alienated their population become. Since industrial societies in general have more surplus disposable income, most of the world’s touristic flows naturally originate from the most alienated societies to societies that unfailingly preserved authentic forms of life. What is evident from this is the conceptualization of tourism as an exchange of the surplus disposable income with the authentic experience of the natives in the third world in an unusually asymmetric manner. Indeed, alienation is the most common denominator of mass international tourism as it creates its ‘other’, the search for authenticity, which becomes a push factor and responds to the alluring call of tourism marketing enterprises offering authentic experiences in a world untouched by industrialization and its myriad evils (Korstanje & Skoll, 2013).

The Progress Hypothesis: A Reappraisal

What does the above discussion say of the ‘progress hypothesis’ involved in the historical development of mass media from print through radio to the Internet? It could be argued that paralleling with technological development the consumer was being made more and more passive and disconnected. While keeping him in the illusion that he is permitted more and more access, uninterrupted connectivity, and say in determining the content and form of the informational feast dispatched to him and luring him to indulge in ‘depth’, media claims about the provision of authentic information became ever less verifiable. Radio as a medium, for example, transmitted stories to a mass audience, but it resembled more like the grandma’s tales demanding the listener to imagine and think. And it did not preclude chances for the audience to verify the truth of what has been told via other sources, mostly direct verification and inter-personal means. And in fact, there existed enough ‘free space’ not capitalized by the mighty mass media through which one could conduct corroboratory search. Television gave colorful images and scope for much deeper involvement but taxed the important elements of attention and thought from the viewer that would otherwise have been spared for reflection and verification. Along with this the uncapitalized free space for verification also became narrower than ever before. Latest, the Internet’s interactive options and ‘coproducibility’ ensured that any gap in a narrative or interpretations whatever required to appreciate the story could as well be extracted from the help menus, FAQs, related links into other web sites and the likes. The effortlessness for this was too tempting for the user. Consequently, the option was to verify all claims within the labyrinths of the cyberspace.

Paradigmatic shift that began with the new media is that while the traditional media extended the presence of the news source to the doorstep of the audience, the Internet did the opposite by facilitating an extension of the presence of the ‘browser’ to the homes of corporations. First, you reach the homepages of organizations from where, links take you to inside rooms and in this process, complex algorithms map your ‘cyberology’ to see if they have products suiting you or if you have anything to suit their offerings. Habermas’s (1989) critique of the disintegration of the ‘public sphere’ in the capitalistic society can posit this set of descriptions in to a wider sociological theory. According to Habermas, the public sphere has been transformed from its original content-focused openness, into something very hollow and superficial. The world in which we live day-to-day has been colonized by the market economy and legal bureaucratic regulation. Habermas is distressed with the power and influence held by the mass media. ‘Whereas the press could previously merely mediate the reasoning process of the private people who had come together in public, this reasoning is now, conversely, only formed by the mass media’, he reflects. In other words, public opinion in today's world is more a resultant of corporate and government manipulations, both alienated from citizens, than of the interactions among private citizens. Society is not controlled by critical reason and the political choice of the public. Publicity has become a commodity that governments and corporations bring into play to protect their interests and spectacular image. The public has been depoliticized, and the public sphere deformed. The original ideas of Habermas applied into the realm of the new media while attempting to answer whether there are new kinds of relations occurring within it [the Internet] suggest new forms of power configurations in the society and reactionary consciousness among private citizens. The Internet, thus, becomes a systematic denier of the public sphere. While taking a position like this, the author do not contest that subjective answers to whether this is debility or empowerment will still depend up on one’s ideological orientation.

The above exposition should make it clear that tourists inhabit hegimonically scripted and mass-media-mediated discourses. But, the influence is not cloned for every one in any singular way. For instance, Cohen (1979) himself admits that there are tourists (not ‘The Tourist’) who seek neither fantasy nor escape from reality. There are also those who actively challenge the staged reality by getting into the roots (Redfoot 1984). Arbitrarily based on the concepts of ‘staged authenticity’ and ‘tourist space’, Cohen (1988) describes four types of touristic situations. The core in this conceptual framework is authenticity - e.g. what is the tourist’s impression of a scene. He argues that the breath of authentic traits necessary to satisfy the tourist will, in turn, depend on the depth of the touristic experience to which each individual tourist aspires. (But it could still be argued that each category of tourists participates in its own forms of inauthenticity. See Naoi 2004).

In this vein, M Korstanje envisaged that modern tourism and the media are inextricably intertwined. This brought a parallel costs for people simply because they face a rise of uncertainty or a lack of control in their routine. Tourism a couple of decades ago, served as a catalyst so that the work-force being preserved and restored to the circle of labor. However, things changed a lot with the advent of postmodernism. Now, travellers are framed to fly or visit much broader places but they lack the control of their fate. As a result of this, lay people decide to trust in the net of experts, who are legally issued by the state to find, mitigate and control the risk of souring Enviroment. Paradoxically, we, as modern citizens, are freer to connect one point to other in hours, but we seem to be prey of our fears. This happens, Korstanje adds, in view of the fragmentation of subjects and their institutions (Korstanje, 2011a; 2011b).

Note that it is not the individual’s volition to become a particular tourist type oneself (Nasar, 1998). Individual freedom is constrained and perpetually modified by powerful discourses extrinsic to him. A set of core values is known to ferment in the historical development of any interdependent community. This evolutionary wisdom acquires more and more independence or portability in course of time and begins to actively shape the perception of individuals living in that community (Inglehart and Baker 2000). Different societies condition the individual psyche differently in the matter of how and what to look for in cultural artifacts. Even though it is comfortable to learn that cultural variables as contrasts has ceased to be true in the light of rapid waves of globalization, serious studies from elsewhere points out that cultural differences and their ‘prismic’ effect upon attitudes and behavior have only become significantly more visible than ever before due to these developments (Huntington 1996; Landes 1998).

To cut the long story short, the concept of authenticity introduced by capitalism cuts the phenomenological world in two, the original and its copycat. Combined with other ideological discourse, it allows lands, places and people become in commodities which are consumed by other commodities (tourists) in a net. Since the adoption of tourism as a mass-activity, workers diluted their purchasing power, paying for making what centuries earlier was natural, escapement. The theory of escapement as it has formulated by psychology (Krippendorf 2009) promotes the autonomy of subject and its ability to restore itself. Later the agent is re-channeled to the sphere of working (Korstanje & Busby, 2010) to repeat the cycle once and once again. In a mobile economy based on the sign of merchandise (Urry, 1992) authenticity ideologically confers attractiveness to places, customs and bodies, which are consumed as products. However, specialized studies lack interest in knowing that authenticity works jointly to other concept as autonomy, self-determination and entrepreneurship. Tourists look authentic places to consume, because they hold money and were educated to think that the world is defined in what is and not real. Being there is not only a question of status respecting to others who had not the same possibility, but also gives progress and autonomy of self. The theory of escapement as it has been formulated proposes that subject are deprived from different aspects of their vital life, regulating this in context of leisure is of paramount keep in mind in harmony (avoiding burn-out syndrome). Unconsciously, this message ushers the lay people to imagine the other as a temporal better place to be than home. What this viewpoint legitimate is the change by the change. The idea we have in constant moving, going forward to progress in the life. This is the exactly site where mobility and authenticity converges. What remains unresolved in the ethics of capitalism, as Maccannell put it, is the role of otherness. As Maccannnell says, because we are in a trace looking the authenticity in the other, not only pseudo-experience is fabricated, but also we avoid knowing ourselves. The other expert, legalized by the sate, is enthralled to intervene in me. Unlike centuries earlier, late-modernity is the only stage of humankind where the person is not authorized to opine on itself. This engenders external psycho-designers (like marketers) who draw and produce radical geographies of the world (Virilio, 1989; Korstanje, 2012a)


As noted, the issue of authenticity is fundamental to any learned sociological understanding of the tourism phenomenon. Authenticity as a topic of study definitely deserves serious attention in a world that is struggling with the challenges of novelty, diversity, and chaotic cultural shifts but at the same times, here is our contribution, it has some conceptual limitations. We must candidly accept that, in spite of the unique nature and characteristics of authenticity as applied to tourism, only a few special semantics that are sympathetic to its unique nature have been evolved reasonably well. Directing a critical mass of research activities towards this end is sine qua non for tourism to have a separate space among wider and disparate discourses on authenticity as well. More worrying is the fact that research commissioned by commercially interested sections advances marketing knowledge on how to capitalize by commoditizing authenticity at an ever-greater pace (Ashworth 1991; Sack 1992) and such private knowledge is couched in ideological and propagandist terms prior to serving for public consumption (Hewison 1987). To resist this sort of an uncritical and unbalanced growth is contingent upon each one of us who visualizes a just, free, and informed world.


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Recibido: 12/09/2014 Aceptado: 10/10/2014 Publicado: Diciembre de 2014

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