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Title: The production and consumption of online travel photography
Authors: Lo, Sheung Ting
Degree: Ph.D.
Issue Date: 2012
Abstract: Tourist photography has rarely been a research focus. Usually, tourist photographic practices are seen as rather superficial and self-explanatory for a rigorous study. The artifacts of their practices, the travel images, are also devalued as replicas of mass-produced images. Yet, it is important to note that the most trivial aspects of tourist behavior are indeed what shape tourism at large. Most importantly, the emergence of social media and the digitalization of photography have brought tremendous impacts on how images are produced and disseminated. Travel images can now be shared with a much larger sphere of audiences regardless of time and geographical location. The meaning of travel images can be quite different from those days when photographs were still kept within a physical album. This new form of image making and sharing indeed changes the way tourists experience time, place, and self. In light of this, my doctoral thesis aimed to provide insights on how the new form of social interaction, facilitated by the rapid evolution of media and photography technology, shapes contemporary traveling culture and tourist's sense of self. A dramaturgical, reflexive ethnographic approach was adopted to explore the ways micro level of social interaction contributes to the formation of online travel images and tourist self image. Purposive sampling and snowball sampling were adopted to recruit and select participants. Data collection and analysis was composed of two phases. The first phase aimed to examine the ways tourists control impression others have of them through framing, selecting, editing, and posting photographs online. An ethnographic visual analysis of 13 cases was conducted to provide descriptive data of image management and impression management. Through dramaturgical analysis, how participants described and explained their practices were also examined as actions to control impressions. The 13 cases were then categorized according to their consciousness of staging, online performance, consciousness of audience impact, and their perception of other's performance. The second phase aimed to develop a framework that illustrates the learning process of forming an ideal self through sharing photographs online. Erving Goffman's notion of performance, Jacques Lacan's conceptualization of image formation, Lewis and Saarni's taxonomy of lying were drawn upon to provide further explanation of the common patterns and variations emerged from Phase One.
Online posting actually involves deceptions to self and to others, given that the performers are also the audiences of their own performances. Hence, online tourist photography is a back and front stage performance. Some performers lean towards deceiving others by staging their online photographs consciously. Some lean towards deceiving self by denying the performative nature of their sharing. Self-image is externalized to others at the Front largely through the symbolic and internalized to self at the Back through the imaginary. Based on their consciousness of staging and audience impact, four types of performers were also identified yet to be validated in future studies. Underpinned by John Urry's conception of the tourist gaze, tourist photographs are merely seen as a tool for researchers to understand what appeals to the tourists and to relate their significant moments or others to their travel experience. Nonetheless, the findings of this study suggest that, what tourists include and exclude from their travel images indeed involves a lot more than capturing the extraordinary and retaining the significant moments. Hence, I argue that, it is by examining tourists' personal articulations of their travel images and their photographic practices dramaturgically, we can then relocate tourist gaze into a more meaningful, personal context. This study fills the research gap in several ways. First, it provides a framework that recognizes the role of both the performer and the audience in the production and consumption of self. The framework also illustrates how a micro level of social interaction contributes to tourist photographic practices hence the formation of self. Second, the study adopted a dramaturgical approach to examine visual and oral data so that the performative nature of their practices as well as their oral accounts of their practices could be recognized. By doing so, it is able to provide insights of how tourist photography can be shaped by a tourist's subjectivity and their consciousness of audience. It also reveals how tourist photographic practices could bring changes to the tourist's self. Third, unlike most existing studies, this study also notes and analyzes the changes of tourist performance from trip to trip and from time to time, as its unit of analysis is the individual but not the place.
Subjects: Travel photography.
Photography -- Social aspects.
Social media.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Pages: xxi, 343 p. : col. ill. ; 30 cm.
Appears in Collections:Thesis

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