Phillip Wade Wilson

A talk about guidebooks – Thesis

The work by Ana Alacovska is a clear piece of a thesis. She writes about the industry of travel guidebooks as the print and digital ages begin to clash, and the latter begins to surpass the former. She opens with an abstract to start off her thesis paper and then goes into introducing us to a case where this is applicable. She states how BBC Worldwide took over Lonely Planet and made it better than before because it was able to turn a profit and show growth even during the recession.

She then goes into detail about why the digital age was so useful for travel guidebooks, specifically in the case of BBC Worldwide and Lonely Planet – “digital amateur work and productivity of ProAms”. What this did was give a mass amount of knowledge and know-how to amateurs because of the newfound ease of social ability that made understanding and carrying out tasks that would typically be done by a professional, able to be done by an ‘average Joe’. While not mentioned in the reading, an example of this would be the use of Trip Advisor and Yelp by many people today. Wherever anyone goes, they can write reviews on a restaurant, hotel, or even amusement park… this has made use of the collective’s ability to socialize and present information to each other in order for a better understanding to come about. No longer are hotels and restaurants catering to one or a few critics but the saying “everyone’s a critic” now rings true and places can now utilize this, especially in the travel industry.

Throughout her thesis she presents the counter-arguments to the thoughts she is pushing forward, however simultaneously she refutes them and proves how she is correct, and these counter-arguments are not. To where this appears in the text it is easy to point out because her paragraphs of refutation always start with “In contrast”, “However”, “Nevertheless”, and often the dialogue inserted is a way to initialize the refutation. These can be found in every section of her writing and she provides about three or four refutations per section, giving the reader three or four reasons to agree with her. I find this very interesting and smart because oftentimes people say “give me three good reasons” for or against something so I find it much better to do this than one overarching rebuttal to her claims.

In her conclusion, she states much of the same things that she did in her abstract and opening, but she puts it in the context of what she has stated. Assuming that the reader has read her entire paper before getting to her conclusion she makes references to her arguments and the refutations she made as well as emphasizes her original argument about professional and amateur writers within the guidebook industry.

Samuel E Evans

“Parachute Artists or Tourists with Typewriters” by Alacovska

Progym: Thesis or Theme

Media has become increasingly democratized in the internet age through blogs, YouTube, various social media, and forums. This is often portrayed as a beneficial or net-positive process, but Alacovska’s paper provides an interesting argument that in some cases, specifically in guidebook writing, this may not be the case. It may be the case that this democratization is in a way killing this section of the travel industry, or at the very least massively and irreversibly redesigning it.

Alacovska argues that democratization has allowed for several processes to take place: first, it allows the increasingly conglomerated media industry which owns many of the old guidebook companies, to rely on community and non-professional writers. The internet, and the massive willingness of people to share their travel experiences, allows them to moderate and profit from the free work of the many rather than paying the few. This has then had the secondary effect of the decline of guidebook writing as a profession, but rather as more of a hobby. Alacovska quotes one amateur travel writer, who says,

“my problem is that I’d travel, take photos and write in my free time… if I had any free time. I don’t. I’m too busy traveling, taking photos and writing” (49).

This is exemplary of the blurred lines between professional and amateur travel writing in this new age: you can be so involved and invested, yet for most, it is unfeasible for it to be their means of employment.

One argument to the contrary that Alacovska brings up is that this democratization

“empowers users to become media producers who participate in ‘produsage’… and dismantle the professional paradigms of creative industries” (43).

This argument posits that in fact, this process is better because it benefits the consumer by liberating cultural production and allowing the consumer to share voluntarily. However, this same process is what puts professional writers out of business and makes it harder for new, highly productive, “produsers” to turn their hobby into a career. This is not an even tradeoff, as this system benefits the publisher or media company over anyone else, including the consumer or amateur writer.

Paula I Arraiza

Being “Pampered to Death”

Type of Progym: Thesis or Theme

Wallace constantly mentions how people go on cruises to relax or get away from their busy lifestyles. His experience in the Nadir was nothing less than this, from the steward leaving a mint every time she made his bed to having someone carry his own bag for him. Certainly, the cruise’s advertisement for pampering seems to live up to its word. However, do we really want to be “pampered to death”, in Wallace’s own words, or is this just what we are made to believe we should want?

When reading about Wallace’s experience, it’s easy to think “who wouldn’t want to experience all of that?” It definitely sounds amazing to have someone,

“bring you a lobster- as well as a second and even a third lobster with methamphetaminic speed but also incline over you with gleaming claw-cracker and surgical fork arid dismantle it for you, sparing you the green goopy work that’s the only remotely rigorous thing about lobster.”

After all, we constantly find ourselves wanting to relax and recharge for a while after having a stressful period of time. The best way to do so always seems to be the most extravagant and luxurious one, since it will give us everything we want and more. It’s definitely an offer you can’t pass on.

However, we don’t really need all of these luxury and people doing everything for us to be able to relax. Getting away from the stress of your life doesn’t need to be something so exaggerated, sometimes a fun staycation can do the trick. There’s not really a need to be “pampered to death” in order to unwind. While it would definitely be nice to have all the luxury of the Nadir, there’s no need to be crowded with lobsters and extra towels to have a good time away from everything. There’s still beauty in the simple things, such as taking a few hours in the day to reconnect with yourself and forget about the world around you.

The cruise’s goal is to sell you an experience that makes you want to come back. However, just as Wallace experienced, it’s easy to keep wanting something even better once you’re already there.

“After a few days of delight and then adjustment on the Nadir, the Pamper-swaddled part of me that WANTS is now back, and with a vengeance. By Wednesday, I’m acutely conscious of the fact that the A.C. vent in my cabin hisses (..).”

The pampering and relaxation we experience become a momentary solution, quickly making us wish we had something better and even more relaxing. Therefore, not allowing us to reach peak tranquility and making us want even more than what we already have. Since technically nothing can be perfect, we become stuck in this loop of wanting more and more forever, never being truly satisfied.



Samuel James Conroy

Thesis Progymnasmata

Thesis Progymnasmata

            David Foster Wallace, one of the great American writers in recent times, produced a short collection of essays called, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.” In this collection of essays was the writing, “Shipping Out,” a piece about Wallace’s experience on a cruise ship framed as an advertisement for said cruise ship. Wallace was not a fan of his cruise experience as it brought an odd feeling of despair.

Wallace presents a thesis, “There’s something about a mass-market Luxury Cruise that’s unbearably sad” (Wallace). He by providing a list of all of the obligations that come with a seven-day cruise, such as,

“I have eaten more and classier food than I’ve ever eaten, and done this during a week when I’ve also learned the difference between “rolling” in heavy seas and “pitching” in heavy seas. I have heard a professional cruise-ship comedian tell folks, without irony, “But seriously” (Wallace).

Wallace immerses us into the life of the Nadir through this description, making us understand his discomfort and confusion.

Next, Wallace uses the advertising aspect to further push the you are obligated to have fun narrative. This advertising shows why the Nadir is so sad. Wallace states,

This is advertising (i.e., fantasy-enablement), but with a queerly authoritarian twist. Note the imperative use of the second person and a specificity out of detail that extends even to what you will say (you will say “I couldn’t agree more” and “Let’s do it all!”). You are, here, excused from even the work of constructing the fantasy, because the ads do it for you” (Wallace).

You simply do not have a choice on this cruise ship, you will need to have fun. It can be said that cruise ships truly are fun, and that Wallace’s experience is simply anecdotal. However, the overall concept of a cruise ship seems incredibly sad based on Wallace’s writing. Personally, I have never been on a cruise ship, but the thought of being in the middle of an ocean with no choice but to participate in the activities provided does seem gloomy. Overall, Wallace presents an interesting case about travel in general, one where everything seems artificial, even the place you are traveling. One where everything seems expensive rather than beautiful, and where the entire trip appears faux.

Ehren Joseph Layne

Urry through Frow – Confirmation/Thesis

Confirmation / Thesis 


Frow’s expository, “Tourism and the Semiotics of Nostalgia”, presents an understanding of the tourist v. traveller dilemma and uses semiotics to interpret the network of concepts relating to tourism, nostalgia, and heritage(concepts such as authenticity, the tourist gaze, and so on). Frow also expands upon  paradoxes that Culler and Urry explain in their respective pieces on tourism – those paradoxes being: the continuous refabrication of the authentic coupled with the continuous validation of the refabrication of the authentic as authentic, and the inability to upkeep authentic cultural traditions because the upkeep of said traditions changes then from being “authentic” and instead makes them “the revitalization of the authentic”.  I find myself being more and more persuaded by the arguments Urry makes in respect to tourism, and was pleased to see Frow reference him almost ubiquitously(I had no care for references to Culler). Frow leans on Urry’s conceptualization of the authentic  when explaining the paradox of authenticity: Frow writes – 


 “The paradox, the dilemma of authenticity, is that to be experienced as authentic it must be marked as authentic, but when it is marked as authentic it is mediated, a sign of itself and hence not authentic in the sense of un- spoiled. “ 


Frow’s usage of Urry is not limited to this definition: Frow does a copy and paste of an excerpt from Urry where he is fantasizing about the prospect of  “real travel” but doing so in the context of the paradox. Urry wishes to travel authentically, but understands his inability to do so by nature of the dilemma of authenticity: Urry cannot wish for authentic travel because travel itself is the catalyst for the spoiling of the authentic, and therefore, the inability to ever experience the authentic. Urry goes as far as to saying that: 


“ I am the loser – and more heavily than one might suppose; for today, as I go groaning among the shadows, I miss, inevitably, the spectacle that is now taking shape. My eyes, or perhaps my degree of humanity, do not equip me to witness that spectacle; and in the centuries to come, when another traveler revisits this same place, he too may groan aloud at the disappearance of much that I should have set down, but cannot. “


I would like to emphasize this, for it helps in the contextualization of my thesis from my last post. My redefinition of authenticity is because I wish to dismantle the narrative that we are no longer able to perceive spectacle(the authentic). I hope to, with some rudimentary knowledge of semiotics, relieve tourism of its many incapabilities (inability to perceive the authentic, inability to deal with the authentic, and inability to think freely without compartmentalizing our knowledge of the authentic) and open up the possibility of discourse that upholds tourism rather than stigmatizing it.

Ehren Joseph Layne

Redefining Authenticity

I would like to offer a redefinition of the word “authentic”: inspired by Culler’s usage of authenticity as it pertains to the semiotics of tourism, I came about a line of thought for which I believe helps authenticity stand on its own. Culler defines authenticity as the state of something being marked as genuine, and therefore signifying genuine authenticity. Tourists are obsessed with going to places and seeing things authentically, even when their perceived notion of what is authentic is derived from the inauthentic. Culler explains how tourists are more than satisfied with the inauthentic, given that their reason for traveling – in many instances –  is to experience something not of themselves: the inauthentic. Even when dealing with the inauthentic, and being manipulated by the inauthentic, tourists still find themselves in locations deemed authentic because of these locations being anywhere but the home of the tourist. Because of this, tourism tends to blurry the view of what is authentic versus inauthentic, and even though semiotics provides us with an outline as to how we can differentiate between the authentic and inauthentic, I would much rather provide a more detailed definition of authenticity: 


Authenticity is the state of being in which anyone or anything is itself. No marker, nor signifier can take away from anything being anything but itself. The perception of authenticity holds no meaning: if anything is itself, no other perception of it is authentic – leading any other perception of the authentic as inauthentic. 


How I relate my definition to Culler’s expository on the semiotics of tourism is by stripping away the parts of semiotics that lead the authentic into inauthenticity: specifically markers and signifiers. I do understand that without markers and signifiers, there seems to be no way of telling if something is or is not authentic. Not only that, but signifiers and markers tend to help the authentic retain its own authenticity. With that being said, I argue that in order to understand the authentic, we must clearly define what it means to be authentic. Culler provides no clear definition for authenticity, and even though he dances around authenticity by using it as a tool for breaking down semiotics, his expository never reveals a thorough understanding of the authentic. I believe that this is because semiotics falls short of defining authenticity, and that our understanding of authenticity is heavily flawed by capitalism. 


Capitalism, and the commodification of sight(as explained by Urry in “The Tourist Gaze”) makes everything anything but itself. Once a landscape or townscape can be used as a means of gaining profit, it becomes a product. Once a product, that landscape or townscape is no longer perceived as authentic, but rather a product of authenticity. Tourists will come from anywhere to gaze upon said location, to buy its authenticity and make real the dream of being somewhere that isn’t home. The authentic becomes the product, and given my definition of authenticity, that makes any landscape or townscape made product inauthentic. Let me be clear: I am not trying to take away from the identity of different locations. Rather, I am trying to present a way of looking at authenticity that can, hopefully, bring power back to locations used purely as tourist attractions.


(I ended my thesis here but do have more I wish to share.)

Simona Barca

The Semiotics of Tourism- Theme

In this article, Cullen makes an argument that the age of travel as ended and we are now in the age of tourism. In this theme, he describes ‘travel’ as what upper-class Englishmen used to do when they visited foreign places, got drunk with the locals in run-down hotels, and then came back and wrote about their experiences. Tourism now, he argues, is less about what the tourist does and accomplishes and more about what happens to the tourist, thus naming it more of a commodity. One quote that emphasizes this theme is this: “The resemblance between the tourist and the client of a massage parlor is closer than it would be polite to emphasize.” A client in a massage parlor comes to the salon, pays for the experience he/she enjoys, then leaves without it having much of an impact on the client or vice versa. The same can be true in some cases for tourists. They come into a new place, pay for all-inclusive packages where the tourism industry simulates ‘authentic’ experiences for the clients without them actually having to go out in search of these experiences, then they come home and rave about what a great experience they were provided and how great the service was. Cullen also describes this type of tourist as a shipped parcel, where he/she is taken from one place to another and while they can say they’ve physically been to these places, they haven’t necessarily experienced them.

Ehren Joseph Layne

Caveat to “The Tourist Gaze”


I would like to present a caveat to Urry’s “Forms of Tourist Gaze”. Urry outlines 5 forms of the Tourist gaze: romantic, collective, spectational, environmental, and anthropological. I believe there is a 6th form of the tourist gaze: educational. Specifically, those persons who – namely students – travel for study abroad and or study at international institutions. These types of persons have both a collective and solitary experience with new landscapes:  they survey, they inspect, they gaze in awe, and they stay immersed in one or many activities. They cannot fit into any of the forms Urry outlines because of one aspect of their travel: time. Persons who venture to study in foreign locations often end up living a niche life in said locations: they, after a few months, become a part of the landscape they gazed upon in awe when they first arrived. Over the few months, these persons have come accustomed to the daily activities of the inhabitants; they have begun eating their food, maybe even speaking their language. All in all, students present a nuisance to Urry’s original argument that:


“…there has to be something distinctive to be gazed upon, that the signs collected by tourists have to be visually extraordinary” 


Students only partially exist in the same realm as tourists: the first week or two of their travel may be occupied by visiting locations and commodifying their own sight – gazing upon the extraordinary; however, over time students must turn their attention to something foreign to tourists: survival. I can say from having lived in  Spain for over 2 months that living there forced me to focus on survival rather than tourism. I was a tourist for only a few short weeks: afterwards, I had to behave and live like a Spaniard. As much as I may have looked out of place, and as much as I might have been treated like a tourist, I was no longer in a position where I could gaze upon every new site with inexperienced eyes. I had experienced it all already. I had travelled to all the landmarks brochures and pamphlets had led me to. I could no longer be a tourist because there was nothing left for me to tour. I had to, instead, adapt; assimilate the best I could to the Spanish culture. Relieve myself of my Western gaze and turn my focus to living a life I wasn’t born to live. Urry fails to mention time as a means of de-commodifying one’s gaze: Urry focuses more on the system of the gaze rather than an individual’s gaze and how that gaze may change with time or experience. Because of this, I believe it is necessary for Urry to add the system of tourism that brings students to study in new landscapes, to gaze upon those landscapes, but then have to live in those landscapes. Urry mentions how tourists are usually looking for something outside of their mundane lives; they hope to find, in the staged authenticity of new landscapes, a life so extraordinary to them that they will be able to fantasize about living that same life. Students have no need to fantasize: they have to learn to live it.

Samuel E Evans

“The Psychology of Rhetorical Images” by Hill, “Breaking Down an Image” by Sheffield

Progym: Thesis or Theme

How effective is propaganda? Well, considering I have multiple pieces of it hanging on the wall in my apartment and nobody ever questions it, I would say it is quite effective. Well-designed propaganda is imagery that sticks with us, that we feel a real familiarity to, and which also deeply convinces us of something, even if we don’t realize it.

These two posters I have, tacked up in the living room, wrapped in clear plastic leaf, are replicas of iconic British WWII propaganda, given to me by my grandfather. My grandfather is very proud to have “lived through the war,” even though he was only born in 1943, and he is also a proud Brit, as are most of my family. The posters, one of a “German & British Fighters & Bombers” warning and the other the classic “Keep Calm and Carry On,” exemplify this pride, and to my grandfather’s generation and above they convey almost as much patriotism as the Union Jack itself.


In her piece, Sheffield writes about the rhetorical situation of images which can be used to make an argument. The argument differs somewhat between these two pieces, but they are still very similar. For one, their audience is the same: both target the war-era British public, and the context is also the same: both were made during the German air-raids on England. However, the purpose, which Sheffield describes as “the overall goal for creating an image,” differs between the two (Sheffield). The former is, while propagandistic, mainly concerned with educating the public to help promote safety. The latter, on the other hand, is propaganda at its finest. It evokes pure patriotism, with a bold font, full use of English red and white, and the image of the crown to top it off. Of course, the public warning poster utilizes similar strategies also, using large lettering, varying font, and stark imagery to help inform and elicit a cautionary tone. Something that Hill writes about that really resonates with me is that

“patriotism is an abstract and complex concept,” which he refers to as “a ‘value,’ not a feeling (Hill 35).

Patriotism, he says, goes beyond the usual emotion-inspiring imagery, but rather the patriotic images conjure patriotic value, which then spurs the multitude of emotions that are tied to that..

Some argue that British patriotism has been dulled, or even corrupted. During the 2012 London Olympics “Keep Calm and Carry On” was plastered all over the world, on t-shirts, commercials, mugs, and soda bottles, with all imaginable spins and puns being utilized. Here, people argued that the image of wartime solidarity and strength was being over-commercialized, ruined by its tacky application as bumper stickers and Dr. Who memorabilia. Likewise, though more alarmingly, far-right groups in England have utilized pseudo-patriotic imagery, including reworking old propaganda, to try to push anti-immigrant “Britain-for-the-British” agendas. This, in some people’s minds, has further ruined British and especially English pride, with some only daring to fly Saint George’s Cross during World Cup football matches. However, both of these have been fought against, and I believe that a positive will come from it. Hill writes about this, as he utilizes the example of insurance companies using patriotic imagery, such as Iwo Jima, to create a positive familiar connection in viewer’s minds towards their cause (Hill 36). People often see through this, and are able to dismiss it. This has been the case with both the “Carry On” merch and, for the most part, with the English nationalists.

The posters on my wall are decoration, at that’s it. However, they do stir some kind of familiarity to a land I have never lived in, which is simply a testament to their effectiveness as rhetorical images.

Nathan Ryan Reeves

Visual Rhetoric in Tourism

The reading and the superlong video were interesting to see and read since it brought to light some things that I have thought about but hadn’t fully understood or acknowledged before. Visual rhetoric and visual representations have a great effect on our decision making both in the context of being subtle and blatantly obvious. The placement and visualization of advertisements, photos of destinations, photos of food, and much more can play a role in what individual choices we make, and what we think we make on our own.

“Clearly, the lighting, composition, and angle of the image clearly make a big difference in our reaction to the image and potentially our willingness to take action and respond to the image…”

Compositions of lighting, color, and clear images provide a clear understanding of what you’re getting yourself into. Whether or not that picture can live up to the expectations, it still impacts your decision making. Visuals in the context of visual rhetoric matter so much to consumers when using the main elements of art; shape, color, texture, lines, size, and space to put information in an orderly fashion for the viewer.

This isn’t just integrated into food but rather travel as well. The internet and television contain a plethora of advertisements for travel, and whether it lives up to the image advertised, they still use the same principles that are mentioned in the article. Picture this, a beach with fine white sand on the coastline, and not a flaw in sight of the picture, and seems like a perfect attractive moment for a destination.

While not all pictures can live up to the image they present, but the ones that can are beautiful places to the eye of the beholder, while a picture can “tell a thousand words” a person’s observations determine the individual experience. In the video the guide has the tourists sketch the church that they are looking at to use visualization as a way to notice more details than you would with just pointing a camera at the object.

“Ruskin stressed that the point of sketching had nothing to do with…it was about training ourselves to notice rather than to look…we retain durable memories of the beautiful things we see in modern tourism”