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The technological leash

Are we forever doomed to be tied by the technological leash?
11 years ago, May 20th 2011 No: 1 Msg: #136732  
B Posts: 897
I understand people travel nowdays with lots of gadgets of all sorts, I am in a minority by leaving laptops and Iphones and Ipods etc at home. Just wondering have you seen any one doing strange things due to their reliance on technology? Is it possible these days to drop out and be out of contact or do we stay in contact as a safety mechanism?

I was watching a young guy on Railay West wandering around with his laptop obviously skyping to someone somewhere in the world. I can understand his desire to share his amazing time and the awesome scenery with others back home but it struck me that the guy looked rather...ridiculous...walking around in circles talking to his laptop on a beach with no roads or cars famed for its natural beauty.

A couple of days later I was approached by a french couple who asked if I knew where the hot springs were and if it was worth going and would they get a wifi signal up there - would you forego visiting a place if it meant you were out of touch for a couple of hours? My neice postponed her week in Bali because she lost her Iphone and wouldnt travel until she had a replacement two weeks later even if it did cost her an extra $900 in cancelled flights.

I obviously use the net for travel bookings, blogging (when I get home) and checking or changing flights but am I a dying breed for taking off the technological leash when travelling? When I first started travelling 27 years ago I remember having to go to post offices to make international calls and sending postcards and letters home....now the only tech gadget I carry is my blackberry for txt messages or emergency phonecalls should I need to make them.

Could we ever go back to travelling without a signal? Reply to this

11 years ago, May 20th 2011 No: 2 Msg: #136741  
B Posts: 580
Hi Cindy,

Great topic, I could spend a considerable amount of time theoretically musing about this topic, but alas I don't have the time...ironically I can't let this particular technological leash lure me from what I 'should' be doing;-)

Will be interesting if this discussion goes anyway interesting...

I'll sign off with an image

[Edited: 2011 May 20 19:44 - aspiringnomad:90 - an image is worth a thousand words]
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11 years ago, May 21st 2011 No: 3 Msg: #136753  
There is another point of view. I can spend my days travelling because of the connection. My clients are all over the world, therefore for them it's the same thing if I send an email or make a phone call from an office, or from a paradise place.

Many bloggers ask me how I do it to be on the road all the time. Easy, I have my computer which is my office. I work everyday, but not really the 9am to 5pm. What better than being able to be in the office at the same time as doing two daily dives, or spend my day on the slopes.

But at the same time, I don't have any of the fancy gadgets. My little laptop needs wifi, this is all. I have a sim card in 4 different countries, and when I'm not in those, I simply don't have a phone. So it is my choice to switch on my computer for few hours a day, and after that, I'm a non-connected man.

I have from time to time people who tell me if I'm in a "paradise" place...hey man, why do you bother getting connected and working, you are on holidays. My reply is simple...hey man, how many weeks in these kind of place did you spend during the last 15 years. Put it simply, 2 or 3 hours a day on a computer is a mere price to pay to be a lot in wonderful places, especially when you can do it with your family.

There and then, as on liveaboards, camping Greenland or even Antartica, there is no connection for few days, and that's fine too! Reply to this

11 years ago, May 21st 2011 No: 4 Msg: #136754  
I've never owned an ipod, iphone, mp3 player, blackberry, etc etc and don't even really know what the difference is between them. Last thing I had like that was a walkman where if you wanted to rewind you had to turn the tape over and press fast forward!

I have a laptop for writing, a camera for photography and a mobile phone for staying in contact with people. The camera is the only one that comes with me when I'm traveling.

I have to admit I have once forgone the opportunity to travel due to technology. After 5 weeks island hopping in Vanuatu I came back to the capital and was planning on going from there to spend my last week on the island of Tanna. I left my camera on a bus in the capital though and forsook the opportunity to go to Tanna so that I could stay in the capital to search for my camera and the hundreds of photos on it. Never did find it though. Reply to this

11 years ago, May 21st 2011 No: 5 Msg: #136760  
B Posts: 580
I've never owned an Iphone/Blackberry and the like, probably only due to me never being in one place for longer than six months and so it wouldn't make economic sense - rather than some ideological reason. I also used to own a cassette player for some years when travelling, and then a short-wave radio so I could "stay connected" via BBC World Service.

Is there a hierarchy of technology here - some more acceptable than others, the Walkman somehow acceptable because it isn't 'cutting edge' or 'fancy' in the blistering pace of technological advancement?

Interesting that some people seem quite defensive about their "technological tools". A salient observation in itself.

The idea of being constantly connected to the world wide web, blogging and emailing, and the "old fashioned" practice of taking pictures and bringing them home to 'record memories' are intimately linked, the net just cuts down the time, and perception of distance (or does it?)

So the question is, what then does technology alter about travel and our experience travelling, for better or worse? Reply to this

11 years ago, May 21st 2011 No: 6 Msg: #136762  
It's not due to one being acceptable or not, it's just a complete lack of interest on my part. I laugh at some of the elder members of my family for not being able to send texts or use the net, but I'll be 1000 times more out of touch when I'm the=ir age - something i need to guard against.

If someone told me that by spending a few hours a day on a comuter and iphone I would be able to live life on the road / on paradise beaches I would agree in a heartbeat. Big difference between people who take that stuff on a short trip with them and those who use that stuff to enable them to travel permanently. Reply to this

11 years ago, May 21st 2011 No: 7 Msg: #136774  
Hello all,

My name is Shane Thompson. This is a topic that I have bounced around in my head throughout my college years and on into my liesurely contemplations as an adult...you know, when I'm not being a "productive member of society." There's a really interesting book by a Thomas Zengotita entitled "Mediated: How The Media Shapes Your World And The Way You Live In It." Here's a passage that has always stayed with me:

"Say your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere -- the middle of Saskatchewan, say. You have no radio, no cell phone, nothing to read, no gear to fiddle with. You just have to wait. Pretty soon you notice how everything around you just happens to be there. And it just happens to be there in this very precise but unfamiliar way. You are so not used to this. Every tuft of weed, the scattered pebbles, the lapsing fence, the cracks in the asphalt, the buzz of insects in the field, the flow of cloud against the sky, everything is very specifically exactly the way it is -- and none of it is for you. Nothing here was designed to affect you. It isn't arranged so that you can experience it, you didn't plan to experience it, there isn't any screen, there isn't any display, there isn't any entrance, no brochure, nothing special to look at, no dramatic scenery or wildlife, no tour guide, no campsites, no benches, no paths, no viewing platforms with natural-historical information posted under slanted Plexiglas lectern things...your options are limited. You begin to get a sense of your real place in the great scheme of things.

"Very small.

"Some people find this profoundly comforting. Wittgenstein, for example.

"So that's a baseline for comparison. What it teaches us is this: in a mediated world, the opposite of real isn't phony or illusional or fictional -- it's optional. Idiomatically, we recognize this when we say, 'The reality is...,' meaning something that has to be dealt with, something that isn't an option. We are most free of mediation, we are most real, when we are at the disposal of accident and necessity. That's when we are not being addressed...

"The slang expression 'whatever' distills the essential situation into a single gesture. It arose and caught on because it captures so precisely, yet so flexibly, the Janus-faced attitude we assume as we negotiated the field of options that so incessantly solicit our attention and allegiance.

"On the one hand, it's a party, a feast, an array of possible experiences more fabulous than monarchs of the past could even dream of -- it's 'whatever,' as in yippee!, as in whatever you want, whatever you can imagine; you can eat whatever, see whatever, hear whatever, read whatever, even be whatever. 'No limits,' as the SUV and Internet ads all promise.

"On the other hand, an environment of representations yields an aura of surface -- as in 'surf'. It is a world of effects. This is another existential consequence of the fact that representations address us by design. We are at the center of all the attention, but there is a thinness to things, a smoothness, a muffled quality -- it's all insulational, as if the deities of Dreamworks were laboring invisibly around us, touching up the canvas of reality with digital airbrushes. Everything has the edgeless flowing feel of computer graphics, like the lobby of a high-end Marriott/Ramada/Sheraton -- the sculptured flower arrangements, that glowy, woody, marbly, purply, cushioned-air quality. Every gadget aspires to that iPod look -- even automobiles. The feel of the virtual is overflowing the screens, as if the plasma were leaking into the physical world. Whole neighborhoods feel like that now, even when you're standing in the street...

"We need mobility among the options because they are only representations.

"And that means they are no more than they appear to be.

"And so they are never enough.

"And that's why more is on the way. Always. That's why trailers are better than movies. That's why you are always already ready for the next show, even before this one is over."

Ok. I know that's quite a lot to absorb. Let's just breakdown what he's saying. He is saying that the world and everything in it is always being re-presented to us. In this way authentic experience is becoming a thing of the past. It's similar to the Borges story of the map that replaced the territory that it represented. You have seen The Matrix. Remember when Morpheus uses the phrase "The Desert of the Real" to describe the actual reality--the fact that humans are being harvested and the sky is burned out? That's similar to what Zengotita is describing above when we are out of the matrix of representation--broke down in Saskatchewan--with no "options."

Media is everywhere. It's omnipresent. Inescapable. I read something by Baudrillard once about how impossible it is not to always be acting because every scenario (real life experience) has already been shown to us. We can never act authentically because we are always acting LIKE someone or something else.

But before I go on, I must say that this idea of "hyperreality" can be taken too far. I mean, there's a point where thinking LIKE this results in the same thing you are attempting to overcome. Right? I mean, we are all influenced.

Here's a nice illustration of this by Dore:

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11 years ago, May 23rd 2011 No: 8 Msg: #136841  
Great question Cindy,

Long before everyone in the world had a beeper attached on their belts I had a beeper because I was an operating room nurse. When the beeper went off it meant I had to go to work so it was not a good thing. In the 80's when everyone was going out and buying beepers I could not understand why someone would want one. I was coming from a different perspective. Same thing with the blackberry-- we have one for work but not personal use.

We love music so we have ipods. We don't want to travel without our music.

I love technology but I'm always amazed when I go into a restaurant and four young people are sitting at a table and instead of talking to one another all four of them have their noses in there cell phones, texting and checking email. I'm old enough to wonder what is the point of them getting together.

I've been walked into countless times because someone is walking down the street or in the grocery checking email. I find that annoying.

On the other hand------ I love my laptop. We bought our first laptop before our around the world trip in 2007. We wanted to stay connected because of aging parents in their 80's and we wanted an easy way for family to contact us if there were an emergency. I must say since that trip I prefer to have the laptop with us when we travel.

Having the laptop on trips makes it much easier to write the blog at our leisure. We can write it in word and cut and paste it into travel blog when we are ready to publish.

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11 years ago, May 23rd 2011 No: 9 Msg: #136889  
B Posts: 151
Technology definitely makes travelling a lot easier when it comes to planning, booking flights, researching information about places, mapping trips, connecting with family and friends, safety and so on and so forth ...

I always bring a laptop/netbook, camera and mobile/cellphone when travelling. I don't think I can ever travel without a camera to capture special moments of our trips. Though I can make do without a laptop as I already plan our trips beforehand and have printouts of our itinerary. I also don't write blogs whilst on holiday. I also want to have a mobile/cellphone handy mainly for safety/emergency purposes.

It's really handy to have technological gadgets available, but it wouldn't hinder my travel plans if I don't have them. If there's wi-fi connection ... great ! I can check my emails, facebook and let family and friends know where we are, what we're doing and that we're safe. If not, doesn't really bother me.

[Edited: 2011 May 23 11:55 - josworld:15287 ]
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11 years ago, May 23rd 2011 No: 10 Msg: #136934  
Ah, I forgot the newest piece of technology........ the kindle. It makes traveling light so much easier.

We do love staying in places with no phones. We enjoy our downtime. Reply to this

11 years ago, May 25th 2011 No: 11 Msg: #137108  
B Posts: 580
In response to: Msg #136774

Shane –

An Interesting variation on the original topic!

I currently live in southern Alberta, in fact if I drive 10 miles in any direction I wouldn’t be too far from Zengotita’s Saskatchewan idyll. As such, to me and for millions of others, it is the norm. Though I can see how someone living in a large city - which I personally have on myriad occasions - or New York, as Zengotita does, would imagine this scene gives, “a sense of your real place in the great scheme of things”.

I wrote about a similar experience in a blog whilst travelling through Canada, though my experience didn’t strictly adhere to the “rules” Zengotita laid down for his own theoretical experience, as I wasn’t stranded, and therefore forced to take in my surroundings.

Which brings us to the issue of “authenticity”; what is it, do we even actually strive for it, where can we find it, how can we experience it, and does it only exist in “the past”? Or is there in fact no such thing objectively, as it is something experienced in the mind, and therefore a constructive authenticity based on an individual’s own experience. After all, As Zengotita says himself, “the opposite of real isn't phony or illusional or fictional -- it's optional”

"Authenticity" was an idea that was very popular in the 1970s, and has been debated variously ever since, so I’m sure we’ll only be taking theoretical sides if we get into all that. But what is interesting in this topic, on this forum, and this website, is authenticity and its relationship to tourism, and the travelling experience.

How do you believe the search for authenticity is linked to travel and tourism, if at all?

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11 years ago, May 28th 2011 No: 12 Msg: #137355  
I often have this same thought on a smaller scale - I don't own an iPod or any mp3 player and I sit/stand on the subway every morning surrounded by dozens of people all zoned out into their own musical world, while I listen to the rush of the wind through the tunnel, the squeal of the brakes and the everyone else's musical beat in concert as the soundtrack to my morning commute. Sometimes I wonder if the opportunity to select our sensory stimuli in someways diminishes from the "natural" (out come those quotations marks!) ambiance of a place.

But I would like to comment more on Shane's (and Jason's) points at great length which time does not permit. Quickly however, I'll just briefly comment that I've lately been categorizing this "real place" - this "authenticity" of which we search - as thought of in terms that lack a sense of display and performance. Of course, it's like trying to think outside of a discourse or episteme - can't quite do it.

There are some places where I imagine technological innovation is seen to be very much the natural idyll (can one imagine Times Square or Tokyo (sorry - can't be more specific there...) sans electricity, music and bright lights and flashy this or that?). Being a traveler does not necessitate being a luddite. But if we're searching for that throw-back to Eden in our travels - the construction of "paradise" through beach and tropics and bountifulness (and innocence via 'native' etc etc) - then perhaps yes, a netbook and cellphone would be a bit counterproductive.

PS: It always makes me smile when references to Wittgenstein and MacCannell enter into my day so unexpectedly. Reply to this

11 years ago, May 28th 2011 No: 13 Msg: #137378  
B Posts: 580
The perception of Senor Skype as ridiculous may be a little bit of the old sacred and the profane; the beach as the idyll of paradise, spatially distinct and removed from all the hotels, dvds-while-u-eat-restaurants, kayak-hiring-dive-shop-net cafes, trinket shops and bars etc that are all crammed into that tiny isthmus-like section of land which is surrounded by the three beaches. By standing on the beach with a laptop, Skyping his mom, the guy is perceived to be violating the sacred – contaminating it with such a brash display of modernity. If people travel to ‘escape’ the trappings of home, which are more and more technologically centred, then such a display violates the essence of that which is sought.

So in short, I think you’re absolutely right Stephanie; that technology has its place in different destinations, based on the dreams sought and the image one projects on oneself and to others in visiting them. In fact one could probably compile a list of technological devices which when pulled out and used in certain destinations which may serve to enhance the experience and sense of place.

P.S. Is it more authentic to hear the juggernauts breaks squealing or whale songs on the mp3;-)
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11 years ago, May 29th 2011 No: 14 Msg: #137402  
B Posts: 151
In response to: Msg #136774


Glad to have finally got the time to absorb your interesting insight about the authenticity of our experience in our “contrived” and “mediated” world.

My million dollar question is, does it really matter whether we have an “authentic experience” or not ? Does it make our life experiences “less profound” if deemed not authentic ?

I believe in doing "whatever" makes you happy and your life worth living. If you want to Skype on the beach to share your wonderful experience with your family back home, then by all means do as you please. If you want to listen to Rock ‘n Roll on your MP3 player instead of the more natural “authentic” sound, then so be it. As long as you don’t harm/bother anyone directly or violate cultural/ethical norms, I don’t see it as an issue.

Whether the world we live in is mediated and manufactured or not, the fact is - humans have sheep-like mentality. People like to follow - go to places where others go, do what others did, eat what others ate, drink what others drank (including the Indonesian cat sh*t coffee and what-not) and have the new technological gadget others have. So therefore original or “authentic” experience is not at all sought after. This now brings me to the concept of the “Red Pill” and “Blue Pill” in the Matrix movie. If Morpheus warns you that the “real world” outside of the matrix is a “sh*t” hole, would you still take the “red pill” and crawl down the rabbit-hole for the sake of having an authentic experience ? We probably all know that people will choose to take the “blue pill” and believe “whatever” what they want to believe in, conform to the norm and happy to live in the bubble of mere representations. It’s human nature. Sadly, this is the scheme of things. Though the world is continously evolving.

One thing I have to agree with you. Humans are "easily" influenced ....

[Edited: 2011 May 29 11:02 - josworld:15287 - typos]

[Edited: 2011 May 29 11:06 - josworld:15287 ]
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11 years ago, May 29th 2011 No: 15 Msg: #137407  
B Posts: 897
Jason! You solved the puzzle..he violated my beach!!

[Edited: 2011 May 29 14:06 - littlewing:163970 ]

[Edited: 2011 May 29 14:07 - littlewing:163970 - Three times to get Jasons name right..doh]
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11 years ago, May 29th 2011 No: 16 Msg: #137421  
I am inclined to agree Jason, though it does sometimes seem a bit disconcerting for Mary Douglas to be the last word on so much.

Cindy - I might put up some resistance to the notion that all humans want to follow and do what others have done. This does, in fact, seem to a very western (perhaps more accurately a cosmopolitan) thing. Because while some individuals define and posture themselves as cultured by doing 'just' that - eating and experiencing and collecting experiences of others as a way of defining and building the self, just as easily one could see the opposite as doing the same - rejecting and abstaining from contact and exposure to otherness as a way of strengthening a social identity.

By the by, my authentic experience of the subway is, indeed, the overlay of various noises. Of course, my "authentic" (read: actual) experience on the commute also frequently involves having to listen to people clip their toenails in public - so it can be important to remember that authentic (as the un-staged) is not necessarily equivalent to the imagined ideal (the "authentic" read: traditional). Which brings us back to the notion of authentic as a search for that which has already been conceived, residing in the imagination and spawned from the circulating representational images, which are themselves quite contrived to create precisely such an effect, rendering the idea of the authentic very 'much' a staged artiface... the beach as an un-populated, tropical, sunny paradise with clear, turquoise water and the attendant native population welcoming visitors with open hospitality, not the reality of the beach of dirty sand, crowded with dozens of other eager vacationers Skyping their loved ones, while trash and refuse washes ashore and locals perform scripts of humble service.

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11 years ago, May 29th 2011 No: 17 Msg: #137434  
B Posts: 580
If nails are being cut as part of a ritual to conform to societal norms of nail length does it make the practice any less authentic in the sense that the clipper is attempting to perform cultural accepted nail length, even if not in the actual public display of clipping.

Though I am interested that this is an occurrence frequently witnessed on the New York subway, and so maybe there is something in the performativity of nail clipping itself that could be further explored.

I’m now going to throw another definition of authenticity into the ring - which I have to admit I am rather fond of - though before I do I will apologise for the dirtiness of having lifted it from Wikipedia since alas I don’t have the time to delve into the neglected Erich Fromm’s on my bookshelf to pluck out some juicy nuggets, as I am currently in the process of theorizing the historical emergence and internalization of “Indian” or “Indigenous” in South America.

He considered behaviour of any kind, even that wholly in accord with societal mores, to be authentic if it results from personal understanding and approval of its drives and origins, rather than merely from conformity with the received wisdom of the society. Thus a Frommean authentic may behave consistently in a manner that accords with cultural norms, but for the reason that those norms appear on consideration to be appropriate, rather than blindly, simply because they happen to be the current norms. Fromm thus considers authenticity to be a positive outcome of enlightened and informed motivation rather than a negative outcome of rejection of the expectations of others. He described the latter condition - the drive primarily to escape external restraints typified by the "absolute freedom" of Sartre - as "the illusion of individuality", as opposed to the genuine individuality that results from authentic living.

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11 years ago, June 6th 2011 No: 18 Msg: #137871  
Jason asked: How is the search for “authenticity” linked to travel and tourism?

Well, that’s a rather large question. It is large because it calls for a definition of “authenticity,” and you have already highlighted the problem with defining something so…abstract. Abstract? Ok. We might be on to something here.

Have you ever read Nietzsche’s “On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense”? I believe that he is the first—in this very essay—to have identified the conundrum of authenticity. And he does so by insisting that human beings are incapable of “truth” because concepts themselves are formed when humans forget the unique and/or individual experiences (authentic) that language (being an abstraction) has had to cover up (like the map idea that I mentioned in the last post.)

"In particular, let us further consider the formation of concepts. Every word instantly becomes a concept precisely insofar as it is not supposed to serve as a reminder of the unique and entirely individual original experience to which it owes its origin; but rather, a word becomes a concept insofar as it simultaneously has to fit countless more or less similar cases – which means, purely and simply, cases which are never equal and thus altogether unequal. Every concept arises from the equation of unequal things. Just as it is certain that one leaf is never totally the same as another, so it is certain that the concept “leaf” is formed by arbitrarily discarding these individual differences and by forgetting the distinguishing aspects. This awakens the idea that, in addition to the leaves, there exists in nature the “leaf”: the original model according to which all the leaves were perhaps woven, sketched, measured, colored, curled, and painted – but by incompetent hands, so that no specimen has turned out to be a correct, trustworthy, and faithful likeness of the original model. We call a person “honest,” and then we ask “why has he behaved so honestly today?” Our usual answer is, “on account of his honesty.” Honesty! This in turn means that the leaf is the cause of the leaves. We know nothing whatsoever about an essential quality called “honesty”; but we do know of countless individualized and consequently unequal actions which we equate by omitting the aspects in which they are unequal and which we now designate as “honest” actions. Finally we formulate from them a qualities occulta which has the name “honesty.” We obtain the concept, as we do the form, by overlooking what is individual and actual; whereas nature is acquainted with no forms and no concepts, and likewise with no species, but only with an X which remains inaccessible and undefinable for us. For even our contrast between individual and species is something anthropomorphic and does not originate in the essence of things; although we should not presume to claim that this contrast does not correspond to the essence of things: that would of course be a dogmatic assertion and, as such, would be just as indemonstrable as its opposite.

What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and; anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions – they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins."

We are in fact shielded from nature by our own conception of it. I mean, the word “nature” can be deconstructed into a myriad of definitions, right? What does it really mean? And I guess the same can be done with the word “authenticity,” though at least as far as Nietzsche is concerned there does seem to be some association being made between it and experience that’s unhindered by the “movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and; anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding.”

In “The Birth of Tragedy” Nietzsche mentions something about how the Ancient Greeks could really believe to have seen or expect to see a god in the middle of the city…in the middle of the day…while going out to do their everyday errands. And Nietzsche praises the ability to maintain this sense of wonder and emotion, or, better yet, reaction to the outside world, the world of things. But even they are relying on language to inform their experience, even if it is young and susceptible to what we would deem childish imaginings.

So it seems that in order to have these unique experiences you need not have been born so late in the game. Or, he could be saying that authenticity is simply impossible, which is what I’m leaning towards. The reference to the Ancient Greeks was simply a way to show how language ages and in doing so “takes the edge off” of our experience…or reaction to it.

I think travelling can provoke this sense of wonder in us and allow us to react to a foreign environment with a sense of awe. Not in the same way as the ancients, but you get my drift.

(Note: The idea that language began more as poetry that was anthropomorphic in nature is actually to be found before Nietzsche in Vico, but I only mention that because someone out there might be interested in reading him.)

PS. Sorry I haven’t been able to get back to you. I’ve been busy. Barely had enough time to spit this out.
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