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Micol Mieli



Technologically mediated tourist experiences: the tourist and the smartphone


  • Micol Mieli

Summary, in English

As smart and as stupid, as well- and ill-informed, as curious and closed-minded as any random sample, tourists represent a unique object of study, as they are “the last remaining class that exhibits consciousness for itself” (MacCannell, 2013 p.xix). Technology has been transforming the tourist experience deeply, as it both fulfils a functional purpose of performing tasks for humans, and it holds a wider, deeper meaning and role in the human experience, where it imposes behaviours and worldviews on humans.
The present research is an empirical-philosophical inquiry on the tourists’ digital worlds. The question I pursue: what does technology do to the tourist’s experience of their travel? I adopt Don Ihde (1990) and Peter-Paul Verbeek’s (2016) post-phenomenological views of technology, which pose questions of how concrete artefacts, that is technologies, mediate human existence and experience. In particular, I focus on one specific technological object, the smartphone, and investigate what it means for tourists to have a smartphone with them at all times. How does it mediate the construction of their travel experience? The research is designed as a two-part study, combining Experience Sampling Method (ESM) and semi-structured interviews, with the aim of capturing both tourists’ experiences on site and their recollections after the trip.
Studying tourist and their unique experiences while traveling offers a glimpse into a “purified form” of “what in ordinary life is mixed and obscured” (Bauman in Franklin, 2003 p.208) and my research shows how such a technology can mediate several aspects the tourist experience: from planning a trip, to remembering it. The traditional temporal dimensions of the trip (pre-, during and post-trip) become blurred as time is mediated by the smartphone and its capabilities. Serendipity and optimization get to coexist, rejecting the traditional juxtaposition between planning and spontaneity. Experiences are transcribed and re-transcribed through videos and photography, creating memorable experiences not only through the lived experiences but through the digital re-transcription itself. Tourist attractions are continuously made and remade through the semiotic relationship between a site, a tourist and a marker (MacCannell, 2013).

Franklin, A. (2003). The tourist syndrome: An interview with Zygmunt Bauman. Tourist studies, 3(2), 205-217.
Ihde, D. (1990). Technology and the lifeworld: From garden to earth. Indiana University Press
MacCannell, D. (2013). The Tourist : a new theory of the leisure class ([Rev. ed.]). University of California Press.
Verbeek, P.P. (2016). ‘Toward a Theory of Technological Mediation: A Program for Postphenomenological Research’. In: J.K. Berg O. Friis and Robert C. Crease (2016) Technoscience and Postphenomenology: The Manhattan Papers. London: Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0-7391-8961-0, pp. 189-204


  • Institutionen för tjänstevetenskap






Konferensbidrag: abstract


  • Media and Communications
  • Sociology
  • Philosophy

Conference name

SPT 2021 - Technological Imaginaries<br/>The Society for Philosophy and Technology Conference – June 28-30 2021

Conference date

2021-06-28 - 2021-06-30

Conference place

Lille, France