|General programme, activity sheet|
||Thursday 24 October, 2013 12:50 to 13:10
A tourism fieldworker in a digital media worldSpeaker: Can-Seng Ooi, Copenhagen Business School
Authors: Can-Seng Ooi
This is predominantly a theoretical and methodology paper. It addresses the advent of social media in the tourism industry, and the implications for tourism research. The Internet has been a boon for field data collection, as people’s thoughts and concerns are posted, often publicly. Consequently, a number of tourism studies have used social media as a field site. The concept of “netnography” has also caught on. This paper addresses some concerns in taking a social media platform as a field site.
This paper is based on my ongoing tourism research, and self-reflections on how I have in recent years gathered data on tourism practices through social media channels. As a student of anthropology, I pursue ethnographic work with the aim of developing theory, rather than seeking data to affirm and verify existing paradigms and theories. This goal often fall short when I try to rely much on data from social media.
While I conduct fieldwork, I would normally observe, participate and interview. Documents, publicity materials, media reports and other sources of information are also considered central. Today, the Internet has become a significant source of information and social interaction, and the fieldworker must dwell in that world too.
This study is a result of me asking classical ethnographic questions on how I normally collect my data, how I relate and interact in the field and how I interpret the data. Such self-reflexivity aims to situate my understanding of the worldviews of my respondents, while also constructing the behavior and practices of tourism, e.g. When is social media used? Why is it used? When is it not used? How do people behave, interact and respond with other users? How is information evaluated? How are social cues exchanged?
In trying to develop a holistic understanding of tourism practices, social media is taken as part of the tourism world. The use of social media is situated. Tourist social media takes on various forms as they are invented by users. In the context of the tourist conditions, that is tourists lack local knowledge, their visits are relatively short and they want their travels to be pleasant, different social media serve specific purposes for users. For instance, TripAdvisor offers deals for hotels, cars and flights and the big number of reviews by other users on attractions and destinations make the site interesting. Facebook is not a travel dedicated platform but predominantly a social one; travel stories are however posted and shared with family and friends.
New emerging technology has allowed for new ways of communicating and interaction but they should be understood in the context of tourist needs and conditions. As a result, the following points will be elaborated in the paper:
1. The real and virtual remain distinctive but these two spheres inform on one another.
2. Social media has now become parts of tourism cultures
3. Social media offer opportunities for users to triangulate facts and information on products, places and services; there are still many other sources of information and interaction in the “real” world
And with the inception of social media into the tourism industry, there are consequences for the tourism researcher. First, while the Internet seems to show how users think, feel and interact, what is written may not be widely read. The researcher runs the danger of giving too more attention to certain comments, and may even misinterpret. As a result, it is important to acknowledge this situation. This brings to the second concern for researchers. Traditionally, an anthropological fieldworker would interact with respondents, and read cues and then provide the deep descriptions to illustrate the social embeddedness of the data collected; this process is difficult if not impossible when data is collected on the Internet as interaction with users is limited. The third concern then deals with self-reflexivity, as the fieldworker has very few ways to bounce off thoughts and interpretations through the active participation process in the field, self-critical reflections often raise uncertainties on what is interpreted and what is actually happening.
For an ethnographer, collecting data from the Internet is important, and can serve certain purposes, such as analyzing the discourses and narratives of products and destinations. But in taking this source of information to reflect tourism practices and cultures, there are serious shortcomings. This paper will attempt to draw the boundaries of doing good tourism research through social media.
Session 2 – Ontologies, epistemologies and disciplinarity (2)
Place: Main Room