The presence of others who see what we see and hear what we hear assures us of the reality of the world and of ourselves.

Friday, 27 June 2008

"I am not a tourist, I live here"

A few years ago me and three of my friends were driving in eastern Estonia to ´redefine our national and local identity in contemporary Europe´ - something that has been targeted by national tourism campaigns in Estonia for last 6 years. We were bored of driving in anonymous highways and at one point decided to take a smaller parallel road along the coast of Lake Peipsi. The road took as through various ethnic group areas.

By choosing the alternative road our behaviour compared to driving in highways did not change. We drove continuously through the villages without even slowing down the speed. Our perception of the place was limited to images seen through car windows. We did not make any stops during the 7 kilometres long village. When I asked the driver´s opinion about our behaviour, he replied without any hesitation: “... but you saw everything there is to see!”

´Travel and Tourism´ is the largest growing industry in the world with 898million international tourist arrivals in 2007. Throughout the world, local people in response to the opportunities afforded by this phenomenon are putting their culture on ´display´. Rather than initiating a dialogue with the tourist, the host population is merely trying to fulfil their expectations. Local authentic identity gets lost. A more subtle distinction should occur between the tourist, the host community and the experience from the visited culture.


  1. Reviewer A:
    This paper describes a design research process based on different attitudes towards an environment, and outlines an idea of a design object.

    The paper is written in a personal style, describing happenings and attitudes in a direct way. It is hard to discern whether these stories should be viewed/read
    - as background for a design exploration. In that case, there is little
    exploration of the design space in terms of suggested designs
    - as data to make design decisions in a directed design process. In that case, the method for collecting the stories is not described, and the process of making design decisions is not present
    - as the method in itself leading to an informed design object. In that case, the resulting design gets little space in the storytelling.

    The paper would be improved with a clear delineation between the underpinning theory, the working method, and the data/discussion, to make sense as a frame for the design result.
    Also, theoretical grounding with e.g. Zygmunt Bauman would give depth to arguments and discussion.

  2. Reviewer B:
    The paper discusses the experience of local identity and place in relation to tourism. Through an ethnographically inspired study of a village in eastern Estonia, questions of imagined community and authentic identity on
    the one hand and the creating and recreating of a sense of place on the other, are touched upon. Although the topic is highly relevant to the design discourse and furthermore concerns the complex socio-material interplay between local and global, the paper does not succeed in articulating an interesting enough argumentation. The theoretical foundation, the discussion on place and identity, is weak, the main concepts, i.e. authenticity, identity, and place remain non-problematized.
    Furthermore, the outcome of the ethnographic study, which could have made a great contribution, is only briefly presented and discussed.