wideThinking: Heritage and Tourism
If organisations have been - and usually still are - run top-down and hierarchically, then a similar malaise afflicts heritage and tourist sites. The heritage industry's conThink tends to try to impose a single, partial and highly idealised view of any site on the visitor. It gets the message across easily, contains things nicely and assures a smooth flow of wallets to the shop and tea room.
Counter-tourism is wideThink par excellence. It is an invitation to tourists to completely transform their experience of the heritage-tourism industry and its many sites. Beneath the simple stories in the Visitor Guide and behind the locked gates marked PRIVATE in heritage sites, there lies a multitude of inconvenient stories, hilarities, wonders, absurdities, extremes and entertaining outrages. When Counter-Tourism opens the doors, tourism becomes a funny, shocking, revelatory, subversive and adventurous life-changing experience rather than a deferential procession through the unrevealing homes and castles of Heritage plc.
Here's an extract from Counter-Tourism: The Handbook:
"So, here is the underlying strategy of counter-tourism: the familiar forms of heritage tourism exorcised and then spectrally re-enacted by its own visitors to trigger access tothe ‘chorastic’ qualities of transformative potential in heritage sites. That’s why the tactics in this Handbook and sister Pocketbook first parody and then resurrect the etiquette of the heritage visit. A double movement to open ‘chorastic’ space to you and to open you to your own ‘chorastic’ potential; transformation triggered by pleasure and a pilgrimage ending who knows where. So counter-touristic visits are not to things; the ‘thing’ of the visit is the visit itself.
Starting with simple playfulness, counter-tourism provides a toolkit for all tourists; the most adventurous will find tactics for making post-dramatic interventions, even infiltrating the heritage industry, but even for the most far-reaching of these personal journeys the primary tactic will remain a simple exploration on foot – the underpinning tactic shared by all. But an exploration of what?In the ‘fever of the present’, when ‘our entire contemporary social system has little by little begun to lose its capacity to retain its own past’ is there anything there to explore? If ‘the separation between past and present has been eroded’, if ‘heritage conservation is creation and not preservation of what already exists’ and is ‘gradually effacing History, by substituting an image of the past for its reality’ what actually is that stuff in heritage sites?
The formula by which I’ve arrived at some kind of an answer - that through rigorous empirical study it is still possible to construct locally meaningful historical narratives, but that they break down at a certain spatiotemporal or conceptual scale - comes not from any theory of historiography, but from a ‘mis-guided tour’. Standing next to a wall on the Quayside at Exeter I realised that from a singlepiece of sandstone breccia I could give a coherent narrative of desert formation and flooding 300 million years before that was specific to that stone, but that the story became meaningless if I used the formulation ‘here 300 million years ago’. There were deserts, there were floods and there was a past, but to connect ‘here’ to those things ‘then’ was impossible. ‘Then’ the materials that now make up ‘here’ were on the other side of the equator and in a formation completely unrecognisable from anything here and now; indeed ‘here and now’ is simply their momentary meeting point along billions of different trajectories before they head off again in novel combinations on unrehearsed journeys. And that piece of wall was no different from ink on a Declaration of Independence or mobile phone footage of the killing of Gaddafi."
Read more about Counter-Tourism.
Read Counter-Tourism: The Alternative City Guide
All of the following are mental exercises devised by CrabMan (the author of Mythogeography) for honing a mobile decentred (selfless) self, the ambulatory and embodied soul of a Walker.
Read more about mythogeography.