Writing Assignment #4 Summary of, Tourism Things: The traveling performance of the backpack. Kind of a dumb assignment.

Writing Assignment #4
Summary of, Tourism Things: The traveling performance of the backpack.

            Neil Walsh and Hazel Tucker write about how a backpack is more than just a material object, their idea is that it not only enables “backpacking” as a tool to carry all the possessions and equipment needed; but because of its presentation and how it is perceived it actually controls part of the wearers journey. This article, from the journal Tourist Studies; lays out their ideas around the semiotic and functions of the backpack using the actor-network theory (ANT) for their framework. They explore the premise that the backpack is not only a material object that enables the mobility of the backpacker but that the backpack also has a part in the direction of the backpacker’s journey.
            The actor-network theory describes the possibility that objects can act as part of social networks. The network part of this theory is the setting for all the components of a situations to come together and the actor is what is causing or being affected. Walsh and Hazel want to show that in a scenario around backpacking, the back itself can do as much talking as those carrying it. The authors, Walsh and Tucker use personal narratives to demonstrate ANT:
“I was wearing my backpack and searching the narrow alleys of Banglampoo, the Khoa Sarn Road area of Bangkok – a well-known backpacker district, for a small hostel recommended by a friend. I was repeatedly asked if I wanted a taxi to the airport, and approached by local touts for discounted accommodation and onward travel. Once I found my hostel, I was relieved to take my pack off. Life was always a little easier without the backpack. I went out into the street and was approached for other things. Did I want to go sightseeing? Did I want 2 for 1 beer? Did I want a meal?” (256)
The narrow alleys of Banglampoo and the Khoa Sarn Road area of Bangkok are part of the backpacker’s network and the backpack is acting in this network by signaling to everyone this is a backpacker, a person who might want a taxi, discount accommodations or onward travel.
            Walsh and Tucker explain part of the way backpacks are social actors is what the backpack says about the people carrying them. A backpack made out of high tech materials could speak to how much money the wearer has or how into gadgets they are. The way a backpack is loaded or decorated could point to the savviness of the traveler. Patches from out-of-the-way destinations could point to a very experienced traveler. As the backpack begins to show how worn it is, it provides a dialogue of your credibility to the network you are in.
            The backpack can also guide the wearer. The authors talk about the backpack being the deciding factor in where he would stay, “I wanted to get out of my pack as soon as possible. There were average looking beach-huts scattered behind the first line of Palm trees nearby, I settled for them.” (Walsh & Tucker 233) Even though the perfect accommodations could be seen, they were too far to suffer the weight of the pack any longer. So the author settled for the closer dingier beach huts.
            The author’s premise that the backpack is always acting as part of the social-network is backed up by many examples of times when it was the presence of the pack or the look of the pack that directs the future choices made. This could be done by earning the respect of a new group of travelers encountered because of how seasoned the pack looks or by reactions of bystanders based on the presence of the pack. These ideas are all part of the weight given in design and styling of backpacks, for the tourist, the first impression may be given by luggage rather than anything said or done.

Works Cited

Walsh, Neil & Tucker, Hazel. "Tourism 'Things': The Travelling Performance of the Backpack." Tourist Studies 9.3 (2009): 223. Print.

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