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Accidentally tourism: Symmetry and object lessons from an urban design laboratory

Picken, FE 2010 , 'Accidentally tourism: Symmetry and object lessons from an urban design laboratory', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Tourism, like most social phenomena has tended to be studied and measured in terms of the
intentions, meanings and actions of people. ‘Humanist tourism theory’ (Franklin 2003) is the norm
and not until recently has there been any inclination to question this. This research begins by asking
what tourism is when it is not assumed to be ‘a purely human accomplishment’ (after Haldrup and
Larsen 2006) but when emphasis is given instead to the hybrid nature of social phenomena that is
‘teeming with things’ (Franklin 2003: 98). Using a ‘symmetrical’ (Serres 1991/1997) approach, it is
claimed that tourism is a performance that includes humans and non-humans and this means some of
the actors, according to human design, intention or understanding, are variously ‘indifferent’ to what
they are supposed or meant to be (after Latour 1997a). This indifference retains a potential to
‘misbehave’ and then profoundly challenge humanist tourism theory so that when they intervene there
is no longer ‘reliable tourism theory’. Instead with a more inclusive list of actors ‘tourism as an
ordering’ (Franklin 2004) begins to emerge and this research presents an ethnographic study of how
this happens in a well-visited place called Sullivans Cove in Hobart, Australia.
The Urban Design Framework is one of the most intentional statements about the rebuilding and
design of Sullivans Cove and in consolidating things like people, buildings, mountains and law it acts
as an ‘urban design laboratory’. A series of ‘object-laden’ lessons are taken from this laboratory by
following two successive developments or ‘experiments’. First, hotel accommodation Zero Davey
carried tourism through the design laboratory where it was enrolled with various orderings only some
of which ‘care’ about tourism. Here the laboratory acted as a largely indifferent ‘means’ to a tourismrelated
‘end’. However, in next staging an International Design Competition these ‘means’ and ‘ends’
became transferable when to achieve a ‘winning design entry’ and ‘designer label’ for Sullivans Cove
the laboratory adopted many of established ‘means’ of the tourism industry. These experiments show
Sullivans Cove is ‘accidentally tourism’ and that as an ordering tourism behaves in complex and
sometimes opposing ways. When tourism research includes ‘things’ as conspirators, assumptions like
‘tourism places are planned that way’ are found inadequate for recognising or explaining the more
transformative abilities of tourism because these are a virtue of heterogeneous compositions and the
multiple competencies they allow. By viewing tourism as an ordering it is possible to see how
developments such as those in Sullivans Cove result not from within a separable and coherent realm
of tourism on the social margin, but from more distributed and post humanist agency.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Picken, FE
Keywords: post-humanism, relational materialism, tourism,urban design
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