Virtual Boundaries

The Role of Social Media in Modifying a Tourism Space (Windsor Great Park)


Modern photography is generally perceived as having originated when Louis Daguerre announced the daguerreotype in 1839. Similarly, mass tourism can be said to have started two years later when Thomas Cook chartered a train to run a short leisure outing. Since their near-simultaneous origins the two have become inextricably linked. Now, Urry (2012:4) suggests that tourism is a key characteristic of the ‘modern’ experience whilst Garlick (2002) suggests that photography is equally significant for modern life. Garlick (2002:290) goes on to suggest that ‘Photographic images play an inescapable part in the way the world is experienced for most people today.’

Windsor, visited by around 8 million tourists each year (Anon, 2016) is typical in this regard, the ubiquitous camera phone in evidence throughout the town resulting in millions of images being uploaded to social media as ‘the Internet [increasingly mediates] tourism experiences as tourists use these social media sites to portray, reconstruct and relive their trips’ (Xiang & Gretzel, 2010:179). The vast majority of these tourists will enter Windsor Great Park, the 20 square kilometre park that used to be the hunting ground of the kings of England.

Given the interest of the global media in much of the Great Park, particularly the Castle itself, and the sheer number of images taken by the tourists and delivered throughout the world, both physically and virtually via the web, the volume and reach of this material is enormous. This ensures that tourists will create an image of place from the absorption of publicly available material in a process described by Young (1999:385) as ‘place consumption.

Bate (2008:94) suggests that this creates an ‘easy pleasure’ since the tourist has already been told ‘this is where to stand and see it’ resulting in a repetitive subset of the available points being accessed by the tourist, typified by such images as the Long Walk and Savill Gardens. The huge volume of imagery creates a constant, repetitive sense of place through this absorption ensuring that the limited area becomes self-perpetuating.

This set of subliminally accepted points creates a conformity or a ‘Tourism Space’ as described by Kowalczyk (2014:9) where the tourism space is a subset or derivative of real geographical space or a specific form of imaginative geography (Larsen, 2006). Unknowingly these tourists from around the world have created a postmodern work where their collective work speaks of far more than their individual images, creating a virtual world within the physical constraints of the Park.

This paper will begin by investigating the process by which the Tourism Space of Windsor Great Park is formed. Next it will examine its boundaries, both physical and virtual, to clarify exactly what a boundary means in the context of a Tourism Space. Finally, it will examine how these boundaries are being continuously modified due to the tethering of social media’s online space to real space (Arora, 2012:599).

Tourism & Photography

‘Like Thomas Cook, John Ruskin was dedicated to widening social access to cultural experience’ (Hanley & Walton, 2010:19) but, unlike Cook, he was aware that not everybody would be able to travel and experience these cultures at first hand. Instead he brought the culture to his workers in the shape of artefacts at his Walkley museum, near Sheffield, curating a cultural experience for those unable to visit the source themselves. Hanley and Walton go on to suggest (2010:55) that Ruskin’s art critic background was integral to his approach, the ‘visual’ creating a link between ‘sensation and idea, the material and the intellectual’.

Initially embracing the daguerreotype Ruskin became suspicious of its veracity, preferring the accuracy of his sketchbooks which were integral to the museum experience and synonymous with Victorian travellers.  In this way he allowed his subjectivism to override his objective view of an unchanging reality (Millim, 2013:113). In his belief that the photograph was too fixed, incapable of including alternative interpretations, he echoed the writings of André Bazin, ‘for photography does not create eternity, as art does, it embalms time,’ (Bazin, 1958:8), a limit that Ruskin and other Victorian diarists distrusted.

By the time that Ruskin opened his museum in 1875 Francis Frith had started to deliver the tourist experience to those unable to access the reality. Frith did not share Ruskin’s distrust of the camera since his work was ‘less ancient architecture objectively appraised than himself abroad, an average Englishman discovering fine views and coping with the problems of travel’ (Jeffrey, 1981:35) and sharing these views with the armchair traveller (Rosenblaum, 2008:116).

Similarly, Roger Fenton, more renowned as a war photographer and for his architectural images, took numerous images in Windsor Great Park at the request of Queen Victoria, recreating her favourite scenes from the Park.

Over the subsequent one and a half centuries the Park images of both Frith and Fenton have been replicated ad infinitum by the hordes of tourists who have visited the Park, duplicating the style and composition of the Victorian photographers with little change, much as Frith and Fenton themselves duplicated the landscape painters of the previous century (Bate, 2008:94). The populist landscape photographer, David Ward, agrees, suggesting that ‘Interpretations of the landscape, since the beginning of the twentieth century, have been far more adventurous in painting than in photography’ (Ward and Cornish, 2005) and, within the constraints of Windsor Great Park, a simple web search confirms the conformity of the global photographic library.

Figure 1 – Roger Fenton – January 1860, Credit Royal Photographic Society

These Windsor images of Frith and Fenton were just a small subset of the portfolios of the two men, the larger part of their work covering many areas of the globe such as Frith’s Egyptian images. They ‘functioned both to set the scene in advance of a trip and to provide a record of the journey when it was over’ (Wells, 2004, p86) exactly as social media images function today and the Victorian sketchbooks functioned earlier. Indicative of the nature of travel at the time Frith noted that tourists were the primary purchasers of images of Italy whereas armchair travellers were the primary purchasers of Egyptian images. These armchair travellers appreciated that Frith’s images, in the words of the Times newspaper, ‘carry us far beyond anything that is in the power of the ost accomplished artist to transfer to his canvas’.

The term ‘post-tourism’ is a comparatively modern term, coined by Feifer in 1985 to describe those tourists who remain at home and view such images to satisfy their ‘travel experience’ and the term was used subsequently by Urry (2001), Urry and Larsen (2012), Uriely (1996), Smith et al (2010) and others. It nevertheless describes the way in which readers and viewers used the sketchbooks of Ruskin and the images of Frith and Fenton as they moved vicariously across the different types of tourist experiences (Uriely, 1996:983). Given the consistency of their images and of subsequent photographers of the Park this experience has remained consistent until the rise of social media. Mirzoeff (2013:xxxi) describes the period of Frith and Fenton as the start of the simplistic ‘imperial’ complex of visuality, indicative of the mindset prevalent at the time, whereas the rise of social media coincides approximately with the start of the more intricate ‘military-industrial’ complex.

Urry (2001) and later Urry and Larsen (2012:13) used the term to describe those tourists who are aware that their experience is not authentic but is ‘merely a series of games or texts to be played’ – linking these post-tourists to the postmodernist movement. Throughout these works Urry alludes to the ‘corporeality’ of travel and hence of tourism.

The Tourist Gaze of Urry’s seminal work has changed significantly from Thomas Cook’s first organised outing in 1841 but has consistently been ‘constructed through signs and tourism involves the collection of signs’ (Urry, 2012:4). Urry uses as examples ‘timeless romantic Paris’ signified by an image of two people kissing or ‘reale olde England’ signified by an image of a small rural village. Similarly, Frith’s images of the Bible lands constructed a new world for the stay at home tourists through his images of such clear symbols as the Pyramids.

However, this same Tourist Gaze ‘ensures a separation between the one who does the looking, assumed to be familiar and like “us”, and that which is looked at, assumed to be different and strange.’ Wells (2004:127). Urry (2012:8) suggests that this separation isolates the tourist from the locality so that they are, ‘gullibly enjoying pseudo-events’ whilst ignoring the real world.

MacCannell (2001) builds on Urry’s original work to arrive at a slightly divergent conclusion whilst generally agreeing with him. He suggests that the gaze is actually a second gaze, aware of the incompleteness of the original gaze, created by the mutual awareness of the locals and of the tourist, created to protect both parties. Gillespie (2006:3) further develops the theme of the artificiality of the tourist experience by describing the interface between the tourist and the photographed local and how this is created during the interaction of ‘tourist photographer and local photographee.’

The work of both MacCannell and Gillespie suggests that the semiotic environment of the armchair tourist has been modified from that of the physical tourist, creating an environment that is both separate from and distinct from the symbolised environment of the original, physical tourist.

Between 1987 and 1994 Martin Parr (1995) investigated tourism, particularly the relationship between the reality of the location and its mythology, in Small World. This often humorous work chronicles tourist behaviour across the world, highlighting the similarities at diverse sites. Subsequently Parr (2012) notes the changes wrought by the ubiquitous mobile phone cameras in particular suggesting

‘… I am under the impression that no-one is really paying attention to the splendours and beauties of the site, as the urge to photograph is so overwhelming. The photographic record of the visit has almost destroyed the very notion of actually looking.’

The year before Parr’s musings on mobile phone camera use Berger (2011:184) used one of Parr’s images from Small World, The Leaning Tower of Pisa, to draw similar conclusions; concentrating on the clichéd images that are invariably produced but finishing with the role of social media in publicising these clichés. At the time she noted that inputting ‘Pisa Tower’ into FlickR’s search tool produced 40,000 hits, many images being clichéd such as the tower being held between finger and thumb or being pushed back upright.

Today the volumes have massively increased and it was estimated that in 2015 over 1 trillion photos were taken worldwide, 75% of which were captured via camera phones and smart phones (Heyman, 2015), a significant proportion of which were uploaded to social media. Within these increased volumes a similar search, ‘Pisa Tower’, today (January 2017) produces over 100,000 hits. A search for ‘Windsor Castle’ produces over 90,000 hits whilst the total for a search for ‘Windsor’ is close to 900,000 and these figures can be enhanced by SnapChat, Instagram, Pinterest, DeviantArt etc.

Donaire et al (2014) categorised tourist photographs in clusters including ‘Heritage’ and ‘Nature’ both of which are prominent in Windsor Great Park imagery and summarised various definitions of a ‘tourist image’. Broadly they summarise the image to be the sum of prior knowledge and impressions of the locality, largely created by viewing other peoples’ images. They conclude (2014:18) that

‘The digital age has probably reduced the hermeneutic circle of images: the distance between the perceived image and the emitted image is increasingly shorter. No doubt this process will have consequences for the symbolic construction of destinations …. At the same time, however, photographs shared on social networks allow access to a very extensive catalogue of tourist photographs,’

This contraction in time between the perceived and emitted means that the alternate physical and virtual semiotic universes that MacCannell and Gillespie refer to are approaching simultaneity.

Looking at the vast number of images on social media and the near-simultaneity of the physical/virtual universes, Guy Debord (1967), in discussing how we have been turned into spectators rather than participants, seems remarkably prescient. Even earlier, Kracauer (1963:48), speaks of how a memory, or even a virtual person, can be ‘reconstructed’ from a photograph, much as a virtual tourist reconstructs the tourist space. An image of a grandmother, long deceased, recreates, to her grandchildren, the virtuality of the person.

In creating this virtual semiotic universe the typical tourist, whether physical or virtual, acts much like the traditional flâneur from which Debord (1955) suggested that a new term, psychogeography, should be defined as ‘the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals’. The virtual semiotic universe creates and organises an environment that Urry’s corporeal tourists can follow, consciously or otherwise, much as the armchair tourist can follow it in the virtual world. In fact, Garrod (2008:348) suggests that the two are so linked that they ‘may constitute a self-reinforcing “closed circle of representation”[1] in which tourist photographs both reflect and inform destination images’

The remainder of this review will look at how the behaviour of the tourist is affected by those who have visited before through this closed circle of representation.

Imaginative Geographies

The virtual semiotic universe creates, in effect, an imaginative geography. Much as exotic tales of ‘Far Cathay’ from travellers and popular literature created peoples’ virtual view of China, the thousands of images of Windsor Great Park available on social media, together with press and TV coverage create an imaginative geography of the Park.

Driver (2014:246) considers such an imaginative geography to create a form of reality. In particular, in the case of a tourist destination such as Windsor Great Park, it creates a ‘tourism space’ which Kowalczyk (2014) discusses in depth through a phenomenological approach. In this approach he uses Urry’s work to describe the individual nature of such a space, varying according to the society or culture of the viewer. Because of this he expands Driver’s reality view to describe a Tourism Space as being both objective and subjective.

Kowalczyk specifically speaks of the culture of the viewer but the culture of the photographer is also relevant. Given that culture-specific interpretants in the image will help create the semiotic individuality of the space it can be seen that the photographer can consciously or subconsciously include such interpretants from his/her culture.

The photojournalists Sebastian Salgado and Martin Chambi exemplify this. Both have portrayed the indigenous cultures of Latin America but Salgado, a Brazilian, feels that

‘If you take a picture of a human that does not make him noble, there is no reason to take this picture. That is my way of seeing things.’ Sebastião Salgado, 1994

Whereas Chambi, an indigenous Peruvian, says

‘I feel I am representing my race; my people will speak through the photographs.’  Martín Chambi, 1936

Figure 2 – “Tourism Space” of Windsor Great Park

Consequently the two portfolios are very different, Salgado’s being external, voyeuristic, imposing his preconceptions on the subject whilst Chambi is photographing his own people, proud of both their successes and failures. The two thus creating alternate virtual realities each reflecting their own culture.

In 2007, before Donnaire’s work, Li (Li et al, 2007:528) similarly analysed images posted on social media networks taken by tourists within the old town of Lijiang thus creating a map of the locations of this imagery. A similar, rudimentary study of the images of the Park allows a similar map to be produced thus creating a map of the tourism space of the Park.

Włodarczyk (2011:59) points out that the phrase ‘Tourism Space’ is generally used as an intuitive phrase though there have been attempts to formally define it and he himself suggests that a formal definition is ‘Tourism space is that part of geographical space where tourism occurs. The necessary and sufficient condition for classifying a part of geographical space as tourism space is tourism, regardless of its volume and character.’ Even in the time of Frith and Fenton tourists might view images of their destination before travelling and in the present post-internet era this becomes almost impossible to avoid and Salazar (2012:2) implicitly addresses this in discussing ‘Imaginaries’, defining them as ‘socially transmitted representational assemblages that interact with people’s personal imaginings

and are used as meaning-making and world-shaping devices’. He describes the problems of the tourists’ subjective aspects affecting the reality of the local environment by prescribing their behaviour when pre-exposed to these imaginaries. Referencing Tucker (2009) he suggests that (Salazar 2012:14) tourism becomes ‘A series of social practices, ideologies, and behaviours derived from tourism imaginaries and their discourses subtly influence how people engage with the “Other” ‘.

Tuan (1997) discusses the difference between ‘space’ and ‘place’, continually suggesting that the former relates to ‘freedom’ and the latter to ‘security’ also that ‘space’ is more abstract than ‘place’. Both are relevant here as he suggests that ‘Human places become vividly real through dramatization’ (1997:178) and that these places can be given form through a series of snapshots as our gaze pauses on a point of interest. In effect suggesting that space allows movement but as a person pauses then the ‘location is transformed into place’. Although Tuan, in 1997, was primarily concerned with the actual physical gaze others such as Lo et al (2011) and Li et al (2011) see the advent of Web 2.0 (and latterly of Web 3.0) as allowing online images to create virtual spaces in the same way as Tuan envisaged physical spaces to be created by our paused physical gaze.

Włodarczyk (2011:61) also describes the way that Tourism Spaces are formed, describing the processes only as restructurisation (improvement) and degredation contrary to others such as Tuan, Li et al etc. who see the spaces changing without necessarily changing in quality.

As mentioned earlier, Kowalczyk discusses the objective and subjective nature of a Tourism Space. Lentini and Decortis (2010:1) similarly discuss the human experience as being ‘geographical and sensorial’ but also include more social dimensions in their discussions. In particular (2010:1) they discuss how ‘cyberspace becomes an integrated part of <the> experience of spatiality’. They refer to Harrison and Dourish’s (1996:3) notion of a ‘sense of place’ as a cultural understanding, understood and developed by a community. Lentini and Decortis conclude that in the current digital age this community is more likely to be virtual, shaping our view of, and emotional response to, the place.

Sontag (1979:80) suggested that ‘Reality has always been interpreted through the reports given by images’ and ‘Tourism Spaces’ could be similarly described as socially constructed realities having meaning created in advance of a visit. This meaning is created from pre-visitation variables absorbed through exposure to the virtual space (Young, 1999:387) but post-visit views are likely to be different from pre-visit views thus creating a modified version. Any post-visit images uploaded to social media would reflect this changed view resulting in the virtual space continuously changing.

Again, unlike Włodarczyk, there is no suggestion from Young that the revised construction is enhanced or degraded. By implication most of the images alluded to in the creation of a tourism space are views, either landscape or of buildings, creating the space through paused views as Tuan describes. A simple web search uncovers thousands of landscape images almost unchanged from Fenton’s image of 1860 superficially confirms this.

Picken (2014) expands this to the selfie world discussing the stereotypical tourist ‘dupe’, simply copying images that they have seen before, perpetuating the virtual space. However, she discounts these stereotypes since empirical evidence is limited, instead building on the works of Gye, (2007), Rubinstein and Sluis (2008), et al, to suggest that the ‘idiotic behaviour’ displayed in selfies actually modifies the tourism space or at least the behavioural element thus expanding the social boundaries if not the physical ones. Minca (2007:447) even suggests that this idiotic behavior is necessary to enable the tourist to resolve the paradoxical contrasts between real world landscapes and the tourist imaginaries.

Williams (1973:43) derides the common view of the countryside as ‘a myth functioning as a memory’, the myth created by connotations of words used since the Romantic poets. ‘Countryside, ‘pastoral’, ‘ploughland’ are all examples that connote a romantic view different from the reality of the countryside.

Similarly, Arora (2012:600) links the virtual, social media spaces to the equivalent real-world spaces, describing how the social media spaces are created through the use of metaphors. At the same time, he looks at the multi-dimensionality of tourism spaces and suggests that the equivalent virtual space can extend this multi-dimensionality beyond the capabilities of the real world, much as Ruskin curated a multi-dimensional experience for his workers. This flexibility has even led to the creation of new professions such as ‘Experience Designers’ and ‘Content Farmers’ (Balzer, 2014:113) which utilise this multi-dimensionality to create a wider experience beyond the facile, single-view experiences of early Facebook and Twitter environments.

This multi-dimensional curationism again echoes Ruskin and the limitations of a single-dimensional view as described by the Times newspaper earlier.

This near-infinite flexibility of the virtual space creates the possibility that such a space can exist for each individual interested in that space. Since the two are inextricably linked this creates the possibility that the prospective tourist would create his/her own virtual space to the detriment of the real space – much like Sontag’s (1979:85) sunset or even the multiworld hypothesis of quantum mechanics. In the latter every branching event creates alternate universes, much as a tourist in Social Media creates their own universe through their choices.

Here the corporeality of Urry’s original tourist can be contrasted with the intangible aspects of the post-tourist who is aware that the virtual space is just that, but Arora’s linking of the two implies that, as the virtual becomes more complex it should change the physical, something that is counter-intuitive. However, there is one key attribute of any space that can be modified and that is its boundary.  As the virtual space changes from post-visit images the only element of the physical space that can correspondingly change is its boundary, either physical or social.

Throughout these works the ‘Tourism Space’ is considered to be bounded i.e. the behaviours referred to by Salazar and others exists within a specific space as defined by Tuan and created and bound by those tourists that created the space in the first place and perpetuated by those subsequent tourists whose behaviour is derived from that original space. These boundaries can, by definition, be both physical and/or virtual.


In many cases the words ‘border’ and ‘boundary’ are considered synonymous but generally borders are concrete, physical objects that might change but only as a result of a direct action. These borders could be natural e.g. a river or mountain range, or they could be man-made as described in Fay Godwin’s Forbidden Land (Godwin, 1990). On the other hand, ‘boundaries’ can be virtual, semiotic objects, capable of being moved simply via a change in interpretation or context, or by a change in social norms.

Latour (1993) discusses how a door can be both a boundary and an entrance, interpreted by a person depending on their cultural or sociological viewpoint whilst the wall to either side forms a concrete border. Similarly, in the Park, a path in the grass can be both an entrance going forward and a virtual barrier to either side whilst a fence is an unchanging border.

The virtual creation of a boundary can be created just by a series of views when a person’s gaze halts momentarily on key points creating mental snapshots (Tuan, 1997:161); something that Cloke and Jones (2001:663) discuss in terms of landscape photography. This creates a repetitive series of images as each tourist stands at a similar point producing a static concept with the photographer and viewer outside of the landscape, deliberately using these images to ‘arrest the ephemerality of daily life, however fleetingly’ (Peters and Allan, 2016:1). This ephemerality is then replaced by the (temporarily) static boundary which is created, both physically and virtually.

In these snapshots the photographer is outside of the image (Rosler, 1989 and Sontag, 1979), distant from the subject but the camera puts the tourist in apparent control, turning the tourist into a voyeur, a subject which Solomon-Godeau (1994) discusses at length in Inside/Out. Although she argues against the simplicity of the views of Rosler and Sontag she continues to view the static, outside nature of tourist photography in a negative way.

It’s interesting to consider Google StreetView here as it clearly ‘arrests the ephemerality of daily life’ through a series of snapshots and creates boundaries specific to social media since the viewer is constrained by the route of Google’s vehicle and the viewer is static and outside, exactly as Solomon-Godeau describes, a pure voyeur.

Even when the boundary has a physical presence it can be ambiguous. Shields (2006:226) builds on the work of Latour and others to develop an ontology of the boundary, both real and virtual thus emphasising that a boundary, even a physical boundary, is more than just a line – it has effects.

Figure 3 – Ontology of a border – copyright Shields (2006)


Sidaway (van Houtum et al, 2005:10) similarly discusses the complexities of a border, again emphasising that it’s not the ‘material morphology’ that is important but the interpretation that people give to it. Sidaway (2002:191) also references Tuan when he suggests that a boundary should be viewed as a semiotic system. Cameron (2011:431) further develops this semiotic approach to boundaries drawing on the work of Rotman (1987) to discuss the null, not-null characteristic of a boundary, emphasising the ‘socio-semiotic’ rather than the physical. Twenty years earlier Lotman et al. (1991:124), in their discussions on the Semiosphere, discussed the semiotic binarism of boundaries, taking a similar approach to Cameron.

Critically these boundaries are open to interpretation, the challenge to the photographer or viewer is to determine not just whether one can look but where one can look from, where the boundary falls (Mirzoeff, 2013:xxxiii).

In all of these discussions on the semiotics of the boundary there develops a ‘taken-for-granted ontological gap’ (Barad, 2007:47) and he suggests that the object is no longer accurately represented.

Kember (2012:333) expands on this using the work of Barad (2007), suggesting that we now exist through our images, or even as images, to the extent that the ‘ontological gap’ effectively closes. This is again reminiscent of Sontag (1979) who wrote about our image-saturated culture in ‘On Photography’ and resonates strongly with the near-simultaneity of the virtual and physical semiotic universe discussed earlier.

Kember (2012:332) further draws on the work of Ritchin (2008) even while discounting his view of digital photography being almost plague-like. She suggests that ubiquitous photography can, as in science, change the reality or an outcome. Although not referenced by Kember the potential multi-dimensionality of digital photography is something that Ritchin discusses, mirroring Arora’s view of social media spaces.

The complexity and multi-dimensionality of these social media spaces cannot, by definition, be replicated in the physical world but, as they change, expanding or contracting, they must be reflected in the physical world due to the tethering that we discussed earlier.

The post-tourist is now less likely to blindly follow the existing markers found in social media (Feifer, 1985:269), preferring to use these as a base from which to find their own way, less likely to adhere to the existing boundaries. As the ubiquitous smartphone image is uploaded from this new perspective it iteratively creates a new base for the next post-tourist, facilitating the changing boundaries of the virtual space and therefore, due to the aforementioned tethering, of the physical space.

Whether we refer to the geographical space or to the behavioural space; the only element of the physical Tourism Space that can be modified is the boundary and we can see how this can change almost instantly through the near simultaneity of the physical and virtual universes.


PostInternet was a term reputedly first coined by the artist Marisa Olson to describe how artwork and other entities now transcends the internet, developing an existence across all media. With no formal definition and no ‘school’ associated with it, it has many critics but it has relevance to the issues to be addressed here, illustrating the issues involved in the overlap or integration of the virtual tourist with the corporeal tourist.

This integration has become an inevitable part of PostInternet life, only being severed by direct action such as that of the mayor of the Swiss town of Bergun who banned the uploading of images to Social Media (Aspden, 2017). This ban, he claimed, was to prevent viewers becoming seduced by an idealized, Social Media view of Bergun. Whether his actions were simply for the publicity or not, it’s a real-world example of the rise of the virtual tourist in Social Media.

Before moving on it is worth looking at another area where a virtual environment is created in a PostInternet world. As already discussed, Karcauer, long before the Internet was popularised, described how an image of a grandmother could ‘recreate’ that person. Similarly, in Family Snaps (Holland, 1991:2) Kuhn describes how the development of an album can actually create a virtual environment, in this case a family album can create a virtual or idealised family. This family becomes as important as a real family as it allows the viewer or creator to live through this virtual family much as Kember describes, reminiscent of Debord’s (1967) Society of the Spectacle. The latter, although written before the mass Internet, describes the way people live life through representation. When Debord (1967:7) says ‘All that once was directly lived has become mere representation’ we could be describing the virtual worlds of Arora, 45 years later.

Bate (2010:248), like Kuhn, uses the family album as an example of a created, group memory but subsequently extends his discussion to wider social groups who develop a ‘specific common visualized memory’. Bate’s memory in this context is not just of the past but also creates a future as the photography interferes with and develops social memory.

Many of these studies reference PostModernism as being the instigator of this evolution of social media evolving into the new reality through semiotics but, returning to Family Snaps, Don Slater discusses how the technical innovation and consumerisation of photography by Kodak as far back as the 1880s led to the socialisation of the resulting images. This is analogous to the current technological changes that have led to the integration of photography within social media today.

Nowadays, ‘For the majority of young people, as digital natives, cyberspace becomes an integrated part of their experience of spatiality’ Lentini (2010:1) and given the role of smartphones in populating the virtual universe of social media they can, undoubtedly, be regarded as ‘change mechanisms’ (Meyrowitz, 1986:13-33) so that, for many, the world is envisioned as being photographic, even in the absence of a camera (Ritchin, 2008:21).

Cunningham (2010), in discussing Bourriaud’s Altermodern, suggests Modernism has been revisited after the ‘demise’ of Postmodernism and it is this revisiting that focusses on the cultural changes associated with the virtual world of social media. Indeed, in suggesting that the role of the (online) curator has become more important than the artist he is echoing Arora’s view of the importance of the multi-dimensional capability of the virtual social media universe.

Lipovetsky (2005) is another that discusses the return to Modernism, this time under the term Hypermodernism, emphasising the technical rather than cultural revolution. Consumerism is key, even when describing how tourists ‘gobble up’ heritage and art from the past. Even Foster (1998) in his introduction to the postmodern work, ‘The Anti- Aesthetic’, implied that postmodernism is transient, discussing the rise of mass mediation and complexity of rising cultures.

Earlier we suggested that tourists ‘gullibly’ enjoy pseudo-events. This referred to physical events but now, in the postinternet environment, we can see that these events can also exist in the virtual universe, particularly in Urry’s virtual tourism spaces.

This confluence of the physical and virtual in a social environment has been referred to as a ‘hybrid space’ (de Souza e Silva, 2006), created by the mobility of users connected via smartphones and blurring the boundaries between the two semiotic worlds. These smartphones simultaneously act as change mechanisms in both worlds typified by the use of Pokemon Go at its peak. In the program changes in the virtual world such as the appearance of a new character would lead players to new areas in the physical world. In much the same way, changes in the virtual Tourism Space lead physical tourists to new areas within the physical Tourism Space. This co-present visuality interweaves online and offline cartographies (Pink and Hjorth, 2012:145) much as Ingold (2008:1796) describes life itself as developing along pathways to entangle two environments – ‘In a nutshell, what it does is to turn the pathways along which life is lived into boundaries within which life is contained’.

Today the traditional flâneur could be more accurately regarded as a ‘digital wayfarer’ (Pink and Hjorth, 2014:44), moving comfortably and simultaneously through the physical and virtual worlds, sharing experiences and influencing the experiences of others (Lorimer, 2005). This further strengthens the tether that links the virtual semiotic universe with the physical and emphasizing the simultaneity of the changing boundaries.


The virtual worlds of Arora have now become so complex and so pervasive as to create an environment within which many people are comfortable to exist almost exclusively, specifically the virtual tourist can ‘travel’ in this virtual world indefinitely. Marshall McLuhan once remarked ‘one thing about which fish know exactly nothing is water’ (Ritchin, 2008:9) and the virtual tourist need know as little about the environment in which he travels, simply experiencing the virtual universe albeit tethered to the physical via tangible mappings.

Susan Meiselas, the American documentary photographer, created the website akaKURDISTAN as a home for a people with no physical home of their own. Described by her as ‘… a borderless space, provides the opportunity to build a collective memory’ the images and essays hosted on the site create a virtual world for a group that cannot visit or claim their equivalent physical world. For these people the tethers of the virtual to the physical are less tangible, more emotive, than they are for the physical tourist. Nevertheless, modifying the virtual universe again modifies the physical via its boundaries. Perhaps the more emotive tethers having a greater effect than the physical equivalents?

Godwin’s experience with physical boundaries was remarked upon earlier, a commonly quoted example being her experience with the fencing off of Stonehenge creating the situation that people’s experience of the monument would be restricted to images released by the ‘anonymous public relations photographers’ of English Heritage (Godwin, 1990). Nowadays, of course, the virtual tourist experiences the views inside the fencing with little awareness of the world around it.

Earlier in the same book she reminisces ‘I used to love walking through a landscape to which I could relate’ referring, of course, to the physical landscape through which she travelled, constrained to be outside the enforced bureaucratic boundaries. In the current postinternet age the modern environment could be said to have been turned inside-out.  Visitors of the present day now walk through the virtual landscape with which they are more familiar than the physical but this environment now resides within Godwin’s physical boundaries. The boundaries of this virtual universe are now under the control of the instantaneous complexities of social media instead of the bureaucrats.

[1] The term ‘closed circle of representation’ was first used by Urry in 1990