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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Thinking, Fast & Slow, about Tourism

Reflected realities at Versailles

If you didn’t quite finish Daniel Kahneman’s invaluable 400+ page Thinking, Fast and Slow, you may have missed his insights near the book’s end on the psychology of tourism. For starters, Kahneman distinguishes tourism from visits to resorts that offer restorative relaxation. Tourism, he emphasizes, is “about helping people construct stories and collect memories.” In that, the camera has been a mighty enabler:

The frenetic picture taking of many tourists suggests that storing memories is often an important  goal, which shapes both the plans for the vacation and the experience of it. The photographer does not view the scene as a moment to be savored but as a future memory to be designed. (389)

According to Kahneman, these activities and their role in post-vacation story building serve an aspect of self that dwells in memories—that creates coherent tales in the rear-view mirror. He contrasts that "self" with a counterpart self that dwells in experience—that lives in the moment.

It is fair to add, though, that tourism frequently offers extraordinary "here and now" opportunities for the photographer--as hunter, as collector, as aesthete. Still, with the camera, like smart phones and other devices* that distance us from the experiencing self as we connect, it's how we use it. Use it compulsively, you might need to lose it.

*which, moreover, have begun multitasking as high-quality cameras as well.