When we watch a travel vlog, what are we really watching? What are you really experiencing? What reality are we in?
In reality, we are sitting in our chairs (or more likely lounging over our beds) watching a YouTube video. But what we feel, think and experience is so much more than this seemingly mundane task. We are completely immersed in their world. We are transported around the world, we board the plane with them, see the sights, experience the culture, learn about the history… it’s almost as if we’re there with the travel vlogger.
Perhaps in the future we’ll be able to taste and smell the food their eating and feel the snow, sand or water they’re feeling.
[Check out Fun For Louis’ 360 video of him snowboarding in Alberta here]
[Then compare the 360 video to his full travel vlog from the day here]
But taking this idea further, we can introduce the theory of hyperreality – an ‘authentic fake’ reality.
Baudrillard is a French theorist who describes the concept of hyperreality as ‘the representation of a thing or event which has no counterpart or analog in consensus reality–the hyperreal is, in a sense, a new thing which seems to refer to something real’ (Soules, 2017). We are no longer experiencing reality, only experiencing what is mediated and conveyed to us through these videos and vlogs.
‘The blurring of distinctions between the real and the simulated’ – Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco is another theorist who describes hyperreality from his travels around the USA. He is ‘similarly concerned by the blurring of distinctions between the real and the simulated. In his description of a reconstructed Oval Office, for example, Eco sounds a note of distain for the duplicity he sees in the creation of the hyperreal, a kind of dishonesty’ (Soules, 2017).
He explores our ‘realistic fabrications in an effort to come up with something that is better than real a description that is true of virtually all fiction and culture, which gives us things that are more exciting, more beautiful, more inspiring, more terrifying, and generally more interesting than what we encounter in everyday life’ (Transparency Now, n.d)
Baudrillard explains that ‘the news on television has nothing to do with real-world events; rather, the news is a simulation designed to hold the attention of the viewer’ (Baudrillard, 2012), and therefore, can we apply the same logic to travel vlogs? Are they really about showcasing the events and experiences of their travel? Or are they just after your attention, views and likes?
It begs to question if what we’re seeing is authentic. Whilst vlogs rely on a strong level of trust between the audience and producer, they are heavily edited and produced for the basis of entertainment. Are all of these travel destinations, really all they’re cracked up to be?
A new social reality – Baudrillard
The following video is a representation of hyper-reality, an augmented reality that may seem like it comes from a science fiction film but is not far from reality.
Ben Brown’s ‘Visual Vibes’ immerse us in his version and his experience of reality. Not only does he capture beautiful images, but he hones in on our sense of hearing, making it feel as if we’re almost exploring the arctic with him.
Another video that resonates with me and this idea of hyperreality is Ollie Ritchie’s ‘Paris’ video. It is highly immersive with a unique engagement with sound, colour, light and emotion. As someone who’s been to Paris and can identity landmarks and had similar experiences as highlighted in this short clip, you are momentarily transported back to that experience and picture yourself in the video.
If we are unable ‘to distinguish reality from a simulation of reality, especially in technologically advanced postmodern societies’ (Baudrillard, 2012) then what impact does this have on us as a society, our way of thinking, seeing the world and experiencing it?
All of this talk leads me to question the future of travel videos, vlogs and the reality portrayed in them. Will we still have that yearning ‘wanderlust’ for travel when we have already seen it a thousand times through video? Basically already experiencing it? Or will this change and influence future travel trends? By pushing people to find the unique, off the beaten path travel experiences? I’ll be discussing the concept of travel trends, YouTube and influencers in the coming weeks.
I would recommend the following video (a short 5 minute clip) of Baudrillard explaining the concept of the real and hyperreal of Disneyland.
Baudrillard, J 2012, ‘An A to Z of Theory: Jean Baudrillard: Hyperreality and Implosion’, CeaseFire, 10 August, viewed 30th March 2017, https://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/in-theory-baudrillard-9/
Transparency Now, n.d, ‘Traveling through Hyperreality with Umberto Eco’, Transparency Now, viewed 6 April 2017, http://www.transparencynow.com/eco.htm
Soules, M 2017, ‘Virtual Reality/Hyper Reality’, Media Studies.CA, 6 April, viewed 6 April 2017, http://www.media-studies.ca/articles/vr.htm