Tourists, Signs and the City: The Semiotics of Culture in an Urban Landscape
Drawing upon the literature of landscape geography, tourism studies, cultural studies, visual studies and philosophy, this book offers a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the interaction between urban environments and tourists. This is a necessary prerequisite for cities as they make themselves into enticing destinations and compete for tourists' attention. It argues that tourists make sense of, and draw meaningful conclusions about, the places in which they tour based upon the interpretation of the signs or elements encountered within the built environment, elements such as graffiti and lamp posts.
The writings of the American pragmatist Charles S. Peirce on interpretation provide the theoretical model for explaining the way in which mind and world, or thoughts and objects, result in tourists interacting with place. This theoretical framework elucidates three applied studies undertaken with foreign visitors to the Hungarian capital of Budapest. Based upon extensive ethnographic field work, these studies focus on tourists' interpretation of the urban landscape, with particular attention paid to the encounters with national culture, the role of architecture and the importance of the prosaic in urban tourism.
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At the intersection of cityscape and touristscape, Michelle Metro-Roland proposes the concept of the tourist prosaic as part of a theoretical framework for understanding the way meaning is educed from the built heritage; this 'tourist prosaic [is] a hybrid understanding of the spaces in the city which matter to tourists' (Metro-Roland 2011, 2). Metro-Roland's methodological approach to fieldwork in urban tourism, which draws on ethnographic methods of street interview, observation and visitors' own photography, coupled with the use of interpretive narrative, provides new researchers with a well-documented model for their own work on the city.
Citing J. Goss's (1988, 398) call for an architectural geography, she proposes that multi-coded space can be read through interviews, literary texts, historical writing and events, but that by drawing on the theories of Charles Peirce, tourism researchers can go further than this simple reading of a city street or market hall and can understand how interpretation compels the visitor to act. More on JTCaP online.
It would have been helpful if the book had contained sketch maps of the everyday sites that had become tourist attractions, for example, the market hall, but then this is perhaps another fieldwork project for the future.