Skip to main content

Don't be a Tourist


A most obstinate fact that faces any would-be critic of modern Western society is that social changes over the last half-century that constitute the so-called  "consumer society" have been accompanied by a considerable levelling of social (and to lesser extent economic) barriers between classes. We live in a more demotic culture than ever before: MPs and television presenters sport regional accents; air travel is no longer the preserve of the upper classes; a wide swathe of social classes aspire to consume luxury goods and services once the preserve of an elite (fuelled until recently by cheap credit). Deference toward social hierarchies and institutions has been vastly reduced. This is a real effect, not mere smokescreen, even if it hasn't so far been accompanied by equivalent reform to democratic institutions.

There's been a corresponding increase in snobberies of various sorts whose purpose is to maintain signs of social superiority in the face of this
levelling down. Perhaps the most obvious one concerns food - contrasting those wretches who shovel down "junk food" with one's own consumption of scarce and organically-grown products. Wine snobbery (both against beer consumers, and in terms of superior wine knowledge) is another. Air travel has its own snobbery, that unseemly craving for an "upgrade", the disparaging jokes about "turning right" at the doorway. But one that really fascinates me, as a keen photographer, is that surrounding cameras.

It's considered naff in many photographic circles to use point-and-shoot digital cameras because the great unwashed use them, because they work so well and so easily that they de-skill an arcane art, and because of the unattractive stance they provoke  - holding the camera away from the body and gawking at the LCD rather than peering intently through a viewfinder like a pro. The alternative is the single-lens reflex DSLR used by almost all professionals, which thereby aquires a certain cachet. These are large, heavy, expensive and complicated, but those very properties begin to undermine them as status symbols: learning to use one demands time and patience, a nerdish enthusiasm that's very unwelcome in cool circles. This poses a dilemma, but one which Olympus has now brilliantly attacked with its TV and cinema ad campaign for the new digital E-P1 Pen model.

This camera is almost as small as a point-and-shoot compact but has interchangeable lenses like a DSLR. It's easy to use and to carry but most important it has a cool retro look redolent of San Tropez in the '60s. Kevin Spacey is the chosen presenter, and the slogan is.... "Don't be a tourist!"

This slogan plays off yet another of the new  snobberies, that about travel. So many people can afford to visit so many places around the world that it's essential to distinguish oneself from them: they are tourists, I'm a traveller, out to broaden my mind.  Olympus's agency cleverly piggy-backs on this snobbery to sell a camera that's otherwise rather unremarkable. Carrying one will soon be compulsory on the smart beaches, replacing the pastel-coloured Canon Ixus on a neck-string... 


originally posted 26 Dec 2009 21:15 by Dick Pountain

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Touchy-Feely Inferno

This essay was originally the final, epilogue, chapter of an unpublished book I wrote in 2009. On re-reading it today I was struck that 9 years haven't changed much….

                      _________________ * ________________

“My holy of holies is the human body, health, intelligence, talent, inspiration, love, and absolute freedom – freedom from violence and falsehood, no matter how the last two manifest themselves.” [Anton Chekhov]


The incontinent expression of emotion has become a new orthodoxy, not only in popular culture but even in politics. We’re regularly treated nowadays to advertisements that exploit neuroscientific jargon where once they stuck to plain chemistry – they now seek to boost our serotonin levels rather than merely applying lipid microcapsules to our hair. The staple diet of celebrity magazines and soap operas is the ostentatious display of “emotional honesty” and “vulnerability”, people are always now “there for each other”. Hugging is as revealing of the t…

Social Democracy Uber Alles

The outcry over the revoking of Uber's London licence shows that the service it provides is popular, and it's unquestionably a significant, innovative use of new technology to improve transport. On the other hand the outcry from drivers about lack of benefits and job security show that the application of technology is being used (not uncommonly) both to increase exploitation of the labour force and to flout legal regulation designed to protect labour and customers. The outcry of Black Cab drivers against Uber ignores the fact that people flocked to Uber not merely for convenience (though that is considerable) but because Black Cabs had priced themselves out of the market with the last big price hike.

Put all this together and it's clear that all the parties need to get together and find a workable solution, which is highly unlikely to happen because of the vastly different political atmospheres between UK and USA, and a general lack of adult leadership on both sides. I ca…

A Very British Coup?

David Cameron is likely to be questioned about his friendship with Mrs Brooks by Lord Justice Leveson as part of his inquiry into press ethics Photo: REUTERS/GETTY







In 100 years time the last week of February 2012 will be remembered as a turning point in UK history, for three events that don't seem all that remarkable at first sight.

The first event was the appearance of Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan police Sue Akers at the Leveson inquiry, where she claimed that there was a "culture of illegal payments" at the Sun newspaper, in which police officers and other civil servants were not merely paid for specific information but were in effect kept on retainer to leak regularly. Akers testimony coincided with James Murdoch finally resigning the chairmanship of News International, the Sun's holding company. 

The second event was the announcement that the West Midlands and Surrey police authorities have invited bids from G4S and other major security com…