Sunday, 30 September 2007

Eastern Promises

"I've said it before and hope to again: David Cronenberg is the most provocative, original, and consistently excellent North American director of his generation. From Videodrome (1983) through A History of Violence (2005), neither Scorsese nor Spielberg, and not even David Lynch, has enjoyed a comparable run.

"A rhapsodic movie directed with considerable formal intelligence and brooding power from an original screenplay by Steve Knight, Eastern Promises is very much a companion to A History of Violence. Both are crime thrillers that allow Viggo Mortensen to play a morally ambiguous and severely divided, if not schizoid, action-hero savior; both are commissioned works that permit hired-gun Cronenberg to make a genre film that is actually something else. As slick as it is, Eastern Promises could, like A History of Violence, almost pass for an exceptionally well-made B-movie."

Still Cronenberg: An accessible narrative belies something much darker, and stranger, in Eastern Promises
J. Hoberman
September 11th, 2007 1:15 PM

"No doubt about it, David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises is a tight, clean, adrenaline rush of a movie. It is 100 minutes of precise filmmaking that delivers one of the best thrillers to hit the screen in a long time. The production is so well done and so taut that I was almost too busy enjoying the ride to think about any deeper meaning other than the brilliant screenwriting, editing, photography and overall technical mastery that left me glued to the screen.

"When the movie ended, I knew I had just seen a really great piece of filmmaking, but when it came time to thinking about what it all meant, I was left kind of blank. I mean, Eastern Promises is a gangster movie, first and foremost, and as such it follows the generic structure of the gangster film and its depiction of organized crime as a family of men that mimics the state and is ingrained with homoerotic/phobic tension. That was all quite obvious, and I wasn’t really sure where to go with it. Then of course, like everyone else who’s seen this movie, I was blown away by the naked fight scene in which Viggo Mortensen’s completely nude body (including swinging balls) battles brutes in a public bathhouse. And in fact, I was pretty much blown away by the hyper-eroticization of Viggo’s body in general, including two other stunning scenes – one in which he sits nude on a chair while he is inspected and interrogated by the Russian mafia and another when he sits naked in a red velvet booth while a man tattoos his body. The latter scene was so painterly that it could have been lifted straight out of a Caravaggio painting."

KDD on Eastern Promises

"David Cronenberg’s latest, Eastern Promises, is a powerful movie, better than nearly anything else (David Lynch aside) being made in the English-speaking world these days. But even though it had a powerful impact, I felt blank afterwards thinking about what could be said about it. This has something to do with Cronenberg’s tightness and closure: like many of his more recent films, Eastern Promises is so tightly organized, and so perfectly self-enclosed, that it doesn’t leave the viewer with any wriggle room. But also, Eastern Promises seems less interesting, somehow, than Cronenberg’s previous excursion into the crime/gangster genre, A History of Violence."

The Pinocchio Theory

"But even when people's bodies undergo terrible things in a Cronenberg film (the exploding heads in Scanners, the transformation into an insect in The Fly), there's a sense of respect for the body itself. Violence in Cronenberg is ineluctable, brutal, and repellent, but it matters. There's none of the blam-pow jokiness of the post-moral, video-game school of filmmaking. Rather, he's interested in the social uses of violence, whether as a tool of the powerful, a rite of initiation, or an erotic game. And even when—here as in A History of Violence—you're not quite sure what his meditations on the subject add up to, you leave his movies feeling unsettled in the best sense. Eastern Promises is only deceptively genre-bound; it's a conventional gangster film that morphs, Jeff Goldblum-style, into something far richer and stranger."

Eastern Promises: The metaphysics of David Cronenberg's violence
By Dana Stevens
Posted Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007, at 5:35 PM ET

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State

A stunning account of the economic workings of the Third Reich—and the reasons ordinary Germans supported the Nazi state

In this groundbreaking book, historian Götz Aly addresses one of modern history’s greatest conundrums: How did Hitler win the allegiance of ordinary Germans? The answer is as shocking as it is persuasive: by engaging in a campaign of theft on an almost unimaginable scale—and by channeling the proceeds into generous social programs—Hitler literally “bought” his people’s consent. Drawing on secret files and financial records, Aly shows that while Jews and citizens of occupied lands suffered crippling taxation, mass looting, enslavement, and destruction, most Germans enjoyed an improved standard of living. Buoyed by millions of packages soldiers sent from the front, Germans also benefited from the systematic plunder of conquered territory and the transfer of Jewish possessions into their homes and pockets. Any qualms were swept away by waves of government handouts, tax breaks, and preferential legislation. Gripping and important, Hitler’s Beneficiaries makes a radically new contribution to our understanding of Nazi aggression, the Holocaust, and the complicity of a people.

Hitler's Handouts: Inside the Nazis' welfare state
Michael C. Moynihan | August/September 2007

Israeli neo-Nazis call immigration rules into question

Israelis were shocked over the weekend when police in the city of Petah Tivka arrested members of a neo-Nazi group who are accused of numerous attacks on orthodox Jews, drug addicts, and gays. The arrested men are all immigrants from the former Soviet Union who do not consider themselves Jewish but were allowed to immigrate under Israel's Law of Return, which allows foreigners to claim citizenship if a parent or grandparent has Jewish roots. (Incredibly, the grandmother of one of the accused is a Ukrainian holocaust survivor.)

Israeli neo-Nazis call immigration rules into question
Joshua Keating
Foreign Policy Blog

Hitler’s Secret Indian Army

So powerful was the drive amongst some Indian officers during the British Raj to get their colonial masters out of the homeland, that they defected to Adolf Hitler. This story was not to be released from British intelligence archives until 2021, and tells of how 3000 Indian soldiers under the leadership of revolutionary leader Subhas Chandra Bose pledged to fight on behalf of the Third Reich, with tens of thousands more to join up later if Bose’s plan had succeeded. Hitler soon grew disinterested in the idea, and abandoned the soldiers as the Allies advanced.

Hitler's secret Indian army"
By Mike Thomson
BBC News

Thursday, 27 September 2007

"The world is a college of corporations inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business"

"You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr Beale!!"

Inside Iran's Secret Gay World

Execution of two gay teens in Iran spurs controversy

Execution of two gay teens in Iran spurs controversy


"In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country"

HARDLINE Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was booed and laughed at a New York university yesterday as he insisted there were no homosexuals in his country.

And he suffered the rare humiliation of a public dressing-down when the university president introducing him called him a "petty and cruel dictator".

"In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country,," the President said at Columbia University during a controversial question-and-answer session.

"In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who has told you that we have it."

Amnesty International said figures suggest Iran has executed 200 people this year including many homosexuals.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer, in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, ridiculed the comments.

"Well, I think we just all know that's absurd," Mr Downer said.

Mr Ahmadinejad was due to address the United Nations General Assembly overnight, where he is expected to ask for an end to sanctions against his regime over his refusal to end nuclear enrichment.

Mr Downer said he did not believe the Security Council would contemplate scrapping sanctions, and "nor should it".

He also said he did not believe Australia and its allies were "inexorably slipping towards a military confrontation with Iran", but added "you couldn't rule that out".

Mr Ahmadinejad, the firebrand and hardline leader of Iran, has questioned the Holocaust and believes Israel should be wiped off the map.

Addressing Columbia University in a heated and tense session, he was greeted by thousands of irate protesters.

Uni president Lee Bollinger, who had been heavily criticised by Jewish groups and US politicians for inviting the Iranian leader, introduced him by saying he exhibited all the signs of a "petty and cruel dictator" who looked "simply ridiculous" when he denied the Holocaust.

"You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated," he said. "Will you cease this outrage?"

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Monday, 24 September 2007

Night Haunts
a nocturnal journal through 2006

Where have all the people gone?
If the focus on the hauntological is opening up visual spaces for perceptual attention, the peeling back of layers of accreted time that enact the divination of spectral residues are resulting in practices that are routinely leaving, perhaps even abandoning, some bodies to invisibility. The steady stockpiling through photographic residues of that which is slowly exiting from human and inhuman orders of habituation – hauntological gardens and abandoned urban zones – now clamor for our attention through visual labour and affective inducement.

What events are we (re)creating and ignoring through our (e)motion capturing? Are there not rhythms and pacings of invisible work at work in these spaces yet to be registered and recorded? What of the perceptual threshold that repeatedly locates as outside those rostered on the inside of the scaffold of the everyday we scrutinize as uncanny matter? What of the unseen orders organising the night workers toiling on the remains of the day?

In a remarkable way Night Haunts: a noucturnal journal through 2006 is an important corrective for becoming attuned to what's missing in the invocation of hauntoloigcal experiences. It enlists our attention to others otherwise.

The event of ghostly zones at night require from us day laborers a partaking of a marginalised imaginary that narrates the night as the straining effort of repeated movements and muscular microphysics committed to effecting the imperceptible – the work of hiding work done. Night cleaning in the city is an event with momentary portals onto it, the aquarium tank greens and blues of office building windows, and the in streets below the sweeping and shuffling additions to waiting landfills are accompanied by the sonic signatures of deep ocean nights, the sonar pings of traffic lights and the sonorous whale songs of transport rigs braking.

“I would like to call an event the face to face with nothingness. This sounds like death. Things are not so simple. There are many events whose occurrence doesn't offer any matter to be confronted, many happenings inside of which nothingness remains hidden and imperceptible, events without barricades. They come to us concealed under the appearance of everyday occurrences. To become sensitive to their quality as actual events, to become competent in listening to their sound underneath silence or noise, to become open to `It happens that' rather than to `What happens', requires at the very least a high degree of refinement in the perception of small differences.''

Jean-Francois Lyotard
Peregrinations: Law, Form, Event (Columbia University Press, New York)

From Night Cleaners...

"The night cleaners of London don't think of themselves as cleaners. They're sure, or at least they fervently hope, that stooping for a living while the rest of the city sleeps is just a temporary phase. The majority are from Africa. Memories of butchered relatives and hazardous exoduses are lodged raw in their minds. But they also harbour lofty ambitions of becoming retail champs and shipping magnates. In their few off-hours they watch CNN and pore over the international finance pages of the broadsheets hoping to glean information that they can use when they return to Africa to set up small import-export businesses. Few succeed.

"The London that they see is a negative universe of public assaults and of swaggering, feral kids. An ungodly realm of out-of-towners on the lash, out-of-control girls spewing obscenities and undercooked kebabs. A mental asylum where the pursuit of idiot pleasures has become, unknown to most of the people who live there, a fatal addiction. They dream of another place, an over-the-rainbow utopia which, more often than not, turns out to be...

"Each cleaner is an underpaid, under-liveried King Canute trying to push back the tide of over-consumption to which the city is prey. They talk with disbelief at the six tonnes of waste that the West End hotels produce each day of the week. They can rattle down a largely deserted street in their refuse trucks and know, according to which micro-section of the London borough they're in, how overflowing the pavements will be by 1am or 3am.

"Pleasure, far from being spontaneous and unpredictable, is easily calibrated. The end of each month is the worst time: Londoners are pay-check flush, waving wads of £20 notes or flashing their credit cards, celebrating their temporary liquidity by pissing and upchucking everywhere. The cleaners, present at a party from which they feel estranged, shake their heads at such ritualised abandon. The city's night-life seems to them to be a collective insanity. They see party goers as nocturnal creatures, reckless beasts who slip into the city under cover of darkness to cause mayhem.

"Cleaners strive to make early-commute Londoners think that there has been an overnight snowstorm. Every day should be a new day, a tabula rasa rather than a palimpsest. They try to abolish all traces of the previous day. If the city is a text, then cleaners do their best to erase the jottings and doodles that have been inscribed on it.

"They operate in the aftermath. After the gold rush. They are instant archaeologists, rapid-response stoopers for syringes, fag ends, gig stubs, demonstration placards. They're also alive to the present and future immiseration of the city, gazing impotently at an anti-spectacle of ragged trolls snouting through bins for half-smoked cigarettes and half-eaten burgers; homeless guys clambering into the bottle-recycling skips to sleep; crazies launching themselves head-first at brick walls. It's left to them to mop up after suicidees jump from high rises or deranged junkies hurl infant children from balconies. A hardened lot, not prone to sentiment, few can stop themselves holding back tears when they recall the first time they arrived on such a scene and were confronted with dispersed chunks of blood, bones and crushed cloth.

Fans of the series will want to follow this up...

Just be warned though, very straight forward age verification is required, before the preview can be accessed.....

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Alienation, Neoliberalism and Pet-Love in the 21st Century

In keeping with this blog's mission statement, here is a link to an excellent piece of "critical geography" concerned with the commodification of companion animals in the context of post-industrial neo/bioliberal societies. Not the least of the interest has to do with the way it contests and complicates Donna Haraway's recent claim that companion animals are subjected to infantilization. It seems these relationships are considerably more complicated than Haraway has realised. Evidence that this may be so can be adduced from investigation of the globalisation of subcultures of "furries" (humans dressing and acting as animals) and "doga" (i.e. dog yoga) and formal dancing with dogs. It seems to me that there is potentially much material in this study amenable to wider cross cultural comparisons, or rather comparative modernities. The study cites evidence from the Republic of Korea and China for example, but I recall a year or so back on Foreign Correspondent a story about furry culture in Japan, in particular clubs where young single women would go to relax for afterwork drinks with male hosts dressed in animal costumes. One interviewee explained the rationale for her patronage as having to do with the lack of venues where young women can go by themselves in Tokyo without feeling threatened. But the reliance on furry imagery to convey cuteness and safety in the first instance is itself obviously very complicated and worthy of more detailed investigation.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

"What the Future Sounded Like"

An incredible Australian made documentary on the early years in Britain of electronic music was screened last night on the ABC. Without reducing the music itself to a vulgar sociologism, it was fascinating in the way it not only detailed the production/compositional techniques, but also the context of Harold Wilson's government, with its ambition of ushering into being a new technologically driven liberal state functionalism. Not surprisingly, there were all sorts of cross fertilisations anticipating some of the later phenomenon captured by Frith in Art into Pop, or Simon Reynolds in Rip It Up & Start Again (e.g. the idolisation of Wendy Carlos's score for A Clockwork Orange by the burgeoning Sheffield elecronic scene, such as Cabaret Voltaire, The Human League etc). For in What the Future Sounded Like, it became evident how important Doctor Who was in the popularisation of the form, given its disseminaton by a national broadcaster. Moreover, as James Chapman argues in Inside the Tardis- The Worlds of Doctor Who, the Jon Pertwee era was effective in the manner in which it reflected the apprehension with which many people regarded the agenda of Wilson's government. Hence Pertwee's stories are filled with depictions of a new Britain that is suffering from class divisions, militarisation of scientific research, and consequently an ominous lack of public accountability with respect to the implementation of government policy.
As far as I know, the connections of the specific aforementioned cultural artefacts with much of the cultural criticism of Raymond Williams from the same period, are still awaiting articulation. For it was Williams who launched one of the most vigourous campaigns for the democratisation of British society. Indeed, his manifesto, Britain in the Sixties, was a reaction to his disappointment with the Wilson government. It follows that Williams's writings on science fiction and television culture generally demand to be articulated to not only this formative period, but also to his penultimate work, Towards 2000, which concerned nothing less than what was required in order to realise a progressive future.
So many rich associations sparked off by this brilliant program:
"Post-war Britain rebuilt itself on a wave of scientific and industrial breakthroughs that culminated in the cultural revolution of the 1960’s. It was a period of sweeping change and experimentation where art and culture participated in and reflected the wider social changes. In this atmosphere was born the Electronic Music Studios (EMS), a radical group of avant-garde electronic musicians who utilized technology and experimentation to compose a futuristic electronic sound-scape for the New Britain. Comprising of pioneering electronic musicians Peter Zinovieff and Tristram Cary (famed for his work on the Dr Who series) and genius engineer David Cockerell, EMS’s studio was one of the most advanced computer-music facilities in the world. EMS’s great legacy is the VCS3, Britain’s first synthesizer and rival of the American Moog. The VCS3 changed the sounds of some of the most popular artists of this period including Brian Eno, Hawkwind and Pink Floyd. Almost thirty years on the VCS3 is still used by modern electronic artists like The Emperor Machine. What The Future Sounded Like colours in a lost chapter in music history, uncovering a group of composers and innovators who harnessed technology and new ideas to re-imagine the boundaries of music and sound. Features music from Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Roxy Music and The Emperor Machine".

Undocumented Labor in Blade Runner

I won't be too surprised if this blog expires very shortly- I have no idea if blogger is currently suffering across the board some bizarre malfunctions, or whether I've been singled out as the target for some bad juju. The problem is all the English has disappeared when I log into blogger to be replaced meaningless symbols. For the moment at least, I'll try to press on, in the hope that things don't go further downhill.
Anyhow, by a more happy coincidence, the other day I was reading Jay Hoberman's precis of the Maurice Schwartz vehicle, Uncle Moses, an early Yiddish talkie which remains unique for the number of favourable mentions Karl Marx receives in this one film. As Hoberman explains, the film is a "drama of immigrant life that suggests America is something other than a golden opportunity, and might actually be a disaster...Schwartz is compellingly modern as the tormented self-made clothing magnate who welcomes refugees from his Polish birthplace to the promised land of his sweatshop."
The following excerpt from the piece on Blade Runner is concerned with comparable issues (which, as derridata would remind me, some of which were previously touched on by critic Brian Carr), although it is distinguished from Uncle Moses by its degree of political ambivalence. What distinguishes this piece is its redressing of a lacunae detectable in the voluminous postmodern/posthumanist analysis of the film.

Policing Traumatized Boundaries of Self and Nation:Undocumented Labor in Blade Runner
Americana: The Journal of American Popular Culture (1900-present), Fall 2006, Volume 5, Issue 2
Anil Narine

Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada

"Fear, revulsion, and horror were the emotions which the big-city crowd aroused in those who first observed it".-Walter Benjamin, Illuminations

I. Introduction

"When Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was released in 1982, American, and especially Californian, industry was in the midst of a recession that affected nearly every industrialized nation. Following the 1979 jump in oil prices, the second major increase in five years, industrial production around the globe dropped between 5 and 10 percent, a trajectory that did not cease until 1983 (Veenhoven and Hagenaars 2). Since the early 1970s, American industries, especially the manufacturing sector, had been relying upon methods of “flexible accumulation” that allowed them to compete globally by repealing some of American workers’ rights and unionized power, and by exploiting budding labor markets in Southeast Asia and Mexico. In the decade following the prosperous 1960s, America’s global position as the lone, victorious economic powerhouse, along with the middle class livelihoods its economy supported, were challenged and both the American working and middle classes felt the threat. Japan and Germany, whose economies were strong by the late sixties, forced American “corporations into a period of rationalization, restructuring, and intensification of labor control" in an effort to lower production costs (Harvey 145). This restructuring of traditional labor processes angered workers, especially those whose jobs had been relocated or made contractual, in keeping with the need for a flexible labor force. Although workers on the factory floor or in the service industries were the most immediately affected, these changes also weighed heavily on the minds of middle class managers who became acutely aware of workers’ grievances as the 1980-82 recession wore on, and increasingly apprehensive about the possibility of vengeful workers rising up. Thus, in California, members of the working class felt threatened by new, cheaper labor forces and lost many of their hard-won rights, along with the sense of security these maintained. Members of the American middle class, however, were far from immune; as they bore witness to the unenviable plight of their blue-collar counterparts, they also feared joining them – a “fear of falling,” as Barbara Ehrenreich phrased it, from their positions of precarious privilege that Blade Runner both registers and, problematically, elicits. This fear is intensified by an arguably racist mise-en-scene that depicts Los Angeles in the year 2019 as an urban wasteland overrun by largely squalid, multicultural masses who represent, along with the humanoid invaders, the new face of California’s working class. These crowds, I suggest, invoke “fear” and “revulsion” in viewers because they seem poised to engulf our white, middle class protagonist, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who himself fears joining these “little people” (Fancher 4). Based loosely on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1969), Blade Runner is also a reworking of Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and other incarnations of the Prometheus myth, which dramatizes the insurrection and revenge of fabricated humanoid laborers who are exploited and then abandoned by their capitalist creators. The horror and suspense of the film rely on the threat posed by four such “replicants” who vanquish their unlucky bosses in an off-world, forced-labor, mining colony and survive the journey back to Los Angeles (as opposed to the novel’s San Francisco setting). There, they want only to confront their creators, to lodge a grievance over the unfair conditions in which they must live and work, and to find out how to lengthen their four-year lifespans. The replicants represent colonial slaves in the world of the film, which is replete with references to colonies, mutinies, and “skin jobs,” a term for the replicants which Deckard’s voiceover equates with the racial slur, “nigger,” found only in history books. And yet, as invaders whose very presence in California is illegal, the incoming replicants can also be read as undocumented immigrant workers whose ambitions are linked uneasily with those of the mysterious Mexican detective, Gaff (Edward James Olmos), who exhibits sympathies for the replicants even though he is gunning for Deckard’s job killing them. Although Blade Runner has been widely read as a postmodernist pastiche of film noir and science fiction genres that questions the distinction between “human and non-human (artificial) intelligence” (Tasker 225), a major element of the narrative has received less scrutiny: namely, the way the colonial subplot allegorizes middle class anxieties about vengeful workers rising up and demanding answers from their superiors, and working class fears about being replaced by ambitious immigrants, whose invasion the borders and “security fences” (as they are called in the film) can no longer prevent".

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Habermas: How to Save the Quality Press

Excellent piece by Habermas, complementary to my previous last 2 posts. Too good not to archive here for research purposes.

How to save the quality press?
Philosopher Jürgen Habermas argues for state support for quality newspapers.
Three weeks ago the business desk of Die Zeit newspaper startled readers with the headline "Will the fourth power come under the hammer?" The article was prompted by the alarming news that the fate of the Süddeutsche Zeitung is up in the air because a majority of stockholders want to sell their shares.If it should come to a sale, one of the two best national newspapers in the Federal Republic could fall into the hands of financial investors, listed companies or media giants. Some will say: business as usual, what's so alarming about shareholders making use of their right to sell their shares, for whatever reason?Like other newspapers, the Süddeutsche Zeitung has now overcome the crisis triggered at the start of 2002 by the collapse in the advertising market. The families now wishing to divest - and who own over 62.5 percent of the shares - have chosen a propitious moment.Profits have risen, despite digital competition and changing readership habits. Apart from the current economic upturn, this can mainly be put down to rationalisation measures that affect performance levels and the freedom of editorial desks. News from the American newspaper sector confirms this trend.The Boston Globe, for instance, one of the few left-liberal papers in the country, has had to cut all its foreign correspondents. The battleships of the national press such as The Washington Post and The New York Times fear takeovers by companies or funds which seek to "streamline" demanding media with unreasonable ideas of profit. And at The Los Angeles Times, the takeover is already in the works.Then last week Die Zeit published a second article, on the "battle of Wall Street financial managers versus the US press." What lies behind such headlines? Clearly the fear that the market on which the national newspapers must compete today will fail to do justice to the twin function that the quality press has fulfilled up to now: satisfying the demand for information and education while securing adequate profits.But are higher profits not a confirmation that "streamlined" newspaper businesses better satisfy the wishes of their readers? Don't vague terms like "professional", "demanding" and "serious" simply camouflage a paternalistic attitude toward consumers who know perfectly well what they want? Under the pretence of "quality", should the press be allowed to circumcise its readership's freedom to chose? Should it be allowed to impose upon them dry reports instead of infotainment, factual commentary and complex arguments instead of more accessible stories on people and events?At the base of the objection implicit in these questions lies the controversial assumption that customers decide independently according to their preferences. This outdated piece of schoolbook wisdom is certainly misleading, bearing in mind the special character of the commodity "cultural and political communication." Because this commodity also tests and transforms the preferences of its consumers.Readers, listeners and viewers are certainly directed by various preferences in using the media. They want to be entertained or distracted, they want to be informed about certain topics and events, or participate in public discussions. But as soon as they assent to cultural or political programmes, for example by reading a daily paper, Hegel's 'realistic morning prayer,' they expose themselves to what is in a manner of speaking an auto-paternalistic learning process with an undetermined outcome.In the course of reading, new preferences, convictions and value orientations may be formed. The meta-preference which guides such a reading is oriented on the advantages expressed in the professional self-image of independent journalism, and which form the basis of the quality press' reputation.A slogan that made the rounds at the time of television's introduction in the USA characterises the dispute over the special character of the commodities of education and information: the TV, it was said, is just "a toaster with pictures." By this was meant that the production and consumption of television programmes could confidently be left to the market. Since then, media enterprises have produced programmes for viewers and sold their audiences' attention to advertisers.This organisational principle has inflicted political and cultural crop damage wherever it has been introduced systematically. The German "dual" television system is an attempt to limit this damage. The media laws of the German states, the relevant judgements of the Federal Constitutional Court and the programming guidelines of the public broadcasters all reflect the idea that the electronic mass media should not only satisfy customers' more marketable needs for entertainment and distraction.Radio and television audiences are not just consumers, that is market participants, but also citizens with a right to participate in culture, observe political events and form their own opinion. On the basis of this legal entitlement, programmes assuring part of the population's "basic supply" may not be made dependent on their advertisement effectiveness or sponsoring.At the same time, the politically-determined public licence fees that finance this basic supply are also independent of states' budgetary situations, that is of the ups and downs of the economy. This argument is rightfully being used by the broadcasting corporations in proceedings between them and the state governments now pending in the German Constitutional Court.Now public legal status may be all very well and good for the electronic media. But can it be an example for the way "serious" newspapers and magazines like the Süddeutsche Zeitung or the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Zeit or the Spiegel - perhaps even for the quality monthly magazines - are organised?Studies carried out by communication scientists are of interest here. At least in the area of political communication - that is for the reader as citizen - the quality press plays the role of the "leading media." In their political reporting and commenting, radio, television and the other newspapers are largely dependent on the topics and stories advanced by the "reasoning" papers.Let's assume some of these papers come under pressure from financial investors who are out for a quick buck and who plan in unreasonably short intervals. When reorganisation and cost cutting in this core area jeopardise accustomed journalistic standards, it hits at the very heart of the political public sphere.Because without the flow of information gained through extensive research, and without the stimulation of arguments based on an expertise that doesn't come cheap, public communication loses its discursive vitality. The public media would then cease to resist populist tendencies, and could no longer fulfil the function it should in the context of a democratic constitutional state.We live in pluralistic societies. The democratic decision-making process can only overcome deep philosophical differences as long as it develops a legitimating bonding force. This must be convincing to all citizens and combine inclusion, that is the equal participation of all citizens, with a more or less discursive atmosphere of conflict of opinion.We go on the assumption that in the long run, the democratic procedure will have more or less reasonable results. But this assumption is founded in turn by deliberative conflicts. Democratic opinion-making has an epistemic dimension, because it is at the same time involved with the criticism of false allegations and appraisals. And a discursively vital media is an active participant in this.This can be intuitively understood in the difference that exists between competing "public opinions" and publications showing the repartition of opinions gathered through demoscopy, or public opinion research. For all their dissonance, public opinions that have been created through discussion and polemic have already been filtered through the relevant information and argumentation. Demoscopy, on the other hand, merely reflects latent opinions in their raw and dormant state.Of course, the kind of regulated discussion or consultation that one sees in the law courts or parliamentary committees is prevented by the wild communication exchanges of a public sphere controlled by mass media. But in fact one would not expect such regulated discussion in public life, because political communication is just a link in the chain. It mediates between institutionalised discourses and negotiations taking place in the state arenas on the one hand, and the episodic and informal daily talk of potential voters on the other.The public sphere does its part in democratically legitimatising state action by selecting objects relevant for political decision-making, forming them into issues and bundling them into competing public opinions with more or less well-informed and reasoned arguments.In this way, public communication is a force that stimulates and orients citizens' opinions and desires, while at the same time forcing the political system to adjust and become more transparent. Without the impulse of an opinion-forming press, one that informs reliably and comments diligently, the public sphere will lose this special type of energy. When gas, electricity or water are at stake, the state must guarantee the energy supply for the population. Shouldn't it do likewise when this other type of 'energy' is at risk - the absence of which will cause disruptions that harm the state? It is not a 'system failure' when the state tries to protect the public commodity that is the quality press. The real question is just the pragmatic one of how that can be done best.In the past, the Hessian state government has helped out the Frankfurter Rundschau with a loan - to no avail. One-off subsidies are only one possibility. Others are foundations with public participation, or tax breaks for family holdings in this sector. These experiments already exist elsewhere, and none of them are unproblematic. But the first step is getting used to the very idea of subsidising newspapers and magazines.From a historical point of view, there is something counter-intuitive in the idea of reigning in the market's role in journalism and the press. The market was the force that created the forum for subversive thoughts to emancipate themselves from state oppression in the first place.Yet the market can fulfil this function only so long as economic principles do not infringe upon the cultural and political content that the market itself serves to spread. This is still the kernel of truth at the core of Adorno's criticism of the cultural industry. Distrustful observation is called for, because no democracy can allow itself a market failure in this sector.

*The article originally appeared in German in the Süddeutsche Zeitung on May 16, 2007.

Jürgen Habermas, born in 1929, is one of Germany's foremost intellectual figures. A philosopher and sociologist, he is professor emeritus at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt and the leading representative of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. His works include "Legitimation Crisis", "Knowledge and Human Interests", "Theory of Communicative Action" and "The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity."

Note to self: check out the following links:

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

The Open Society: Outflanking the "Afterworld"

A timely rejoinder to yesterday's post may be found in recent discussions of the legacy of Karl Popper. I imagine that gaining a critical purchase on Afterworld type scenarios, with respect to the fate of "the masses" [sic], could be assisted by thinking through some ramifications of Popper's ideal of the open society in relation to media cultures. At stake is a different kind of openness than a limitless frontier, a milky way of possible consumers, awaiting commodification (haven't yet found out what George Soros does with Popper's "open society", but, as I recall, he's not associated with the academic conference linked to below).

Anyone interested in these related topics might wish to check out the video lectures from a recent conference held at the Institute of Communication, University of Lund at Helsingborg, Sweden:

The official topic of the conference was ‘The Open Society: the Role of Science, Multiculturalism and the Media’.

Go to the link below:

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Afterworld: When Media and the Apocalypse Converge

These 2 stories pasted below, an older one, and one from yesterday's Herald, are very important documents, fully deserving of archiving for media studies purposes. Not least of the interest, and perhaps the reflexivity of the program, stems from its canny anticipation of the "end times" for the "appointment" type of audience, given the multiple formats in which the program can be watched and at a time of the audience's choosing. I see this post as therefore complementary to the earlier ruminations regarding the end of the traditional so-called traditional "audience" heralded in part by blogging.

I also wonder though if the reflexivity of the format extends to the chosen content as well- is it too heralding an "end times" given an increasing individualisation of consumption patterns that might lead to the death of social capital, and indeed, the apocalypse itself (i.e. according to the ideologies of technological determinism and neoliberalism). Do the masses disappear from cultural representation once marketeers and media scholars agree to stop speaking about forms of "mass communication" constituting a ritual, shared at least in the sense that it takes place in the same temporal universe (on the same channel)? Is the central protagonist, Russell Shoemaker, according to this logic, doomed to forever wander alone among the ruins, looking for some chance of redemption? Once I next get access to broadband I might be able to make some determination along these lines, but it is the implicit convergence of medium and content that is fascinating. If only it could be revealed how this watershed moment came about, as it may even be more fascinating than any of the plot twists and turns the scriptwriters could come up with. Is this where a de-regulated media culture is leading us, literally and figuratively, or is it simply, and more likely, what its ideologists are trying to convince us is a certain inevitability?

Afterworld gives a taste of things to come
Asher Moses

February 19, 2007 - 12:20PM

The next generation of TV dramas will let viewers break free from the shackles of the couch and restrictive broadcaster schedules, says Sony Pictures Television.
In a first for the studio, it has acquired all international television, digital sell-through, gaming and mobile rights to a futuristic animated show called Afterworld.
Produced by Emmy Award nominee Stan Rogow (known for his work on Lizzie McGuire and All I Want for Christmas) and written by Brent Friedman (Mortal Kombat 2), Afterworld will be distributed across all platforms including TV, the web and mobile phones.
Accompanying this will be original web-only content to draw viewers even further into the plot.
SPT's description of the show says: "Afterworld is about life on earth after an inexplicable global event renders technology useless and 99 per cent of the population missing."
It follows New Yorker Russell Shoemaker as he unravels the mystery of the event and searches for his family.
The announcement of the deal was made by SPT's international arm, but the Australian division's managing director, Jack Ford, said he expected the show to launch locally within the next three or four months.
"It's a visionary program in my view - I don't think anything like it has ever been attempted before," he said.
Ford said he was in talks with local broadcasters to determine which would acquire the rights to distribute the show locally.
Episodes of Afterworld will be consumed as 130 two-minute episodes or, in the case of TV, 13 half-hour episodes.
Supplementing these will be the website,, which SPT said would offer "archived back episodes, daily journal entries, community blogs, interactive content applications and online games".
The result, SPT hopes, will be a far more immersive, flexible experience for today's "digital consumer".
In a statement, Friedman said: "As much as I've enjoyed working in all the conventional mediums, I believe we have created something that represents a new form of content - the online convergence of television and video games."
Australian broadcasters are already heading in this direction. Network Ten has just launched its revamped website, which offers sub-sites for individual shows that the network says will include downloadable content and community features.
"For some programs there will be the availability of full episodes, for others it will be highlights and short clips, for other programs it will be additional web-only content," Ten's general manager of digital media, Damian Smith, said when announcing the site revamp late last year.

Two-minute warning
September 10, 2007Icon
Page 1 of 2 Single page
A web and mobile sci-fi series is heralding the multi-platform era, reports Peter Vincent.

The hype surrounding Afterworld, an animated sci-fi series produced specifically for mobiles and the internet, is that it is another signpost to the death of "appointment" TV viewing.
Afterworld tells the story of Russell Shoemaker, a thirtysomething adman who wakes up in a New York hotel to find that 99 per cent of the population has vanished. The show follows him dealing with loneliness, trying to find out what happened to his family and struggling to survive. But what's really different about it is that each episode is between two and three minutes long - primarily because that's all you can easily download to a mobile (and presumably because that's about all you can handle watching on a handset).
"I think TV and traditional forms of entertainment are turning into dinosaurs," says Adam Sigel, a producer and writer on Afterworld.
"People want content when they want it; it's a whole new paradigm. Appointment TV viewing is over.
"Hundreds of thousands of people only use their TVs to watch movies when they want. They live on the internet and they are constantly in transit, so they want content on their mobiles. If Hollywood doesn't start to deliver to their audience in the way they want to access it, they will end up in the same boat as the music industry.
"The technology has been created, people love using it and it's waiting to be filled. A show like Afterworld does not assume the audience is sitting there watching at the same time as everyone else. Whoever fills this technology best will do very very well."
Afterworld is the brainchild of Electric Farm Entertainment's Brent Friedman (a writer on Dark Skies, Mortal Kombat 2) and Emmy-nominated producer Stan Rogow (Lizzie McGuire). The show premiered on YouTube in March and, when it had been watched 500,000 times, Sony Pictures International swooped, snapping up the international television, mobile, internet and gaming rights. It then halted the show's run so it could negotiate dozens of global deals.
Sony relaunched Afterworld last month in several countries and the Australian re-release showed the enormous scope of convergent content. The first of 130 episodes "premiered" on the Sci Fi channel on Foxtel, BigPond TV on Telstra's Next G network and on the internet, at A new episode will air nightly at 7.30pm, with a half-hour compilation every second Wednesday. But Afterworld can be watched at any time on mobiles and the internet. Serious sci-fi buffs can check extra content that won't appear anywhere else, such as journal entries, wallpapers and podcasts, from Sony is also developing a game based on the show, with a release planned for March.

Sony has rolled out similar multi-platform releases in the US and UK and these are pending in Japan, Canada and across Europe and Asia.
Sigel says it is difficult to determine the show's value in sales, as worldwide rights are being negotiated now, but he thinks it could go close to earning $1 million an episode in advertising revenue.
Sigel, who was also a writer on Dark Skies, which screened in 1997 in Australia, says Afterworld was written to attract a broader audience than the usual line-up of young geeks. The simultaneous release on sci-fi TV is aimed at drawing older fans who are more comfortable with television to the new media once they realise the show can be watched on the phones they carry daily.
Afterworld is a new type of writing, inspired by the need to produce coherent, strong, stand-alone episodes that can hook viewers inside three minutes.
"I equate it to writing an hour-long drama in haiku," Sigel says.
Interestingly, the short format works partly because its so addictive - a bit like the "I'll just watch one more clip" mindset that ambushes you when you stumble across Rage and find yourself still watching two hours later.
But given the global reach of convergent content - and its potential dollar value - does it matter that Afterworld is still one for the geeks?
"We are happy with sci-fi fans because they are dedicated audiences," Sigel says. "They keep coming back, although that does have its downsides - because you better deliver or else."

Sony has rolled out similar multi-platform releases in the US and UK and these are pending in Japan, Canada and across Europe and Asia.
Sigel says it is difficult to determine the show's value in sales, as worldwide rights are being negotiated now, but he thinks it could go close to earning $1 million an episode in advertising revenue.
Sigel, who was also a writer on Dark Skies, which screened in 1997 in Australia, says Afterworld was written to attract a broader audience than the usual line-up of young geeks. The simultaneous release on sci-fi TV is aimed at drawing older fans who are more comfortable with television to the new media once they realise the show can be watched on the phones they carry daily.
Afterworld is a new type of writing, inspired by the need to produce coherent, strong, stand-alone episodes that can hook viewers inside three minutes.
"I equate it to writing an hour-long drama in haiku," Sigel says.
Interestingly, the short format works partly because its so addictive - a bit like the "I'll just watch one more clip" mindset that ambushes you when you stumble across Rage and find yourself still watching two hours later.
But given the global reach of convergent content - and its potential dollar value - does it matter that Afterworld is still one for the geeks?
"We are happy with sci-fi fans because they are dedicated audiences," Sigel says. "They keep coming back, although that does have its downsides - because you better deliver or else."

Monday, 10 September 2007

Just Picture the Possible Future Geopolitical/Ecological/Military Implications....

I'm slow getting to this, but this blog is partly an archive ( were talking about it in 2000). Anyway, last night on SBS, after a mostly dull documentary on Satan, there was a British doco from this year about the significance of Helium-3 as an alternative energy source. It seems plausible to envision new life breathed into the space race, with new participants joining in, as the article below makes clear, not least of all, China. The program certainly stimulated my memories of Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars, which offers an incredibly detailed, well-researched scenario about the kinds of conflicts of interest and practical problems in general that could arise in the context of space colonialism.

There were already signs of the arrogant "off worlder" mentality of the capitalist leisure class on display, with the Hollywood elite of George Lucas, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, and Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, buying title deeds to moon property (good for 100s of years, apparently [sic]), from some opportunist, who evidently has no entitlement to be offering them in the first place. And yes, Bush has pledged greater commitment to the space program, including the capacity to spend longer periods on the Moon and explore Mars in greater detail. NASA are testing a new generation of space suits that will allow astronauts to spend far longer than the original 6 hours on the lunar surface (they are tested in the Arizona desert).

One part in particular of the documentary that raised my hackles, was the story of a NASA investigator who is dedicated fulltime to finding out what became of the more than 100 pieces of lunar rock that the original NASA mission distributed among many world leaders as signs of good will. In his estimate, more than 90% of them can currently not be traced, and pop up periodically on the blackmarket. Just imagine the likes of Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe, using one as a status symbol prominently displayed on his desk; that would hardly be worthy of the utopian visions of Afrofuturism that have featured on this blog...

In any case, I'll be keeping an eye on The Mars Society as well, of which, of course, Robinson is a prominent member:

Mars Society Australia: From the Red Centre to the Red Planet:

Race to the Moon for Nuclear Fuel
John Lasker
12.15.06 2:00 AM
NASA's planned moon base announced last week could pave the way for deeper space exploration to Mars, but one of the biggest beneficiaries may be the terrestrial energy industry.
Nestled among the agency's 200-point mission goals is a proposal to mine the moon for fuel used in fusion reactors -- futuristic power plants that have been demonstrated in proof-of-concept but are likely decades away from commercial deployment.
Helium-3 is considered a safe, environmentally friendly fuel candidate for these generators, and while it is scarce on Earth it is plentiful on the moon.
As a result, scientists have begun to consider the practicality of mining lunar Helium-3 as a replacement for fossil fuels.
"After four-and-half-billion years, there should be large amounts of helium-3 on the moon," said Gerald Kulcinski, a professor who leads the Fusion Technology Institute at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Last year NASA administrator Mike Griffin named Kulcinski to lead a number of committees reporting to NASA's influential NASA Advisory Council, its preeminent civilian leadership arm.
The Council is chaired by Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Hagan "Jack" Schmitt, a leading proponent of mining the moon for helium 3.
Schmitt, who holds the distance record for driving a NASA rover on the moon (22 miles through the Taurus-Littrow valley), is also a former U.S. senator (R-New Mexico).
The Council was restructured last year with a new mission: implementing President Bush's "Vision for Space Exploration," which targets Mars as its ultimate destination. Other prominent members of the Council include ex-astronaut Neil Armstrong.
Schmitt and Kulcinski are longtime friends and academic partners, and are known as helium-3 fusion's biggest promoters.
At the Fusion Technology Institute, Kulcinski's team has produced small-scale helium-3 fusion reactions in the basketball-sized fusion device. The reactor produced one milliwatt of power on a continuous basis.
While still theoretical, nuclear fusion is touted as a safer, more sustainable way to generate nuclear energy: Fusion plants produce much less radioactive waste, especially if powered by helium-3. But experts say commercial-sized fusion reactors are at least 50 years away.
The isotope is extremely rare on Earth but abundant on the moon. Some experts estimate there a millions of tons in lunar soil -- and that a single Space-Shuttle load would power the entire United States for a year.
NASA plans to have a permanent moon base by 2024, but America is not the only nation with plans for a moon base. China, India, the European Space Agency, and at least one Russian corporation, Energia, have visions of building manned lunar bases post-2020.
Mining the moon for helium-3 has been discussed widely in space circles and international space conferences. Both China and Russia have stated their nations' interest in helium-3.
"We will provide the most reliable report on helium-3 to mankind," Ouyang Ziyuan, the chief scientist of China's lunar program, told a Chinese newspaper. "Whoever first conquers the moon will benefit first."

Thanatourism/Dark Tourism

The following is an excerpt from Markku Kuukasjärvi's paper Dark Tourism-the Dark Side of Man. Part of the reason this research interests me has to do with its possible complication of the seeking out of experiences of hauntological psychogeography. Does thanatourism exist on the same continuum? Afterall, I myself list "bunker archaeology" as an interest on my profile, and those who I've shared travel/exploration experiences with know all about the sites we visited, the historical legacies of which were mapped out/researched carefully before we got there. But as I have future plans for a post on "bunker archaeology", I won't speculate too much about the possible connections here.

I do think though that the increasing Australian limit experience of walking the Kokoda Track may be of a slightly different order to much of what the following article characterises as "dark tourism", letalone the increasing attendance of the Gallipolli commemorations. Reflecting on one particular barrister I met, and then a revealing article passed onto me by my brother in The Financial Review, I was mortified by the existence of the pursuit of limit experience in all aspects of the lives of a substantial number of these people, which they had originally inherited from their jobs. Many of them were riding 100s of kms per week at odd hours, that is, when they weren't competing with each other to be the first in the office, and the last to leave. The article ruefully noted how many organisers of "fun" cycling charity events had become exasperated by these kinds of participants pestering them for details of their "times". Not coincidentally, many of them had taken on Kokoda as a kind of personal endurance test. One wonders if any connection to the original historical context is more to do with the kind of "battlefield nationalism" the odious Prime Minister John Howard has propagated: simply going to work requires similar endurance qualities to the ANZACS, a "band of brothers", as more expansive conceptions of social capital are abandoned in favour of amoral familialism in a neoliberal social Darwinian culture ("survival of the fittest").

Notwithstanding these qualifications in an Australian context, the following research is, in my view, promising in many respects, and no doubt widely applicable:
Death and the society
In eighteenth-century Europe and England, death was everyone's intimate acquaintance, constantly on view. Child mortality rates were extremely high. Crowded living in unsanitary conditions, malnutrition, famine, disease, and accidents ensured life's unpredictability from day to day. Executions were also public. Well into the nineteenth century, an execution day was a holiday, and schools were let out; it was commonly believed that the sight of punishment would deter future criminals. The bodies were often displayed for a long while, the flesh decaying before people's eyes.
Late in the eighteenth century, death actually began to recede in many Western countries, if imperceptibly at first, and attitudes to it changed. Over time, social, religious, and medical changes made dying and death gradually withdraw from view; by the mid-twentieth century they became virtually invisible in most large metropolitan centers, especially in America and England.
Once the cemeteries were shifted away from city centers, the rural cemetery was turned into a delightful garden and the old casual acquaintance with dead bodies was transformed into a spectacle or viewing opportunity. In Paris, people idly dropped in on the morgue, where the door was always open, if they were passing by, and the catacombs, where the bones that had welled up from earlier cemeteries were arranged in ranks and galleries, were popular sites for tourists. (Goldstein 1998: 27-28)
In historical terms, in the sense of visiting sites of death and disaster, dark tourism has long roots that date millennia backward in time. Public entertainment and presentation of death for retribution and public intimidation have long been practiced throughout contemporary societies. During the past three centuries, the withdrawal of death from the public scene has increased death-related mysticism and its deep-rooted fascination amongst the common people.
Now, what and when exactly is dark tourism? Some scholars limit the phenomenon only to the modern times, based on its relation to the post-modern society. What is the nature of dark tourism? These questions we try to answer through different definitions of the phenomenon.

Varying definitions
Being a relatively new theme in academic writing, there are few attempts to define dark tourism. They are not unified in scope and extent, so in order to get a complete picture of what dark tourism is all about, we will investigate the definitions one by one.

Definition by Lennon and Foley
The first researchers to bring dark tourism to the eyes of the academic society were John Lennon and Malcolm Foley with their book Dark Tourism: The Attraction of Death and Disaster. In only seven years, they had stimulated significant academic attention, and had even merited an encyclopedia entry for thanatourism / dark tourism (Singh 2005:63). The term dark tourism was coined, as a means of describing "…the phenomenon, which encompasses the presentation and consumption (by visitors) of real and commodified death and disaster sites" (Lennon & Foley 1996: 198).
According to Lennon & Foley, dark tourism is principally an intimidation of post-modernity. This means the events and places in history, that now have turned to dark tourism destinations, introduce doubt and anxiety about modernity in the viewer’s mind. How did the unsinkable Titanic, the technological pinnacle of the time, sink after all taking 1500 passengers down with her? Why was Martin Luther King Jr., defender of peace, equality and modern thinking itself, assassinated? Moreover, how could the civilized and cultured society of Germany systematically murder 1,6 million Jews in the Second World War?
A more recent similar example could be the massacre in Rwanda, where roughly a million ethnic group members were iniolated in just a hundred days in 1994. The most striking fact outside the massacre was the ineffectiveness of the United Nations and its Western members in particular. Countries like United States, Belgium and France all declined to intervene or speak out against the planned massacres prior to the event actually taking place.
In other words: things that shouldn’t happen in the modern world do happen. Sometimes it is possible to prevent them from happening, and yet it is not done. This introduces the apprehensive question: are we safe in this world after all, and moreover, can we feel safe in ourselves?

Each of the forementioned events and their numerous respective memorials, museums etc. receives significant tourist attention. Each of these are dark tourism destinations with apparently dark connotations.
Lennon & Foley set two more preconditions for dark tourism (in addition to the threat on post-modernity): firstly, that global communication technologies play a major part in creating the initial interest and secondly, that the educative elements of sites are accompanied by elements of commodification and a commercial ethic, which approves taking the opportunity to develop a tourism product. The first means instantaneous media coverage of events, local or global in scale, and hence introduces the collapse of time and space. The latter suggests that apart from being an arrant source of education, a dark tourism site carries the capacity of financial benefit that is being exploited. These conditions are sufficient to satisfy Lennon & Foley’s definition of dark tourism.
These limitations exclude, for example, roughly the sites of battle and other events prior to the start of the twentieth century due to the chronological distance, from being labeled ‘dark tourism’, the reason being that they do not induce anxiety about the present-day society and the direction it is heading. These events are just too far back in time for us to really grasp it.

Seaton’s definition

Tony Seaton coined a similar label in his definitive article, From Thanatopsis to Thanatourism: Guided by the Dark. In it, he describes thanatourism as being, "…travel to a location wholly, or partially, motivated by the desire for actual or symbolic encounters with death, particularly, but not exclusively, violent death, which may, to a varying degree be activated by the person-specific features of those whose deaths are its focal objects" (1996: 234-244).
The definition of thanatourism focuses on the travel motivation, which determines whether -and to what degree - the travel is thanatourism. The actual or symbolic encounters with death constitute the core of the thanatourism phenomenon. If there are special features to the death of a person or the person himself whose death site is visited, it may by its own right boost the desire to visit the site. For example Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley in Memphis, US, celebrates the memory of a superstar, whose loyal fans and other tourists still visit the rock and roll legend’s home decades after his death. Graceland mansion now harnessed for another purpose; it has been turned to a museum and a centre for commemoration. For many, the reason to ‘meet death’ is not the main purpose of travel to this destination.
Seaton furthers his definition by adding two factors. First, thanatourism is behavioral; the concept is defined by the traveler’s motives rather than attempting to specify the features of the destination. Unlike Lennon and Foley’s concept, Seaton recognizes that individual motivations do play a role in death and disaster tourism. Secondly, thanatourism is not an absolute; rather it works on a continuum of intensity based on two elements. First, whether it is the single motivation or one of many and secondly, the extent to which the interest in death is person–centered or scale–of–death centered. Figure 6 illustrates Seaton’s thanatourism continuum.
Figure 6. Seaton’s Thanatourism Continuum. Seaton (1996)

Seaton suggests, as presented in Fig. 6 on the left, that dark tourists whose travel motivation has a weak thanatourism element, have a very person-centered interest in death. The main motives for such travelers are commemoration and respect for the dead. Dark tourists with a strong thanatourism element (on the right in Fig. 6) are defined as having a generalized interest in death and that for them, meeting death is the sole purpose of travel. Scenes of disaster would be a favored destination for such travelers.

Rojek and Black Spots
Chris Rojek coined the third term affiliated with the concept of dark tourism. His expression, black spots, refers to the "…commercial developments of grave sites and sites in which celebrities or large numbers of people have met with sudden and violent deaths" (1993:136). Rojek’s approach to black spots comes nearer to Foley’s & Lennon’s definition of dark tourism with commercialized utilization of the site. It seems that commercialization is indeed regarded as an important component of a dark tourism destination.

Dark Tourism by Philip Stone
Philip Stone, the editor of the Dark Tourism Forum, wrote a definition of dark tourism, which is probably the simplest of the ones presented. He states: 'Dark tourism is the act of travel and visitation to sites, attractions and exhibitions which has real or recreated death, suffering or the seemingly macabre as a main theme.' ( This definition, as well as Lennon & Foley’s and Rojek’s definitions, focuses equally on the dark characteristics of the destination itself, not the travel motivation of the tourists visiting the site. Apparently, we have several terms to describe the same phenomenon, but there are also two clearly distinct approaches.
This leads us to a question: is dark tourism demand-driven (by the taste of dark tourists) or supply-driven (the allure of the destinations), or is it possibly a combination of the two? In addition, we must ask if it is the tourist’s purpose of travel that creates a makes the travel dark tourism or is the destination itself the determining factor to define the phenomenon.

Commercialization and different shades of the dark
It is the mystery of death that may come to mind when thinking of what attracts tourists to visit a dark tourism destination. But also marketing schemes are being implemented, the sites being partially commercial of nature, which also reinforces the pull factor.
"If you’re looking for fun things to do in Memphis and enjoy visiting celebrity homes, don't miss touring Elvis's 14-acre estate in Memphis, Tennessee" ( At Graceland, several Elvis-related packages are being offered from the regular visit to the mansion up to weddings. There are Elvis gift shops to buy souvenirs, the Elvis Christmas Celebration is a package for the whole family and Elvis Wedding Events make it possible for couples to get married in a chappel very close to the King’s mansion.
Clearly the multitude of supply and marketing efforts has an effect on the tourist’s travel decision, especially in highly commercialized dark tourism attractions, like that of Elvis. In contrast, at the museum and concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, where the most important thing is realistic interpretation of the history, the commercial character is not so apparent. For legislative reasons amongst others, admission to the estate is free of charge. Naturally some profit-producing services are included, such as guide-service and selling of books and articles related to the Holocaust, but, due to the historical significance of the site, it would be out of context and beyond good practise to commercialize it further.
It appears that the ‘darkest’ of dark tourism destinations are relatively little commercialized, whereas such death sites of popular culture icons like Elvis with less ‘dark’ associations have a broad range of support services and products. Of course, not all celebrity death sites or sites of ‘lighter’ nature are heavily commercialized, however, an apparent link can be found between the historical and political sensitivity of the site and the level of commercialization.
It has been argued that several stages of darkness exist within the field of dark tourism supply (Miles 2002: 1175-1178). Miles proposes there is a crucial difference between sites associated with death and suffering, and sites that are of death and suffering. Thus, according to Miles, the product (and experience) at the death camp site at Auschwitz-Birkenau is conceivably darker than the one at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. (Stone 2006:151)

Figure 7. A dark tourism spectrum: Perceived product features of dark tourism within a ‘darkest-lighest’ framework of supply. Stone 2006.
The part above the scale-line in Fig. 7 shows the ‘nature’ of the dark tourism destination, that is it measures its sensitivity or the political and historical influence, and the descriptions under the continuum describe different characteristics of the site. With one additional measure, the level of commercialization (placed at the bottom in Italics), we can more accurately decide to which end of the continuum an individual dark tourism destination should be placed.
Looking at the scale, the link to the travel motivation becomes more evident: the more sensitive the site, the more motivation veers toward education and commemoration and the more authentic is the encounter with death. The dark effect is at its strongest at the left end of the continuum and respectively weakest at the right.

Dark sun resorts
There is a kind of dark tourism destination that has all the characteristics of a holiday destination and also features of a dark tourism destination. Outstanding examples are the holiday paradises wiped out by the tsunami in 2004. Before the destructive waves struck the shores of Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and many other countries, the Christmas season was at its peak.
Then, in one short instant, these glamorous oriental tourist attractions turned to vast cemeteries. Nearly 300 000 people lost their lives, amongst them thousands of tourists. Much of the tourism infrastructure was destroyed at the same time.
The holiday resorts were quickly rebuilt, however. In Phuket of Thailand, for about eight months after the tsunami, most hotels had less than 10 % occupancy. One year after the tsunami, most of the island’s hotels were back to business, though many were not doing very well. But then there are places like Phi Phi Don island, a 90-minute ferry ride from Phuket, where the waves' full fury was felt. Rebuilding on Phi Phi Don had barely begun in January 2006; the tragedy's legacy was all too apparent. Official records show 721 died in Krabi province and many of them are still missing. Tourists are gradually returning, but some are still hesitant; they wonder if dead corpses can still be found floating in the sea. (Beyette 2006 in Los Angeles Times)
Tourism is coming back to the rebuilt resorts in Thailand. Sun is still shining, people sunbathe and swim in the sea. Children build castles of sand. The ‘Tsunami escape route’ –signs are the only visible remnant of the total destruction. Everything seems to be back to normal, but something has changed. Most tourists still come for the sun, but there is also curiosity amongst them to see the site of destruction for themselves. Many have seen the shocking videos and pictures of the destruction and at least heard of the rottening corpses floating in the sea.
These beautifully restored beach resorts are actually places where hundreds, or even thousands of people died very recently. Amongst the sun-seekers there are their friends and relatives, coming to pay respect to the victims of the tsunami. The places themselves have not changed, but for some visitors, they have changed forever.
Can we categorize these destinations as dark tourism destinations? Obviously they are very much commercialized, but the commercialization has nothing to do with the tsunami. Reflecting against Lennon & Foley’s criteria for dark tourism destinations, they neither raise questions about the modern society, the cause being a natural phenomenon. It did bring about tremendous suffering and it required enormous casualties, but even so, it does not shake the image we hold about the man-made world (societies, cultures, et cetera). But these destinations do match the general description: "visiting sites of death and disaster".
These destinations have sun seeking and relaxation as the main theme, not death and suffering, so they can neither measure up to Stone’s definition. It appears that – in the scientific reign at least – tourist destinations that have been destroyed by a natural disaster do not qualify as dark tourism destinations. In tourism research, for example, it would be difficult to measure the amounts of leisure tourists visiting these sites, when the number is obscured by estimations about dark tourists at the same site. However defined, one thing is for certain: there is a dark element to each of these sites. Though these destinations cannot be called dark tourism attractions, with some degree of certainty we can assume that there are dark tourists who visit these sites inspired by just this element.
Dark tourism could be summed up as: "The act of visiting places with death, suffering and disaster as the main theme, driven by both the supply of the destination and the visitor’s interest in its extraordinary features". Furthermore, it is important to emphasize the multitude and diversity of dark tourism attractions, all of which by no means serve similar functions and share the same characteristics. As proved by our last example, the tourist may indeed be a dark tourist (visiting a place that, to him, is of death and dying), even though the destination does not qualify as a dark tourism destination.
Either one of the definitions described in this chapter can neither be called wrong nor the absolute truth; they are simply slightly different ways to look at the same phenomenon.

Types of Dark Tourism
There are many forms of dark tourism supply. Some are physical destinations where atrocities and dying have actually taken place; some are purposefully built in another location to commemorate such events. There are dark tourism products where the tragic event is being re-enacted with the tourist participating in the process. Some destinations offer more educative value, some exist mainly for entertainment. In this chapter we focus on the types of tourism on the supply side of dark tourism. In effect, we focus on plain distinguishable characteristics shared by a number of dark tourism destinations. As shown before, destinations can be divided into different ‘shades’ of darkness for example, depending on many factors that affect the dark tourist’s experience. In this chapter only the surface of the dark tourism destination is being evaluated, the different effects that the dark tourist may experience there are left to be introduced in the chapters to come.

Destination categories
The following categorization was developed by the author based on dark tourism literature and few already established dark tourism categorizations (Dann 2001; Stone 2006).
A rough cut of the main different types of dark tourism could be as follows:
Seeing places of mass murder and genocide
Going to museums related to death
Visiting graveyards and cemeteries
Going to dungeons
Battlefield tourism
Slavery tourism
Taking part in re-enactments of tragic events.
The first category of dark tourism, the sites of mass murder and genocide includes sites such as Auschwitz and the Killing Fields of Cambodia and other places where a large number of people have died. The place of the twin towers struck down by terrorist attacks in September 11 2001 that is now known as Ground Zero, also falls into this category of dark tourism. These places also belong to the darkest shade of the dark tourism continuum with closest contact to dying.
The second category, museums and exhibitions, includes any genocide museums, and museums associated with wars. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the Yad Washem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem are probably the most renowned examples of this kind of museums. Also the Imperial War Museum in London, dedicated to viewing the war history of the United Kingdom from the First World War till present, belongs to this category.
The third category is visiting graveyards and cemeteries exclusively or as a part of the travel itinerary. It is claimed that the presence of death and the abundance of related symbols like gravestones and other elements give the dark tourist pleasure that is rooted in Gothic or Romantic art and literature. Père-Lachaise is the most famous of the 20 cemeteries in Paris. Beyond its primary function, this famous Romantic-inspired necropolis has become an open-air museum and pantheon garden.
The dark tourism sites in the fourth category, Dungeons, are usually rich in visual display and are built much for entertainment purposes. The London Dungeon simulates horror from history, recalling events of atrocities from the past. You can journey back to the darker side of European history. The Dungeons often include portrayals of how the punishments for crimes from executions to beheadings and torture were practised in the past. Celebrity death sites can be mentioned as a sub-category of its own. This means the death sites of famous individuals that are still objects of frequent tourism visitation. Dead celebrities like Elvis Presley, John Lennon, James ‘Jimmy’ Dean and Marilyn Monroe still live in the memories of the many thousands of visitors that visit their death sites each year.
The fifth category of dark tourism, battlefields tourism, means visiting locations where battles, both great and small, have been fought. Tour operators arrange trips specifically for this purpose or as a part to a more extensive travel plan. The experience of standing on the ground where soldiers fell and blood was shed can bring the reality of war close to the dark tourist. Many tourists who visit battlefields are war veterans coming to pay respect to their comrades and maybe to bring a tragic period in his life to an end. Some tour operators even arrange trips to active battlefields, like those in Israel or Afghanistan. (
Slavery tourism, also known as ‘roots tourism’, involves visitation of sites that were formerly used in the trans-Atlantic slave trade or that can bring up strong memories about slavery. This is the sixth category of dark tourism. In Africa, guided tours typically focus on the perspective of slaves and the tragedies they were made to endure. Some of the most famous of these destinations are Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle in Ghana, and Gorée Island in Senegal. (Ann Reed:
Re-enactments are a specific kind of dark tourism, and the seventh category in the listing. Here the tourist is a part of the dark tourism product itself. For example the re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings is a yearly event at Battle Abbey in Battle, East Sussex, UK, recreating the Battle of Hastings. It takes place every year on the weekend nearest the 14th October on the site of the historical battle. Another example of a dark tourism re-enactment is the replay of the death of President John F Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. There is a tourism product built around the assassination in which a presidential limousine will take you through the same route as it did on November 22 in 1963. The sounds, the crowd’s cheers and the gunshot are all played in ‘real time’ just as it happened. Even the speeding to the hospital is included in the experience. (Foley & Lennon 2000: 98) The motivation of a tourist taking this kind of trip can just be guessed, but it is as close as it gets to reliving the event.
Dark Tourism in numbers
Even though dark tourism is a growing phenomenon, it is only a small fraction of the worldwide tourism sphere. For example, compared to the most popular tourist attraction in Paris (being the most visited city in the world), Disneyland Paris, even the most visited dark tourism destinations fall far behind. About 12 million people visit Disneyland Paris each year. ( However, if we view the phenomenon from the supply-perspective, the situation looks quite different. Smith stated in her research about war and tourism: "…despite the horrors of death and destruction, the memorabilia of warfare and allied products…probably constitutes the largest single category of tourist attractions in the world" (1996:247-264). In the following, we shortly glance at some of the most popular dark tourism destinations today.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has received 24.1 million visitors as of April 1993 till September 2006. This amounts on average to 1,7 million visitors per annum. The visitors have amongst them 34 % school-aged children, 12 % are international visitors, and non-Jewish visitation to the museum is as high as 90 %. Also over many heads of state and over 2,700 foreign officials from 131 countries have visited the museum. (
In 2004, nearly a million people visited the Anne Frank memorial museum in Amsterdam, Holland. The same year, Auschwitz-Birkenau received over half a million registered visitors, of which roughly one third were Polish citizens. The share of international arrivals at Auschwitz has increased steadily from 47 per cent in 1997 to 66 percent in 2004. The statistics for Auschwitz are gathered at the gate of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and it is optional for individual visitors to register. Hence the actual figure is thought to rise up to a million visitors per annum. All groups are required to register before entering the museum / camp. (;
Graceland welcomes over 600 000 visitors each year, with an economic impact of 150 million dollars on Memphis per year (The Guardian, July 26, 2002). The London Dungeon, also belonging to the more easy-going end of the destinations, welcomes yearly over 750 000 visitors. Other dungeons affiliated to the London Dungeon have been built elsewhere in Europe too, like in Hamburg and most recently in Amsterdam in 2005.
For some destinations, dark tourism can be financially very beneficial. All dark tourism destinations can be said benefit financially from tourism to some degree; some benefit more, some less, depending on the commercial nature of the destination. But the very significant aspect of dark tourism is the education it delivers to the millions of visitors going to a number of destinations across the world. The educational aspect is often central for dark tourism attractions.
Until now, we have become familiar with definitions of dark tourism, its history and its different types, and introduced death’s place in society. Death is one of the keywords in this paper. Along with the next chapter we move to the focal point of this work, the dark tourist’s travel motivation, which has much to do with concepts like curiosity and fascination of death.

Motivation to Dark Tourism – The Intrigue of the Dark Side
It could be argued that we have always held a fascination with death, whether our own or others, through a combination of respect and reverence or morbid curiosity and superstition. However, it is (western) society’s apparent contemporary fascination with death, real or fictional, media inspired or otherwise, that is seemingly driving the dark tourism phenomenon. (Stone 2006: 147)
A number of theories probing into the tourist’s mind have been developed and we hereby investigate those that are most relevant in their ability to explain the appeal of death and dying in the consumer. First, let’s have a look at the effect media has in creating the interest.

The contribution of media
As already mentioned in chapter 3.2, death had started to recede from public view in the late 18th century. The trend continued increasingly so that by the mid-twentieth century death had become virtually invisible, particularly in the Western metropolises.
The written media responded in the nineteenth century by bringing to the fore not only more depictions of death but depictions of more secular, violent, and essentially uninstructive death. This meant that the entertainment value of death had surpassed the value of its educative / informative counterpart.
What's more, the illustrated newspaper exponentially increased the number and proportion of depictions of accidents and natural disasters: railroad crashes, shipwrecks, explosions and floods. These had neither religious significance nor redemptive force, but since they might happen to anyone, they may well have contributed to general and unspecific increases in anxiety. Disasters are undeniably news, but in other respects the papers were only responding to a fascination with accounts of violent death that ran alongside the movement, which attempted - if not to entirely wipe out - at least to beautify the end of life.
The news, which was heavily invested in descriptions and images of violent death from the beginning, has never ceased to be so; the general opinion today is that it has gone ever farther in the same direction. (Goldstein 1998: 39-40)
Media feeds the hunger for death, and the hunger grows the more it is fed. Viewers get used to seeing death, imagery becomes increasingly violent when closer and more powerful encounters with death are sought after. We are in a treadmill with no signs for exit. Now let’s get back to the core of the situation: what is it that makes death and violence so appealing in the first place?

The dark tourist experience
The following story is completely fictional.
"Guards are assaulting the prisoners: beating them, spitting on them, slicing their skin with their Hitler Jugend -knives. The prisoners are begging: please, stop, no more! They are wondering what in God’s name they had done to deserve it. They are beaten with tycoons all over the body until there is no single solid bone in their bodies. They wither in great pain and finally drift away to silence. The guards have them thrown away outside to a ditch like dead animals. Only a pond of blood reminds the victims once were there."
Whether this incident was a video clip, part of a short story, or any portrayal at all, it seems impossible to find anything pleasurable in viewing it. Could the viewer actually get excited of seeing something like this? It is difficult to imagine; the mind is naturally prone not to think about it because it is naturally programmed to seek away from personal suffering and pain. Is there another way to look at it?
As Goldstein reports: "Reactions to displays of violence specifically may be considered enjoyable and wholesome if they are deemed mediated by identification with a successful aggressor." The aggressor, in this case the guard, is a very powerful person just there and then. He has the divine power to decide whether the prisoner should live or die. There is no way the prisoner could stand up to the armed guard. The guard can do anything at all and walk away clean without needing to expect any consequences. Placed in a safe setting like a movie or a sanitized portrayal of death with sufficient distance to reality, the observer may actually be able to enjoy the show. Goldstein emphasizes the fact that the attainment of pleasure from violent spectacles requires identification with aggressors and victims, whether they fight for justice or not:
"-- people identify with fictional heroes, but also with the crudest of fictional villains, in order to attain "vicariously" the gratifications that these agonists experience. Through such identification, it is said; people transcend their limited personal experience" (Goldstein 1998: 163).
Goldstein also claims that the dramatic exposition that dwells on violence is thought capable of freeing the consumer from conjectured fears and phobias, distrusts, and ill emotions. Also here, identification and vicarious experience are the keywords. (Goldstein 1998:184) This miraculous cleansing is deemed to happen through a cathartic experience when the consumer has finished watching a tragedy.
As Goldstein seems to stay strictly in the world of fiction when posing these claims, could it be possible that also non-fictional portrayals of violence and death could induce similar experiences? The undeniable popularity of the videos about traffic accidents from light car crashes to fatal collisions and clips of people getting hurt and even dying on-screen, all of which can be found in abundance on the Internet, shows not only that is it possible to enjoy portrayals of real death, but that it already is popular entertainment. Can we comfort ourselves with the notion that the people who watch this kind of entertainment do it solely for empathy for our fellow humans? Obviously we cannot.
However difficult it is to measure the pleasurable emotions in observing violence and death, not to mention finding its core causes, we should at least give it a try. If there is, as hypothesized, excitement of some sort in the experience of a dark tourist, there also has to be an explanation.

Enjoyment of observing death
There have been some scientific, and also rather unscientific attempts to find the causes for the enjoyment of observing portrayals of death and violence. As previously shown, the pleasure doesn’t necessarily arise from observation of death itself, but from identification with the villains and victims involved. The theory suggesting that the gratification comes from the person being able to transcend, in other words to rise above his personal experience through an aggressor or victim, is not enough to form the complete picture and it is surely not the only explanation.
Some quite mystical accounts adding to the transcendence theory have been made. Huxley (1971) refers to the radical inadequacy and isolation of human existence to argue the rewards attainable through interfusion of self and other. "Ideally," Huxley states, "one would recognize and feel this interfusion with the company of Good and the Just, with saints, angels, and the Deity. Alternatively, one might hope to feel at least oneness with all of humanity. However, one can also transcend normal existence through feeling the interfusion of one's existence with the Evil and Unjust, with vampires, demons, and Satan". It is transcendence of this kind that exposure to brutality and terror is supposed to foster. In common language, the feeling of being together with the Evil could bring one to feel like he is something greater, and so bring satisfaction. (Huxley 1971:67) How the interfusion with Evil can make one feel more powerful is not perfectly clear. However, increased amounts of self-mastery, control and competence through a ‘powerful’ ally could certainly satisfy some needs (see Self-esteem needs on the Travel career needs ladder). The interfusion with a greater power could thus help to fill a void that emerges from the need to have purpose in life and a feeling of being part of something greater.
Another interesting viewpoint is that of Dickstein’s proposed in 1984. Dickstein suggests that, as we are brought up, from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, we are taught to repress our fears and superstitions and to believe that the society will protect us. If we do this, we are taught, others would too. Dickstein goes on: "But in some level we never really believe this". He argues that literary and cinematic terror makes us vicariously seek for ways of coping with the insecurity, which is caused by the disbelief in being safe: we don’t actually trust in being secured by the society.
It is claimed that displays of violence help people deal with real fears of things that come from within and from outside and even to enable them to rehearse their own deaths. Moreover, these displays are said to "help audiences to confront personal guilt indirectly, so that they might break free from real or imagined sins through the controlled trauma of the experience". (Rockett, 1988: 3) Controlled is the word that needs to be stressed here. It means that no matter what happens in the setting, the viewer/partaker can walk away freely at any time, should the anxiety pour over his limits. There is a great resemblance with dark tourism: a few hours visit to a site of death can already be mentally exhausting, but as the visitor knows that it will last only for a short time, or until he no longer wants to stay, the stress can be sustained. After the visit, it is relieving to jump on the bus and leave the gory place behind.
If there is distrust in the society’s ability to keep us safe and we are therefore subconsciously feeling unprotected, watching death and getting close to it in order to create a feeling of safety might seem quite far-fetched. On the other hand, as common-sense psychology lets us assume: we are afraid of the unknown. In the present-day society, this is what death and dying really have become. Through becoming familiar with death and through understanding death and suffering, we could be released from the fear, and be able to restore death’s place in the circle of life. This would free us from escaping from death and so result in decreased amounts of anxiety within ourselves. Perhaps in this way, it is possible that we are able to experience relief at displays of death and suffering.
Let us move our attention to a real event in history, to the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. Would it be frightening, thrilling and somewhat eerie to be sitting in his car when it all happened, even if you knew it was a just a repetition of the actual events and you knew already what was ought to come? Anyway one looks at it, for some the experience could indeed be exciting to varying degrees, depending on the individual of course. Similarly exciting as in the combination of fear and excitement when you are about to do the bungee jump, or when speeding with the car so you can feel the adrenaline rushing all through the body. They all offer thrilling experiences, no matter what the context.
Hence also the imaginary dark tourist’s experience, whose sole intention is to meet death and the macabre, could be simplified down to sheer thrill seeking. In this case, it is the encounter with death that is at the very core of generating the mental stimuli, thus relevant to account fully for the travel motivation. This is quite a generalized explanation on why the macabre has become a product for consumption, but it is laid on a solid need-based foundation. People require sufficient amounts of physical and mental stimuli in order to feel contented, discontentment leads to seeking of additional stimuli. It can be said that in regard to stimulation, there is also a balance state that the mind aims to reach. But it is also dependent on the individual’s previous experience: the level of stimulation that was enough in the past will not be sufficient to satisfy the need in the future.
Theories tracing the origins of the sensation in the face of death and suffering are various. Based on the accounts stated before and mixed by the variables of individual interpretation and the type of a dark tourism destination, it is clear that a unifying theory is undoable. Therefore, we must be satisfied with a number of explanations that, from their own perspectives, contribute to explain an individual experience.

Personal interpretation
We all interpret what we observe, in this case portrayals of violence and death, according to our own experience and according to the context it is displayed in. If the fictional story written before were a video clip of an old action film placed in a prison environment, it would be somewhat meaningless to us. If we knew it was a true story from the Killing Fields with real people in it, we would be likely to feel pity and perhaps anger. If, taken still a step further, the prisoner had been our grandfather and it was a true story of his last day, the reaction to the display would be completely different. Should our grandfather have been the guard, yet another interpretation of the same event would emerge.
Similarly, those who have a connection to the Holocaust on a personal level through a family member for example, are prone to react differently to an exhibition about the Holocaust to those who have no connection to it at all.
People are also different in sensitivity. For some, violence on television is too much to watch, while others view it as entertainment. Head chopped of a villain may be ‘cool’ to a teenager, whereas his mother watching the same program is forced to turn her eyes away. If we have seen much violence and dying on television, it is possible we don’t react unless the film is extremely cruel and wretched, enough to make the head spin. On the other hand, having witnessed much real suffering and dying may also make the person hypersensitive towards portrayals of death and violence, real or fictional.
Different dark tourists can hence have a myriad of different experiences when visiting a dark tourism destination, depending on their past, connection to the event, and their personalities. Also the company the dark tourist is travelling with can affect the experience remarkably. Group tourists and individual travellers can have big differences in their experience.
Nonetheless, it is not only psychological factors that form the dark tourist’s experience. Time too can change attitudes and our understanding of past events.

Effect of timely distance
As learned in defining the phenomenon of dark tourism, time is an important factor in the interpretation of past events. According Lennon & Foley, dark tourism is an intimidation of the very foundations of modernity (2000: 11).
Human rights, modern technology and science have all been abused in the past in order to gain control, wealth or territory. Many such events have ended up with tremendous human suffering and tragedy and many of those places are now dark tourism destinations. If we think about medieval wars and the barbaric executions of the era or gladiatorial fights far in the past, they do not shake the picture of our current world. This is because they are so far apart in time from the contemporary world that they cannot be fitted in the current context. Thus there is no anxiety or worry about the modern society and the visiting such a site will not result in inner turmoil.
Martin Luther King was a symbol of equality and thus a symbol of modernity. He was the embodiment of all that the Ku Klux Klan despised. In 1968, he was assassinated and the people’s picture of the civilized, equal world was turned upside down. This event is in the past, and yet it is so close that it could happen again. Moreover, still after the Second World War, mass murder and genocide have happened in many parts of the world. This is an obvious source of anxiety in our current world and as such it fully satisfies Lennon & Foley’s requirements for a dark tourism destination.
As a generalized guideline, we can say that the closer the dark event is chronologically, the stronger the impact and the darker the dark tourist’s experience.

Dark tourism and curiosity
Having stories from friends, documentaries on television and numerous references to destruction, suffering and dying presented allover in media, it is not surprising there is so much interest in the hard side of life. As people have been introduced to a topic, they are often prone to find out more information about it: people are curious by nature.
Curiosity is more or less a natural instinct; curiosity confers a survival advantage to certain species. Curiosity is common to human beings at all ages; from infancy to old age, and is easy to observe in many other animal species. Many aspects of exploration are shared among all beings and present in everyday life: babies readily taste anything they get in their reach and the first thing dogs will do when entering a new premises is sniffing all the corners. Strong curiosity is said to be the main motivation of famous scientists. In fact, it is mainly curiosity that makes a human being an expert in a certain field of knowledge.
Many things are also interesting to us only because they are rare or unusual. Discussing people’s interest for violent entertainment, Carroll suggests that horror films do not so much discharge negative emotions as appeal to our curiosity: "horror attracts because anomalies command attention and elicit curiosity" (1990: 195). Horror movies present society's norms only to violate them. This violation of norms holds a fascination for people to the extent that they rarely see these violations in everyday experience. The prevailing norms in today’s society are supporting freedom of speech, equality and individual rights, for example. Many events that dark tourism memorials and sites stand for were to violate these and many other norms and often ended up with loss of many lives or even mass murder. Hence dark tourism destinations could be thought of sites that simply satisfy our curiosity above all.
Morbid curiosity is a term often used when discussing dark tourism motivation. It is a compulsion, a drive fixed with excitement and fear to know about macabre topics, such as death and horrible violence. In a milder form, however, this can be understood as a cathartic form of behaviour or as something instinctive within humans. This aspect of our nature is also often referred to as the 'Car Crash Syndrome’, arising from the fact that is seems impossible for passersby to ignore such accidents. (
Before applying the presented theories to explain the dark tourist’s behaviour, let’s take a visitor’s view on real dark tourism sites. This is meant to help in understanding the dark tourist’s experience in similar places: places of torture, dying and saddening human fates.

Places of dark tourism
The descriptions in this chapter are grounded primarily on the author’s personal visits to the sites during spring and autumn 2006. Having observed these sites of human tragedy contributes to more detailed descriptions and hopefully also to a better understanding of the atmosphere typical at this type of dark destinations. Source materials acquired from the sites and personal discussions with the employees/site managers were used to build up the sites’ histories and factual framework.

Killing Fields of Cambodia
It was year 1975 in small peasant country of Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge had seized power in guidance of their leader Pol Pot. During the first few days after Cambodia had become Democratic Kampuchea, all cities were evacuated, hospitals cleared, factories emptied, money abolished and monasteries shut. The goal of the new rule was to turn back the clock in Cambodia and make it ‘the number one communist state’, following the example of Mao’s China. They planned to expel or destroy existing social groups, for example, people of foreign origin, education or employment.
On its quest for total power in the country, Pol Pot’s Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) felt no pity. One famous motto, regarding the New People, was: "To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss." New people meant civilian Cambodians. Anyone who had been living in the urban areas before 1975, were forced to move to rural areas and were made a New Person. Under the communist regime, approximately 1,7 million people perished. They died of executions, starvation and forced labour. (Kiernan 1996: 8, 27)
The notorious interrogation centre S-21 of the Khmer Rouge in central Nom Penh (capital of Cambodia) was used to imprison people, usually for some months. During this time they were ferociously tortured. The purpose was to force confessions out of them, so they could then be exterminated in the Killing Fields just outside the city. Out of 17 000 prisoners in Tuol Sleng, seven are known to have survived.
Nowadays the Tuol Sleng prison and the Killing Fields are popular tourist destinations in Cambodia. The prison has been converted to a museum, though it is very plain and simple in presentation. Before the Khmer Rouge coup d’etat it was as a high school. The former cells / interrogation rooms have metal bunks in the middle of the room and a photo on the wall showing how the prisoner was tortured or simply its result: a dead corps. Some of the rooms have torture instruments such as metal rods placed on the bed.
The Khmer Rouge took a photo of every prisoner in S-21. These photos are arranged onto big boards in the second building of the museum. The eye-to-eye contact with the victims causes the biggest impact on the visitor. The faces are grave; some of still show a glimpse of hope, some eyes have already dimmed. There are faces of young children and men and women at all ages. On the second floor of the second museum building there are biographies of both former prisoners and officers at the Tuol Sleng prison. The third building on the right side when looking from the entrance gate offers more pictures and a repeating short film telling more about the mass murder of the Cambodians. On the way out it is possible to buy literature about the event in a kiosk placed inside the – frankly said – quite a beautiful courtyard.
Once you have visited the Tuol Seng prison, you will logically continue to the Killing Fields about twenty minutes to half an hour drive away on a moped taxi (a popular and affordable means of transport in the area). The dusty and bumpy rural roads lead you to Choeung Ek, where at the end of the road it is difficult even to say you are at the site of mass murder. The site itself – where 17 000 people were executed – may seem surprisingly small. Quite much in the centre of the site there is a small tower-like building stacked with shelves. When you get closer to it, you notice something extraordinary: over 8000 human skulls are put on the shelves, arranged by age and gender. On the floor under the shelves there are the clothes of the victims, cleaned and put there after the excavation of the mass graves in 1988. One may start to wonder: is this kind of presentation necessary? One thing is for sure: it is powerful.
An open-air building some tens of metres away from the white tower offers a detailed map of the site and has further information on several large glass-covered boards hung on the wall. Not far from either one of the buildings there are several hollows in the ground. The information plates tell they are the pits where the victims were thrown after execution. Half the corpses now lack heads, which are presented in the white tower. Under some of the trees, there are human bones still lying around like wooden sticks. Until now, most visitors have seen enough of the Killing Fields. A bookshop selling books about the mass murder and genocide is just outside the compound.
The prison in Nom Penh and the Killing Fields are positioned at the darkest edge of the dark tourism continuum. On average 200 visitors visit the Killing Fields per day. The surprising fact is that only three per cent of these visitors are Cambodian. For comparison, in Auschwitz-Birkenau the host natives constitute one third of all visitors.
The Killing Fields and Tuol Seng are very plain and are not at all commercialized apart from the book sales on-site and the possibility to engage a guide. These can hardly be called commercialization either, since their main purpose is education, not moneymaking. The authentic nature of these dark sites increases their appeal among dark tourists. The Killing Fields have come to stay.

The River Kwai Bridge
The River Kwai Bridge was a part of the railway built by Allied prisoners of war and Asian workers under the Japanese occupation during 1942-43. The route was planned between Kanchanabury in Thailand to Moulmein in western Burma to support the Japanese occupational forces in Burma and the planned invasion of India.
The quarter of a million people forcedly or otherwise employed people were living and working in varying conditions at the construction camps. Often there were shortages of food, medical supplies and sanitary facilities. In many cases the camps were a living hell. The working days were inhuman and in the tropical climate many deceases were lurking for the malnourished and exhausted labourers: malaria, cholera and the tropical ulcer were common.
During the sixteen months of construction of the 416 km track, a hundred thousand workers died. Some other estimations about the death toll are much higher. There are three museums dedicated the horrors of the Thai-Burma Railway, two of which are at the other terminal point in Kanchanabury: the Thailand-Burma Railway Museum, opened in March 2003, and the JEATH War Museum.
The JEATH War Museum (Japan, England, America, Australia, Thailand, Holland) is an open air bamboo hut museum on the bank of the Mae Klong River and has been built as a copy of an original prison camp and established to collect various items connected with the construction of the Death Railway by prisoners of war during the Second World War, 1942-1943.
The museum is divided into two sections: Section I and Section II. Section I displays a lot of pictures of the prisoners of war during their real life in the camp and Section II displays the instruments that the prisoners of war used while they were in the camp.
The first thing that strikes you when you visit the museum is the bamboo hut with a collection of photographs displayed. The hut is a replica of the conditions the POW's (prisoners of war) were forced to live in. The museum displays graphic images of the terrible conditions inflicted on the many men that died and the many that survived. To bring these atrocities to the public domain, the museum exhibits many photographs taken of real situations either by Thai's or POW's. Alike other war and death-related museums, there are also many real accounts written by former POW's, their relatives and friends.
Not a long drive away from the museum, there are the remains of about 7000 war prisoners put neatly in a cemetery. From the bank of river Kwai it is possible to take a scenic train ride on the Death Railway to get a good look at the railway and the sceneries around it. Many tourists can also be found walking along the bridge on a sunny day, posing and taking pictures with the infamous river Kwai in the background. (Image Makers 2005: 10, 15, 18, 25, 41)

Focus on Auschwitz
This chapter is an introduction to the history of the largest of Nazi death camps and at the same time, a descriptive analysis of the most infamous dark tourism destination. The author visited Auschwitz in October 2006 mainly for research purposes, but there was plenty of time for observing people visiting both the museum and the camp sites. School children, adults and elderly; Jews, Christians and Muslims; Poles, Germans and Americans; teachers, doctors, historians; married couples and singles; men and women: people from literally all walks of life could be seen visit the Museum each day. Auschwitz has become (or more correctly: has been made) an emblem of tolerance, individual freedom, equality and unity of mankind. It stands for all that once was punishable by death.

Camp history in short
The site of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, is the best-known place of martyrdom and destruction in the world. This camp has become a symbol of the Holocaust, of genocide and terror, of the violation of basic human rights and of what racism, xenophobia, chauvinism and intolerance can lead to. The name of the camp has become a synonym for the breakdown of modern civilization and culture. (Swiebocki 2003: 6)
The Nazi vision of the thousand-year Reich envisaged a whole new Europe. Germans and the Nordic blood were considered superior to anything else, and hatred of democracy and Marxism were prevailing ideologies of the Nazi regime. Another fundamental principle was the Germans right to Lebensraum (living space), which meant to extend far beyond the German borders. The Jews were the main targets of extermination to achieve a ‘racially pure’ state, but the purification extended also to other groups, such as the mentally challenged, homosexuals and the Gypsy people.
The SS (Schutzstaffel, German for Protective Squadron) founded Auschwitz in the spring of 1940 as a concentration camp, similar to those that already existed in Nazi Germany. Following the occupation of Poland in 1939, the mass arrests of Poles had filled all the existing prisons to overflow. A camp was suggested to be set up in order to keep up with the flow of political prisoners. The 20 prewar barracks in the town of Oswiecim in southwest of Poland were found suitable for the purpose as no construction work was required and the town had convenient road and railroad connections. These reasons encouraged the Nazis to expand the camp on an enormous scale. After the first political prisoners arrived at Auschwitz on June 14 1940, by mid-1941 also Soviet POWs, Czechs, French and Yugoslavians were being sent there. These deportees consisted mainly of the intelligentsia and other ‘dangerous’ elements of the occupied countries, amongst them a number of Jews.
Auschwitz started to serve a second function in 1942. It became the largest extermination camp in the Third Reich. In its operation from 1940 to its liberation in January 1945 approximately 1.5 million people were murdered in the camp. Most of the records were destroyed prior to liberation and thus it is impossible to know the exact death toll. Gas chambers became the notorious instrument for mass murder. At least 1 100 000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz and on the physical examination of the SS doctors upon arrival, 70-75 % of the newcomers were sent to death in the gas chambers. In most part, they were elderly, women and children and those otherwise considered unfit for hard physical labour. If prisoners were not executed or gassed, they usually died of plagues, malnutrition, physical abuse and occasionally of the inhumane medical experiments conducted by Dr Joseph Mengele. (Swiebocki 2003: 8)

Establishment of the museum
Months after the end of the Second World War and the liberation of the camp, a group of Polish survivors from Auschwitz began to spread the idea of establishing a museum in memory of the victims of the death camp. In July 1947 the site was called into being as Oswiecim-Brzezinka State Museum, secured by a law to protect the grounds.
The museum’s task was to secure the grounds and buildings of the camp and to collect and gather together evidence and material related to the Nazi crimes so that they could be studied and made accessible to the public. There are 154 original camp buildings in the Museum and Memorial (56 at Auschwitz I and 98 at Birkenau).
Thousands of objects belonging to the people who had been doomed to die were found at the site of the camp or nearby after liberation, including suitcases, Jewish prayer garments, artificial limbs, cooking pots, glasses, shoes and tonnes of human hair. All of these amongst many other exhibits are on display in the Museum.
Auschwitz museum is very active in its quest for educating the public. The Museum carries out scholarly research, organizes exhibitions shown in Poland and other countries, issues its own publications, organizes lecturers, conferences, seminars, and symposia for teachers and students from Poland and other countries and offers a year-long postgraduate course for Polish teachers on Totalitarianism, Nazism and the Holocaust. Most of the education happens nevertheless amongst the visitors to the Museum. Up to date an estimated 28 000 000 people have visited the museum.
The mission of the museum is not only to present the history as it happened, but also to make people remember the victims of the camp through not only the statistics but as real and individual people, who suffered extraordinary atrocities and for the most part, passed away here. Anniversary meetings are held to gather former prisoners and their families, government officials and media together to learn over again about this important lesson in our history.

Inside the museum
Both the former concentration camps Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau are accessible to the public. Places in the camps where specific events have taken place are marked with black granite tablets with descriptions and pictures from the time the camp was still in operation. They help the visitor better to understand what happened there, since much was destroyed by the Germans when they fled from the approaching Red Army. The remains of gas chambers in Birkenau (blown up with dynamite) are described with this kind of tablets and between the ruins there is the International Monument erected in 1967. The grand monument was built on top of the railway track that led to the Crematoria IV and V further away.
Several buildings at Auschwitz I are used for the so-called national exhibitions and the general exhibition. The national exhibitions illustrate the life and fate of the prisoners from different countries who were deported to the camp. The general exhibition consists of the collected objects that once belonged to the prisoners.
It is mostly school groups and other groups that pervade the silent alleys between the cellblocks in Auschwitz and amidst the wooden barracks in Birkenau. From about ten in the morning onwards the museum in Auschwitz I is full of people: school children, tour guides, and interested by-passers walk around in the museum waiting to go on their scheduled tour. The clerks working at the information desk are very busy coordinating tour guides to different groups. The atmosphere feels as if it were any ordinary museum. All visitors know however that this is a place where people were murdered by the thousand, and hence some caution can be sensed in the air. After the visit some seem relieved, others clearly anxious. The usual way to visit the museum is to start with Auschwitz I and then move on to Birkenau afterwards. A free shuttle bus connection is established between the two camps. In the vastness of the Birkenau camp, where up to 100 000 prisoners could be held at one time, groups and scattered individual visitors move along the railway track and wander around the empty barracks that used to house the prisoners. About 90 % of the barracks in Birkenau had been destroyed, but the ones that remain unveil the horrendous living conditions the prisoners had to face.
Information tablets are placed along the recommended route of visitation to allow the visitor to get a grasp of what happened and where amongst the numerous similar barracks.
Auschwitz is still a place of horror, even though the factories of death, the gas chambers and crematoria have not been active for over sixty years. Nevertheless, that time is reawakened to anyone who visits the museum and gets close to the unimaginable terror that once ruled there. Visitors’ motives and feelings to this site are measured and discussed in the next chapters.