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Disconnected and Unplugged: Experiences of Technology Induced Anxieties and Tensions While Traveling

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The purpose of this study is to explore the experience of being discon-nected while traveling for technologically savvy travelers. This paper will explore how new technologies 'separate' travelers from the physical and embodied travel experience, and how experiences and tensions caused by being disconnected or unplugged are negotiated. For this study, travelers' experiences were elicited through a series of online interviews conducted primarily through email and Facebook. Pearce and Gretzel's (Int J Tourism Sci 12(2):1–20, 2012) technology-induced tensions and recent literature on internet/technology addiction provide a conceptual framework for the analysis.
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Disconnected and Unplugged: Experiences
of Technology Induced Anxieties
and Tensions While Traveling
Cody Morris Paris, Edward Alexander Berger, Simon Rubin,
and Mallory Casson
Abstract The purpose of this study is to explore the experience of being discon-
nected while traveling for technologically savvy travelers. This paper will explore
how new technologies separatetravelers from the physical and embodied travel
experience, and how experiences and tensions caused by being disconnected or
unplugged are negotiated. For this study, travelersexperiences were elicited
through a series of online interviews conducted primarily through email and
Facebook. Pearce and Gretzels (Int J Tourism Sci 12(2):1–20, 2012) technology-
induced tensions and recent literature on internet/technology addiction provide a
conceptual framework for the analysis.
Keywords Mobile technology • Tourist experience • Smartphone • Technological
involvement • Spillover
1 Introduction
The developments in mobile networks, broadband, and Wi-Fi internet access,
mobile devices and apps, cloud computing, and online communities have altered
the travel and tourism landscape (Hannam et al. 2014; Paris 2011). Traditional
binaries of tourism research (home/away, work/leisure, presences/absence, etc.)
C.M. Paris (*)
School of Law, Middlesex University Dubai, Dubai, UAE
e-mail: c.paris@mdx.ac
E.A. Berger
University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
e-mail: edward.a.berger@gmail.com
S. Rubin
Freelance Tourism Researcher, Farmington Hills, MI, USA
e-mail: simondrubin@gmail.com
M. Casson
Double Tree Boston North Shore, Danvers, MA, USA
e-mail: mallory.casson@hilton.com
©Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015
I. Tussyadiah, A. Inversini (eds.), Information and Communication Technologies in
Tourism 2015, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-14343-9_58
803
have blurred as we become more involvedwith our smart devices, social media
(Hannam et al. 2014), and other recent advances in information and communication
technologies. Recent research has also started to examine the impact of being
constantly connectedon mental health, family, work, and other aspects of daily
life (Harwood et al. 2014).
We are witnessing a hybridization and virtualization of physical and virtual
spaces (Paris 2009,2012a), as well as a blending of homeand travelspace and
time, which has been referred to as digital elasticity(Pearce 2011; Pearce and
Gretzel 2012). Individuals everyday use of technology frames their use while
traveling (Wang et al. 2014). While these innovations and the conceptualization
of the touristexperiences have received considerable recent attention in the
academic literature, there has been relatively less attention focused on how indi-
viduals negotiate this constant (and expected) connectivity and the pervasive use of
devices while traveling. Further research is needed into how travelers manage
challenges and threats to their connected and technologically mediated lifestyles
and how they address the tensions and anxieties that they experience when they are
disconnected or unpluggedwhile traveling (Germann Molz and Paris 2013).
The close virtual proximity (Paris 2011), constant connectivity, intimacy
afforded (Germann Molz and Paris 2013), and smartphone involvement/depen-
dency (Wang et al. 2014) can all distract individuals attention from their physical
experiences. Constant connectivity enhances the sense of obligation for travelers to
maintain a normative level of presence, attention, and intimacy with their friends
and family (Larsen et al. 2007). Pearce and Gretzel noted that the experience of
being unplugged involves several strong sensory elements or more precisely the
absence of highly familiar sensory inputs(2012: 39). For some of the hypermobile
elite and an expanding number of individuals managing complexity caused by the
mobilites of the contemporary networked society, being unpluggedis upsetting
and produces feelings of distress and anxiety (ORegan 2008). As individuals
navigate their increasingly complex work, social, personal, family lives in both
the realworld and the virtual world, there is a clear expectation and perceived
necessity to be constantly connected.
On the other hand, some tourists are now choosing to be unpluggedwhile
traveling, seeking an escape from connectednessand, in a sense, therapeutic
rehabilitation. The distress, anxiety, or even rehabilitationof these connected
travelers parallels recent literature that articulates and conceptualizes excessive,
disruptive, and/or risky technology usage and connectivity using terminology from
the study and treatment of addiction (Young 1998; Byun et al. 2009; Harwood
et al. 2014). Turel et al. (2011a,b) noted that individuals have been shown to have
difficulty controlling their use of technology in particular cases, which they attrib-
uted in part to social commitments, expectations, and to addictive dispositions tied
to the technology itself.
The purpose of this paper is to explore the tensions and anxieties of being
disconnected while travelling through the narratives and experiences of techno-
logically savvy travelers(who are defined by their self-identified high level of
social media and mobile smart device use).
804 C.M. Paris et al.
2 Literature Review
2.1 Travelling in Dead Zones
The perception of being disconnected, unplugged, and/or travelling through a dead
zoneis quite different nowadays for travelers. While previously, this perception
would be based on physical isolation, today it is also based upon a perceived virtual
isolation, as travelers juxtapose their disconnectedand connectedexperiences.
While dead zones have been defined as sparsely populated, remote destinations that
lack Internet connectivity (Pearce and Gretzel 2012), the same concept can be
applied when individuals are unable to connect while traveling even in heavily
populated locations. Service disruptions, lost smart-phones, inability to find a free
Wi-Fi hotspot, or insufficient bandwidth can all result in a dead zoneexperience
for travelers.
The dead zone, whether expected or unexpected, can create a sense of anxiety or
tension for travelers used to the affordances of connected travel (Germann Molz
and Paris 2013) and daily life so common today. Pearce and Gretzel (2012)
conceptualized several technology induced tensions resulting from traveling in
technological dead zones. These include social communication, work communica-
tion, security escape, and the immediacy connectedness tensions.
2.2 Social Tensions
Social tensions highlight the confrontation of the expectations of constant connec-
tivity (Pearce and Gretzel 2012). These tensions can be exacerbated for individuals
that have high levels of use and involvement with their social technologies.
Increased use of a smart-device while traveling can be disruptive to an individuals
experience and to people in close physical proximity to them. Additionally, a high
level of involvement with the smart-device and other social technologies could
indicate, in some cases, a potentially problematic and anxiety creating habit.
Increased levels of Smart-device involvementhave been found to influence/
predict feelings of depression and stress (Harwood et al. 2014). Walsh et al. (2010)
noted that individuals mobile phone involvement had both cognitive and behav-
ioral dimensions. The cognitive component of involvement includes thinking about
the phone, the need to check to see if anything has happened, feelings of
depression or social isolation when separated from the phone, and the keeping the
phone in close physical proximity. Behaviorally, smart-device involvement can
result in the preoccupation and compulsive checking of the device for updates,
messages, or other rewards, which can become automatically triggered behaviors
that can lead to the formation of habits or addiction (Harwood et al. 2014).
These habitual behaviors can spill over during travel, as Wang et al. (2014)
found that many of their respondents attributed a large part of smartphone use
Disconnected and Unplugged: Experiences of Technology Induced Anxieties and... 805
during travel to habits, norms, and obligations originating in their daily lives.
While the checking of a smart-device can provide individuals with interesting
updates, events and lots of utility (especially during travel), they also are used to
alleviate boredom and cope with everyday situations that do not provide stimuli
(Oulasvirta et al. 2011) or from which they want to escape (sitting next to a stranger
on a bus) (Wang et al. 2014). However, many of these updatesare full of trivial
information, another aspect of the social tensions highlighted by Pearce and
Gretzel (2012). They allow a proliferation and sharing of the most mundane aspects
of daily life or the travel experience (Hannam et al. 2014), which may actually
motivate people to escapeand disconnect by choice while on vacation.
2.3 Security-Escape Tensions
Another main technology induced tension suggested by Pearce and Gretzel (2012)
is the security escape tension: the perceived issues of increased risk regarding
personal safety and health, concern with notifying others of personal wellbeing and
the worry caused to others. Nowadays individuals are followed through a surveil-
ling gazethat allows their personal networks to unobtrusively monitor or track
them as they travel (Germann Molz and Paris 2013). Often this monitoring in the
background allows individuals to feel at ease, knowing that their safety netis in
close virtual proximity.
However, when disconnected, particularly unexpectedly, tension and anxiety
can arise for both the individual and their network (Paris and Rubin 2013). On the
other hand, this close virtual proximity, expectation of connection, and high level of
virtual intimacy can create feelings of discomfort and claustrophobia (Crawford
2009) driving people to disconnect. Of course, in cases of planned or expected
disconnection, any anxiety (both personal and for an individuals social network)
can be mitigated with some planning ahead.
2.4 Immediacy Connectedness Tensions
The immediacy connectedness tension can create an introspective environment
where the traveler is focused on the present. In these reflective experiences dormant
skills can be stimulated, for example using a paper map, and individuals may
evaluate the necessity and level of existing connectedness outside of the dead
zoneexperience (Pearce and Gretzel 2012). This tension can be seen as a mani-
festation of a society of connected individuals who are becoming increasingly
embedded in their technologically mediated personal, social, and professional lives.
Recent advances in technology have removed barriers of physical presence and
geographic distance to allow for immediate connection and interaction anyplace
and anytime. This can result in an individual being both virtually at homeeven
806 C.M. Paris et al.
while being awayphysically (White and White 2007). It is becoming more
common for there to be an expectation for immediate connectivity and response
both at work and among personal relationships. For the travel experience, this can
often distract individuals from their immediate surroundings and experiences, as
well as isolate travelers from social interactions with other travelers and individuals
in host communities (Paris 2012b). How those tourists or workers mitigate that
conflict or tension may be determined by their initial travel intent and the level of
perceived necessity for staying connected.
2.5 Work Communication Tensions
Work communication tension negatively creates a sense of missed opportunities,
perceived work overload, compromises assumed availability, and limits microman-
agement (Pearce and Gretzel 2012). For some travelers, being disconnected (even
unexpectedly) can be beneficial or perceived positively as the often overused
excuse “I cant be reached” is actually true. For others though, the violation of
the assumed availability caused by being disconnected can cause work related
anxieties. This anxiety can be dependent upon whether the traveler was implicitly
intending to work while traveling, and thus the motivation for the trip is an
important consideration. However for many individuals their work, travel, and
virtual connectivity are all interconnected. Regardless of the capacity or work to
travel ratio, greater importance has to be placed on delineating between the
example of working-holiday tourist and the tourist stuck working (Clarke 2010;
Uriely 2001).
As mobile devices are often used for both personal and work related communi-
cations, there is the potential for tensions to arise and be exacerbated (Berger and
Paris 2014). These devices are liberating users from the confines of work spaces
creating and extending physically antisocial behaviors into home spaces and other
non-work environments (Turel et al. 2011a,b). While being constantly connected
does allow individuals a certain level of perceived control over their work based
communications and activities (Middleton 2009), unexpected disconnection can
violate this perceived sense of control. A respondent of Middletons study went so
far as to explain, that the connection (through a Blackberry) can be treated as a
“pet” that can be coddled and attended to regardless of location. Turel et al. (2011a,
b) suggest that organizationally pervasive technologies can result in technological
addiction, even though they can increase productivity. Other recent studies have
suggested that social networking technologies are addiction prone(Tarafdar
et al. 2013; Turel and Serenko 2012), and a large number of adults consider
themselves addictedto smart-devices (Ofcom Report 2011).
Disconnected and Unplugged: Experiences of Technology Induced Anxieties and... 807
2.6 Technology Addiction
Clinicians, researchers, media, and the wider public have given more attention to
non-substance addictions including those to the internet, videogames, mobile
devices, etc. (Karim and Chaudhri 2012). Research on the legitimacy of technology
and Internet addiction began in the mid-1990s (Griffiths 1996). The technology and
Internet addiction literature has focused on classification (e.g. Widyanto
et al. 2011), how individuals can become disengaged from reality, the similarity
of symptoms to other types of addiction, and estimations of the addictions prev-
alence (Young 1998). Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) interchangeably
referenced as Problematic Internet Use has been an area of academic interest
since the term was coined in 1996 by Ivan Goldberg. One early attempt at classi-
fying the behaviors related to IAD was provided by Youngs(1998) criteria,
included in Table 1. While attempts like Youngs have resulted in mixed results
and have received criticism within the psychology literature, they are still quite
useful as an exploratory framework for the analysis of technology use.
Recently, Dodes(2009) examination of the psychology of addiction suggests
that an individuals anxieties can provoke feelings of helplessness or powerless-
ness, leading to a perceived threat to the persons self-esteem and ultimately a
compulsive behavior that displaces those feelings. Within the context of our paper,
this could suggest that control over being disconnectedwould play a strong role in
the anxieties and tensions that arise for travelers. Research by Middleton (2007)on
BlackBerry users explored the relationship between user perception of balance and
control over their devices, and the practicalities that resulted from their devices
always-on and always-connected nature. Middletons findings suggested that the
constant connectivity and mobility of the device influences the individuals ability
to disconnect as both user reliance increases and corresponding expectations of
social and professional responsiveness increase. Even in cases where individuals
were shown to make clear distinctions between work and non-work times, the
introduction of the BlackBerry encouraged that time be spent disproportionately
on work-related activities.
In an early study on mobile social networking, Humphreys (2008) built upon
existing research that showed that in addition to aiding the maintenance of existing
social connections, mobile phones can contribute to atomization and privatization
which hinders in-person interactions. Humphreys research suggests that even when
individuals temporarily disconnect from the network, it is difficult to disengage
because updates are readily available and archived once their connection is
re-enabled.
Germann Molz (2006) argued that these technologies are playing an increasingly
important role in shaping the way we relate to and engage with our peers socially
within a travel context. Turel et al. (2011a,b) note that tourists have been shown to
have difficulty controlling their use of technology due to social obligations, norms,
and expectations as well as to the addictive behaviors tied to the technology itself,
which was also a key spillover effect of smartphone use in everyday life on travel in
808 C.M. Paris et al.
Table 1 Respondent quotes, technology-induced tensions, and technology addiction criteria
Youngs criteria Respondent quote
Likely tension
if in a dead
zone
Pre-
occupation
Constantly thinking
about past/future use
...Im sure technology constantly dis-
tracts me from travel experiences
because Im obsessed with it and itsin
my face every day
...Every time your smartphone beeps,
buzzes, or vibrates when youre trying
to absorb yourself in another culture
or place, youre losing something in
the experience
Immediacy
connectedness
Increased
use
More and more time
required to reach
satisfaction
...For the first 3 days of the trip to
Greece (before my phone was lost/
stolen), I was constantly checking it
and using it as a way to fill time. I
would play saved games on it versus
getting to know the people around me
or exploring my surroundings. I also
felt more distracted, as I was
responding to e-mails and texts from
people on an almost real-time basis
Immediacy
connectedness
Security escape
tension
Inability to
stop
Cannot reduce/halt
use of internet
services
...I dont know what “unplugging by
choice” would mean—being in a place
with Wi-Fi signal and not using it?
For the last 5 years I havent travelled
without either my laptop, or my iphone
or both I chose places to visit or stay
based on whether theyre good or not,
not on whether or not they have Wi-Fi
Social
communication
Withdrawal
symptoms
Noticeable impact on
mood and state of
mind
...The only times I have real Internet
Withdrawalsymptoms are when there
is *supposed* to be Internet access
but it doesnt work properly
Social
communication
Lost sense
of time
Regularly lose track
of time and impor-
tant deadlines
...Focusing too much attention online
with social media sometimes causes
me to forget the special moments of
travel, worrying more about posting
things online than enjoying the occa-
sion. Most of the time my girlfriend,
now my wife, sets me straight
Immediacy
Connectedness
Risky
behaviors
Jeopardizes key pro-
fessional or personal
relationships
...Technology has presented a chal-
lenge at times to relationships. I
remember sitting across the table in a
cafe in Siberia with my girlfriend last
winter (who was kind enough to come
with me to Siberia in winter). I was
well engrossed in social media at the
expense of what could have been a
great real life conversation. In hind-
sight it was downright rude
Immediacy
connectedness
Social
communication
(continued)
Disconnected and Unplugged: Experiences of Technology Induced Anxieties and... 809
research by Wang et al. (2014). With this brief review of literature on the impacts of
recent technological devices on the travel experience and the potentiality of ten-
sions and anxieties to form for travelers when they are disconnected, this study
examines the short narratives of tech savvytravelers. Through these shared
experiences of disconnection, this study contributes an exploratory glimpse into
an important dimension of the technologically mediated travel experience.
3 Methods
For this study, travelers own experiences were elicited through a series of online
interviews conducted primarily through email and Facebook in August 2013. Three
prompts were used: (1) Share a story or experience about how technology (mobile
or social media) has disrupted or separated you from the travel experience,
(2) Share a story or experience from traveling in a technology dead zonewhere
you were disconnected from your online social networks, (3) Have you ever
unpluggedby choice while traveling? Why? Please share a story.
A snowball sampling technique was employed via Facebook and email in
August 2013, during which self identified heavy usersof social media and mobile
devices were asked to respond to the three prompts. The respondents included
13 men and 12 women and a range of ages (eleven 21–30, eight 31–40, two 41–50,
and four 51+ years old). The sample was composed of individuals from North
America (16), Europe (5), Australia (2), and Latin America (2), and about half
earned some sort of income through their blogs based upon their own personal
travels. Travel bloggers were specifically targeted in order to gain insights for
individuals that were (at least partially) financial dependent on being connected
and traveling.
Analysis of responses was conducted using a multi-stage process of coding/
thematic analysis. During the first stage two of the researchers independently coded
a sample of data using a prioricategories (presented in column 4 of Table 1) based
on Pearce and Gretzels conceptual framework Technology-induced tensions in
Table 1 (continued)
Youngs criteria Respondent quote
Likely tension
if in a dead
zone
Escapism Excessive use of
internet to avoid real-
life problems
...When Im traveling in an area with
Wi-Fi, the temptation is always there
to check email and Facebook, post to
Instagram, and so on. When youre in
a place (disconnected), the temptation
is removed and its one of the most
refreshing things ever
Social commu-
nication
Immediacy
connectedness
810 C.M. Paris et al.
dead zone tourism(2012). During this initial coding both researchers recognized
the prevalent use of addictionterminology used by the respondents. Therefore an
additional set of a prioricategories (presented in column 1 of Table 1) were
established based on Youngs(1998) criteria on technology addiction, and all of
the data was then coded by the same two researchers using both sets of a priori
categories. The two researchers agreed on the definitions of the a prioricategories,
based on the explanation of these categories in the previous applications. It was
important that a shared understanding of the categories was established, as the
calculation of inter-coder reliability is not appropriate for this situation as the
coders both agreed that the a prioricategories do not fulfill the assumption that
they are independent, mutually exclusive and exhaustive (Cohen 1960).
4 Discussion of Findings
In Table 1, illustrative quotes are organized according to Youngs(1998) criteria
for Internet Addiction. Additionally, for each criteria, one or more of the technol-
ogy induced tensions(Pearce and Gretzel 2012) are included. In our study, we
found that the travelersreliance and expectations associated with social and mobile
technologies often corresponded with negative experiences that they shared. An
example of this is clearly illustrated by the Siberian cafe
´story in Table 1. Several
respondents gave examples of how technology distracted them from their travel
experiences, often unconsciously at the time, as they were preoccupied with their
social and mobile technologies. Respondents conveyed a feeling of being
“programmed” to fill downtime with technology vs. real world experiences, a
similar response to findings in Wang et al.s(2014) recent study on smartphone
use during travel.
Pearce and Gretzel (2012) noted that technology induced tensions often cause
both positive and negative feelings for travelers when they are disconnected, and
that the intensity of the tension is related to the unexpectedness of being discon-
nected/unable to connect virtually. This me
´lange of feelings is evident in some of
the selected quotations presented in Table 1. Additionally, how those tourists
mitigate and deal with the tension is influenced by their initial intent of trip, the
perceived necessity of staying connected, and the perceived level of control/choice
over the disconnection.
In our study, many of the travel bloggersnoted that they experienced high
levels of work communication tension when they were going into a dead zone, but
if they had advanced warning they would employ strategies, such as scheduling
posts for when they were away, in order to minimize the impact of being
disconnected. Conversely, several also noted occasions where they had very neg-
ative responses or anxieties due to an unexpected disconnection. Dead zones create
a space for introspection that is warranted, yet unwelcomed, for some whereas it is
desired and demanded by others. Individual responses to these tensions often were
expressed using metaphoric addiction language (Table 1).
Disconnected and Unplugged: Experiences of Technology Induced Anxieties and... 811
Pearce and Gretzel (2012) noted several positive outcomes from the technology
induced tensions of dead zone tourism, including the reflection, evaluation, and in
some cases behavioral change in regards to the value or necessity of connected
travel. Our findings suggest that some individuals are able to rehabilitatethem-
selves, change their behavior, and/or actively seek out opportunities for travel in
dead zones. This is an important consideration for the tourism industry as techno-
logically mediated travel becomes even more prolific. It also provides an area for
future study as research on how individuals are coping with technology addiction
while traveling is largely uncovered within the tourism literature. It has, however,
started to receive increasing amounts of coverage in the media (Doyne 2013; Horn
2013; Lovitt 2013).
Groups like Digital Detox (thedigitaldetox.org) have emerged promoting “off
the grid, no boss, no internet, no cell phone, no clock, no work” events, retreats, and
summer camps. In 2013 NBC posted an article titled, “Tech-addicted travelers
disconnect to reconnect” which cited that 80 % of smartphone owners dont leave
the house without their device. It highlighted rules such as “no cell phones in the
bedroom” and a Yoga retreat that provides a 15 % discount to guests that turn over
their electronics for the entirety of their stay (Lovitt 2013). The New York Times
has offered suggestions such as the “phone stack game” during dinner parties, and
establishing no-phone zones (Doyne 2013). The popular tech blog Gizmodo
published, “The Right Way to Disconnect from Technology on Your Next Vaca-
tion” which outlined several rules that ranged from the benign “Change your whole
home screen, actually” and “Make rules and stick to them” to the more extreme
“Delete work email from your phone” and “Dont pack your laptop” (Horn 2013).
Many of our respondents gave examples of personal rules, such as leaving their
phones at homeor carving out specific times/places during their trips when they
would reconnectvirtually. Additionally, several individuals suggested that escap-
ing the connected world allowed them to refresh their minds, allowing for a better
vacation experience. However, for some respondents, the trial disconnection,
even for a short period while traveling actually caused them a higher level of
anxiety. In these cases, the respondents suggested that even if they physically
turned offtheir devices or unpluggedmentally they were still thinking about
being connected or what they were missing out on by being disconnected.
Hotels are developing offers and programs, to target the potential digital
escapermarket, where guests are asked to give up their technological devices.
For example: Four Seasons Costa Ricasdisconnect to reconnectprogram, Lake
Placid Loungescheck-in to check-outpackage, Riverplace Hotel in Portlands
romantic revivalpackage aimed at rekindling romance between couples without
the digital distractions, and the luxury boot campat the Ranch in Malibu which
allows travelers to rid themselves of technology while also focusing on physical and
spiritual health (Haq 2013).
The findings also illustrate a particular tension for mobile networked workers,
like the travel bloggers in this study, who experience a tension between a depen-
dency on being connected and self-identified problematic usage. One respondent, a
full time travel blogger, reflected on a time in Dahab, Egypt where he shut himself
812 C.M. Paris et al.
up day and night in his room writing stories for his blog. He expressed concern that
he was only emerging for meals, and was mindful of the fact that he was actually
missing out on the destination he was in, and that hed probably never have a chance
to return.
Popular travel bloggers, such as Ayngelina Brogan, author of Bacon is Magic,
who are professional travelersand make their income through social media and
the internet have written on the advantages and need for disconnecting. Her blog
post notes, “I know I have a problem” and when commenting on being in a quasi-
dead zone states, “I have felt the immediate, panicky withdrawal symptoms. I know
they will go away. I know that life will go on if I am not on Facebook”. She closes
the post out by noting that, “My addiction to the internet burns me out and drains
my creativity”.
5 Conclusion
The tensions and anxieties when disconnected while traveling are likely to increase
as individuals embrace the freedom of mobility afforded by smartphones, mobile
bandwidth, and cloud computing. As our ability to socialize, play, work, and learn
become more dependent on mobile technologies and less dependent on physical
location, a greater level of spillover between travel and non-travel experiences is
likely. Thus, in addition to the great opportunities and potential afforded by the
advancements in mobile technologies, there are psychological, social, and even
ethical concerns that should be examined. In the travel context, one particular
aspect that will influence the level of anxiety and type of tensions travelers
experience by being disconnected is their level of control over the decision to be
connected. A traveler can take measures and precautions to avoid being plugged
inor reachable, for example, leaving the work phone at home. Additionally, if a
traveler knows ahead of time that they are traveling to a dead zone they can take
additional precautions for keeping connected even while absent by scheduling blog
posts, informing their online networks that they will be off-the-grid, etc.
In these cases the traveler has a level of control or prior knowledge about the
level of connectivity to expect during their travel experience, and even if it is
uncomfortable, connectivity can still be managed. In cases where there is a lack of
control or prior knowledge disconnection can have a negative impact, for example
an individual is disconnected by accident due to a lack of infrastructure or connec-
tivity that is inconsistent and/or expensive creating an unexpected barrier to staying
plugged in. The intent of the trip tends to foreshadow the travelers reaction to the
dead zone. The purpose of travel needs to be delineated, because the basis for the
travel could determine the perceived joy or anxiety associated with not being
connected.
In practice, there may be some potential for disconnected holidaysto be
developed and marketed toward travelers seeking refuge from their over-connected
and over-stimulated daily lives. Additionally, the findings of this study suggest that
Disconnected and Unplugged: Experiences of Technology Induced Anxieties and... 813
cases of disruption or inability to connect while traveling can cause quite powerful
emotional and behavioral responses, which has practical implications for the
industry. Customers now have a general expectation that they will be able to
connect while traveling, and barriers to this connection could cause negative
reactions, negative satisfaction, and thus have real-world implications for tourism
businesses.
This paper provided an exploratory glimpse at the experiences of being discon-
nected for a small group of travelers. The findings are not generalizable, but instead
provide a basis for further study. As this study focused primarily on technologically
savvy individuals from predominately western societies, future studies should
extend the breadth of this study to include populations from other cultures/societies
contexts. Additionally, studies examining the behaviors and reactions to being
disconnected during travel for solo travelers, travelers in groups or with family,
business travelers, and travelers with different motivations could provide additional
insights. Future studies employing ethnographic, auto-ethnographic, quantitative
and experimental methods would be appropriate.
Acknowledgements An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Travel and Tourism
Research Association annual conference held in Bruges, Belgium in June 2014.
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... People who are self-motivated to engage in digital-free tourism, experience professional and personal commitments that make them feel oppressed and they cannot escape the constant surveillance [24]. Much of the disconnection literature focused on negative emotions such as anxiety and tensions [25], and the idea of being off-the-grid creates anxious and distressing feelings for some people [26]. Some studies have focused on the emotional effects of being disconnected, e.g. ...
... Some studies have focused on the emotional effects of being disconnected, e.g. Paris et al. [25] researched anxieties and social tensions. Tanti and Buhalis [27] explored five consequences (availability, communication, information obtainability, time consumption, and supporting experiences) of being (dis)connected. ...
... However, these studies did not explore personal and professional commitments, as well as the pressure of copresence as key triggers of these negative emotions. Germann Molz and Paris [28], Paris et al. [25], and Neuhofer and Ladkin [29] suggested that there are lack of empirical studies on digital-free travel with few exceptions [e.g. 25,30]. ...
Chapter
In our ubiquitously connected world, it becomes more and more difficult to disconnect and leave all personal and professional commitments behind while on holiday. Mobile technology allows us to be connected wherever and whenever we want, but at the same time shifts expectations towards constant availability and responsiveness among friends and colleagues. Applying a qualitative research approach, we explored how social and professional commitments influence decisions and experiences of travelers that go on a digital-free holiday. Using the theoretical lens of surveillance, we found that travelers are digitally surveilled not only by their friends and family members on social media, but also by their superiors and colleagues through email and social networks. The expectations of being constantly available and responsive extend into their holiday, which makes it difficult for travelers to truly disconnect and enjoy their digital free travel experience. At the same time, they are inclined to engage in social surveillance of their peers which creates the constant urge to learn about any updates from their private and professional networks. We contribute to the tourism and information systems literature, by explaining how private and professional commitment influence the digital-free travel experience and extend the concept of surveillance to the work context.
... This behavior is considered a sign of a new psychological disorder of nomophobia, standing for NO MObile Phone, defined as a fear of being deprived of one's smartphone and mobile internet (Bhattacharya et al., 2019). Overuse of ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) have been associated with techno-stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression (Bhattacharya et al., 2019;Elhai et al., 2016;Farooqui et al., 2018;Hayes et al., 2016;Hoge et al., 2017;Scott et al., 2017), addiction (Hoving, 2017;Paris et al., 2015;Pearce & Gretzel, 2012), overweight (Vandelanotte et al., 2009), digital eye strain (American Optometric Association, 2020), sleeping disorders (Kwon et al., 2013;Soni et al., 2017), and loneliness (Kwon et al., 2013;Odac & Kalkan, 2010). ...
... The increasing popularity of tourism and accommodation products like DFT, digital-free cafes and restaurants, digital dead zones, disconnected holidays, and digital detox camps has led to increased academic interest Egger et al., 2020). Important articles on disconnected tourism, particularly digital detox, include Cai et al. (2020), Li et al. (2018), Paris et al. (2015), Pawłowska-Legwand and Matoga (2020), and Pearce and Gretzel (2012). Li et al. (2018) described three stages of media discourse regarding digital-free tourism, which is very close to digital detox holidays: introduction (2009-2013), growth (2014-2015), and development (2016)(2017). ...
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... These include smart hotels, smart restaurants, and smart visitor attractions where Wi-Fi is free, of high quality, and always on (Bolan and Simone-Charteris, 2018). Failure to provide high quality Wi-Fi connectivity at event venues, in and around tourism attractions, or in specific hotel and accommodation establishments represents the failure of local businesses and service providers to formulate and facilitate new digital strategies for the future (Paris et al., 2015;Pearce and Gretzel, 2012). The use of beacons, 'a low-cost, micro-locationbased technology that use Bluetooth low energy (BLE 4.0) for communicating with beacon-enabled devices in people's smartphones or tablets' (Bolan and Simone-Charteris, 2018: 741), may be distributed across a wide area in facilitating high quality Wi-Fi connectivity. ...
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Examines influential factors such as the demographic, political, economic and technological changes, which will affect the nature, trends and participation in tourism, hospitality and events.
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This volume seeks to review and stimulate interest in a number of emerging and fresh topics in contemporary tourist behaviour and experience. Topics explored include the effects of newer technologies on tourists’ behaviour and experience, tourists’ experience of scams, safety and personal responsibility, individual perspectives on sustainability, and some dimensions of tourists’ personal growth, relationships and altruism. The topics are bound together by an integrative approach to conceptualising experience which is seen as an ensemble of orchestrated sensory inputs; affective reactions; cognitive mechanisms used to think about and understand the setting; actions undertaken and the relevant relationships which define the participants’ world. A special emphasis is placed on tourists’ stories as a pathway to access the nature of tourists’ experience. Potential research directions in the field are indicated throughout.
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