A Conference Tourist ? and His Confessions: Theorizing on Conference Tourism, Aeromobility and Environmental Change

A Conference Tourist ? and His Confessions: Theorizing on Conference Tourism, Aeromobility and Environmental Change


K G Høyer, Oslo University College, NO


In this paper I would like to theorize on conference tourism, aeromobility and environmental change.


In this paper I would like to theorize on conference tourism, aeromobility and environmental change. It is based on two main sources; firstly own diary notes ? participatory obervations - from many years of travelling to and fro and participating at many international research conferences. Secondly, new empirical research material from Norway on the ecological and climate change aspects and importance of leisure time activities in late modernity. Conference tourism is in this context mainly considered to belong to leisure time, a view elaborated on in the theorizing. Crucial concepts are: grobalization, aeromobility, life in corridors, something-nothing continuum, all analysed and conveyed both within a humour-tragedy tradition, much used in Norwegian ecophilosophy.
In Norwegian ecophilosophy human life in the industrial growth society ? or a grobalizing society ? is described as life in a pipe system. In my analyses of conference tourism I have launched the concept life in corridors to catch some major aspects of the lives of academics in a world of international conferences. As in the historical term the Polish corridor they are channels established through foreign territories to achieve highly efficient communication. But there is only communication along the corridor; it is closed to both sides. There is no communication to the territories they pass through. This is the very condition for efficiency.
In the life as a conference tourist ? which also is a life in and with aeromobility - there are corridors everywhere. Along the highways ? or high speed railways ? to the international airports for departure. For the luggage on transport belts. Following all the others to the departure gates. Gates; no airport term is as important as this. Then, going through the gates for embarking. Following the others to your seat. The airplane itself follows an aircorridor, be it in the troposphere or the stratosphere. When landing, everything goes in reverse. Seemingly incessantly forwards and backwards, just as we have learnt in Newtonian physics. And you end up in an international hotel after having been carried along new corridors from the international airport you arrived at. But everything looks the same wherever you are in the world. It is really disenchanted. The airports are alike. The airport landscapes with their connected transport corridors look the same. The planes are the same. The international hotels are all alike. Even the language is the same; the globalized Anglo-American, the corridor language for the whole world.
This same language is also the conference language itself; also in the conferences where researchers gather to present their latest findings within the language turn in discourse analysis. There are not much differences between the various international conferences; though there are always some aspects of pleasant enchantment included, so that they can compete with other conferences. But in the disenchanted conference settings there are always too many paper presentations, too many sessions, and too little time for discussions, and as there are conference hoppers, there are professional session hoppers, only there to listen for a short time before running to another session. And of course the main point is presentations, or perhaps rather to be re-presented; not discussions, nor deliberations as the post modern term would be.
Conference tourism is globalized as most other major forms of tourism; it is part of the globalization of academia, and it serves to make academics players in the processes of grobalization, which is the George Ritzer term. Conference tourism is a global industry where competition on a global market is an important factor. Along a something-nothing continuum, they belong to the nothing?end, as the grobalization they are part of. But they definitely lead to something, in the basic ecological systems. The corridors are closed to the sides in every respect, also regarding the possibilities to experience effects on ecology. A tunnel view on reality is an obvious implication of being a busy corridor traveller. But in an age of ecological enlightenment- as Ulrich Beck claims we are in ? as academics we are all very well informed about the severity of these effects. Or are we?


Association for European Transport