Attractions as narratives, narratives as attractions: case study graffiti at Gäddtarmen, Finland

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Edelheim, JR 2009, 'Attractions as narratives, narratives as attractions: case study graffiti at Gäddtarmen, Finland', paper presented to Tourism and Hospitality - the Nordic Ways, 18th Nordic Symposium in Tourism and Hospitality Research, Esbjerg, Denmark, 22-25 October.


This paper introduces the idea that a tourist attraction can fruitfully be regarded as anarrative, and that the vocabulary of narrative analysis can be used to study tourist attractions of all types. The article presents a case where the major attraction is graffiti scratched into the rock face of two small islands separated by a deep sound called Gäddtarmen, or in English; Pike’s gut, outside Finland’s south-western most point in Hangö. The graffiti at Gäddtarmen has developed over a 400 year period and the narratives the graffiti opens up to visiting tourists is in this case the main attractor. This paper aims to analyse the subjective features that informs and constructs the actual narrative of the attraction. Leiper, (1995) was frustrated with definitions of attractions that too simplistically concentrated on attractions, with assumptions about the ‘magnetism’, that ‘pull’ travellers to them. He regarded these ideas as nonsensical statements that considered attractions to be ‘metaphysical mysteries’, and highlighted the need to view attractions from an informed scientific viewpoint, he suggested that attractions have to contain three necessary elements: ‘a tourist or a human element, a nucleus or a central element, and a marker or informative element’ (1995, p. 141 - 143, emphasis in original). Leiper specified that the nucleus can be an object, but does not have to be one; it can rather be a place, a precinct, an event, or even an atmosphere. ‘[A]ttractions can occur almost anywhere’ he suggested (1995, p. 145, emphasis added). A weakness with Leiper’s attraction system is that his structural approach emphasises the set ‘reality’ of each element in the system. This point is important to note from a poststructuralist perspective as neither nucleus nor marker can be regarded as anything but fluid entities that are constructed through their contexts rather than actual objects that are discovered in their context. Fiction, as much as facts, has an impact on how attractions are perceived: neither should be seen as more important than the other. A description of an attraction is not only a factual analysis, but is equally a part of a larger combination of texts that together form the attraction as an abstract concept in the reader’s mind. In order to investigate these fluid entities the vocabulary of narrative analysis will therefore substitute Leiper’s ‘marker’ and ‘nucleus’, and an attraction would thus be defined as being constituted by a tourist, texts, stories, and a fabula. Note that the first and last element of the definition are in singular form, while the two middle elements – text and story that replace Leiper’s (1995) ‘marker’ – are in plural form. This is to point out that each tourist constructs an individual fabula from a range of different information sources.
Reference: Leiper, N 1995, Tourist Management, RMIT Press, Melbourne.