ABSTRACT

Introduction I began this book with a story about Mark, a tech-savvy backpacker who used his laptop computer to connect from the courtyard of an Indonesian guest house to his friends back in the United States. Like Mark, the travellers featured in this book are people at play, experimenting with new technologies, trying on different social roles, testing alternative versions of co-presence, probing the elastic boundaries between the material and the digital and working out new rules of engagement. If there is one thing that tourists and travellers do well, it is play. Travellers have always been among the first to try out new communication technologies – from postcards and telegrams to phone calls and faxes and now emails, texts and blogs – while on the road and far from home. To some extent, the Internet and mobile digital devices can be seen as the latest mode of fulfilling a familiar desire to stay in touch while on the road. However, the immediacy, interactivity and ubiquity of new mobile and media technologies have afforded travellers unique ways of engaging with, as well as detaching from, distant social networks while on the move. Interactive travel offers a glimpse into these new technological and social practices in the making. It also offers a glimpse of who we are, as a society and as individuals, and who we want to be.