Hyper-staged authenticity on the technological frontier in Westworld’s post-human theme park

Lovell, J. and Hitchmough, S. (2018) Hyper-staged authenticity on the technological frontier in Westworld’s post-human theme park. In: Yeoman, I. and McMahon-Beattie, U., eds. Science Fiction, Disruption and Tourism. Channel View. (In Press)

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The chapter explores what happens when the tropes of the nineteenth century frontier meets the Science Fiction trope of the sentient android on the “technological frontier.” The concept of the ‘Wild West’ of America has long attracted tourists with forms of staged authenticity (MacCannell, 1973). The nineteenth century frontier is frequently associated with a legendary narrative of pioneering individualism and adventure, leading to romantic tourism, re-enactments and cowboy theme parks.

The television series Westworld is highly relevant to future tourism studies because it is set in a theme park which is hosted by androids and visited by wealthy guests requiring bespoke tourism.

Issues of authenticity are central to this discussion, nowhere is the difference between copies and fakes more clearly shown than in discussions of the post-human (Braidotti, 2013) and hyperreality (Baudrillard, 1981; Eco, 1986). The chapter deconstructs aspects of the television series narratives, plots and interviews with key designers, introducing the idea that authenticity of the future may be hyper-staged (adapted from MacCannell, 1973). Hyper-staged authenticity is typical of western science-fiction, marrying the two central strands of nostalgia with futuristic technologies. Authentic period details which are intended to enhance the immersive experiences of tourists use new technologies to duplicate the past in Jurassic Park-style scenarios, moving ever-closer to resurrecting original sources. While Westworld appears to offer a utopic future consumer dream of “fast authenticity,” comprised of transformative and immersive experiences, but this masks a system of surveillance and enhanced control. The technology forges a new dystopia; the out of control theme park, where the visitors seeking safe risks are locked into a more authentically brutal wild west nightmare. Unethical decisions repeat the past mistakes, the aggressive suppression of Native American peoples on the frontier is recreated in the abuse and oppression of the android hosts and the resultant chaos as, inevitably, the post-humans take over the tourist attraction. The theme parks in Westworld act as metaphors for change, demonstrating how, as technologies become more sophisticated, future tourism trends will reflect the not simply the advantages, but the fear of a post-human and post-Anthropocentric universe.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Tourism; authenticity; American frontier; science fiction; Westworld
Subjects: E History America
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General) > G0149 Travel. Voyages and travels (General) > G0155 Tourism
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Divisions: Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > School of Human and Life Sciences
Depositing User: Dr Jane Lovell
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2018 10:13
Last Modified: 21 Aug 2019 12:37
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/17710

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00