Capturing adventure: trading experiences in the symbolic economy

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In the early twenty‐first century, participation in adventure sports activities represents a fertile means of reinforcing personal identity and cultural distinction, secured through the quest for, and accrual of, symbolic capital. This article draws on a case study investigation of one Scottish whitewater rafting company to explore the technologically mediated nature of the accrual of symbolic capital in the adventure sports sub‐field. It is concluded that experiences have emerged as new tradable commodities. An industry of commercial adventure organisations has emerged to service a demand characterised by a quest for managed instantaneous gratification and edited memories, rather than for authenticity and self‐discovery. At the soft, or mass, end of the adventure market, it is perhaps now possible to talk in the language of ‘post‐adventure’ whereby both producers and consumers stage a theatrical performance which produces a visual representation of authentic experience transferable to a virtual witnessing audience. The post‐adventure experientialists, although possessing little knowledge of the intricacies of the adventure sports activities in which they participate, know and value them in terms of their mediatised status value and cool fashion statement. Whereas the adventurer of the past secured status through achievement, the post‐adventurer has no such concerns as their gazing social network recognises and bestows value to displays of spectacle, style and show.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-78
Number of pages25
JournalAnnals of Leisure Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007
Externally publishedYes


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