Dissonance through multidimensionality: the multiple production and multiple reception of heritage

The argument for dissonance through multiple production most clearly affects the view of the past referred to in Section 2.3.3 and visualized in the model of heritage production, according to which the past is a resource used to create products for contemporary consumption through a process of commodification involving selection, interpretation, and target-group marketing. For this to happen, the producers must make decisions—that is, selections concerning the resources used, the products created, and the markets to be skimmed. According to the cultural-studies view of heritage, different heritage products can be created using different resources; but, equally, with the help of different interpretations, different heritage products can be created using the same (potentially scarce) resources which can then be sold and consumed in the same place: “The same site, town or country markets a product range” (Tunbridge and Ashworth 1996: 8; Ashworth and Hartmann 2005b).

The first decision to be made, according to Ashworth and Hartmann, is the choice between generalization and particularization (cf. Section 2.1.3). Tourism advertising usually opts for generalization, in the sense of reducing the complexity of national or local histories in the interests of an accessible, universal, easily consumable, and recognizable narrative for tourists. By contrast, the distinctions between places take center stage when it comes to the particularized marketing of places or sites that convey political messages (Ashworth 1994). When different expectations are placed on a heritage product, the risk of heritage dissonance is high. In this case, the producers could decide to serve only one market with a (particular) product, thus ignoring other potential markets and sources of profit; they could try to appeal to all markets with a (highly generalized) product, which would probably result in lesser product satisfaction in all segments; or they could use the same resource to create different (particular) products for different markets—which, however, often leads to conflicts (Boniface and Fowler 1993; Tunbridge and Ashworth 1996).

The second decision to be made relates to the creation of a homogenous or a heterogeneous product. Tunbridge and Ashworth say that homogeneous products are usually created first, such as those used for city marketing (either generalized or particularized): “A simple national or local identity can be shaped through a few selected stereotyped qualities, representative personalities and supporting mythologies” (Tunbridge and Ashworth 1996: 22). In the long term, however, if city marketing is not tailored to specific groups—for example, when the same image brochure is given to investors, entrepreneurs, tourists, and residents—it can lead to dissonance because, in accordance with the (inter)national heritage-product dilemma, messages aimed at external groups usually do not correspond to the image that “locals” have of “their” city. Additionally, a homogeneous product cannot represent many different local groups, something which also increases the probability of heritage dissonance and the pressure to create a heterogeneous product. This common pattern of creating an (initially) homogeneous product was illustrated by Ashworth (2003) (Figure 2.2), which shows three possibilities for the tourism-induced local change that usually follows.

The starting point here is an imagined state in which locals express their identities through the built environment and its iconography, which in turn strengthens these local identities. This situation becomes an attraction for tourists, who specifically demand these local qualities. Due to the selective nature of touristic consumption, however, tourists tend to seek out aspects of places that are easily recognizable, meaning that complex local arrangements of practices, identities, the built environment, and iconography become simplified, homogenized, and stereotyped in the process of tourism marketing. In the third phase, tourists develop a perception of the place that differs considerably from that of the locals: “This process of change leads to a gap developing between the sense of place projected to, and consumed by, tourists and that required by locals for their place identification” (ibid.: 85).

The last stage of the model shows three possible ways of adapting to this situation. First, the homogeneous product can assert itself in this scenario—by proving to be valuable to tourism and/or supportive of local solidarity—leading

Model of tourism-induced change. Source

Figure 2.2 Model of tourism-induced change. Source: Ashworth (2003: 85).

the locals to integrate the homogeneous image of the place into their own identity. As a second possibility, Ashworth devises a scenario in which the touristic image of a place adapts to the local image through product diversification in response to (local and/or tourist) demand for a more “authentic” representation of the place and its inhabitants. In this case, new market segments are developed: “The result is likely to be an increasingly heterogeneous heritage tourism product, within which ethnic and cultural variety, as well as regional and local differences, play a larger role” (Tunbridge and Ashworth 1996: 23). Tunbridge and Ashworth say that producers often deliberately make heritage products more heterogeneous in order to appeal to new consumer groups. If the product on offer fails to meet consumer expectations, however, dissonance will arise again, in this case in the form of “production inefficiency” and “consumer dissatisfaction” (ibid.). The third scenario leads to heritage dissonance, meaning that the locals will no longer feel at home in a place that has become defined by tourism, and local economies—or, in extreme cases, the locals themselves—may be excluded from the further use of the place.

As hinted at in the model above, both heritage resources and heritage products-like all other meaningful phenomena-are subject to multiple reception. This means that different groups can consume either the same or different products constructed from the same resources. A single historical relic can be interpreted both as proof of cultural creativity and as a political tool of power or an economic resource:

A medieval cathedral may be an architectural/historical resource, an exhibition or cultural performance stage, a visual aid for historical education, an indoor element in a tourism entertainment package, a restful refuge, or a source of personal religious experience.

(Ashworth and Hartmann 2005b: 257; Boniface and Fowler 1993; Herbert 1995a)

Ashworth and Hartmann emphasize that different types of reception need to be managed if some forms of use are considered inappropriate or even provocative by others: “Simply put, dissonance arises when conflicting markets for some reason are not, or cannot be, separated” (Ashworth and Hartmann 2005b: 257).

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