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Florian Freitag, Salvador Anton Clavé & Filippo Carlà-Uhink

Florian Freitag, Salvador Anton Clavé & Filippo Carlà-Uhink, authors of Key Concepts in Theme Park Studies


Published earlier this year, Key Concepts in Theme Park Studies aims to help readers understand the history, development, design and operation of theme parks. Written collaboratively by 13 scholars from different disciplines and countries, the book covers theme park origins, industry, design, people, culture, development and management, ethical issues and the methodologies of theme park studies.

The idea for the book was born in 2014, when one of the authors, Florian Freitag, a scholar in American Studies at the University of Duisberg-Essen, Germany, was giving a guest lecture on theme parks in front of an audience of geographers.

“During the Q&A I realised that although we were all talking about the same topic – namely, theme parks – we were not speaking the same language,” says Freitag. “It was then that I started thinking about a comprehensive, transdisciplinary introduction to theme park studies that would discuss key aspects of theme parks in a way that would combine the viewpoints and findings of theme park researchers in different disciplines and yet be accessible to all of them.”

Here the books’ authors tell us why it is an important resource for the industry.

What global trends are covered in
Key Concepts in Theme Park Studies?
The book discusses the expansion of the theme park industry worldwide in the context of increasing urbanisation, digital innovation, accelerated mobility, globalisation, and greater environmental awareness.

One interesting trend is the way the theme park industry is merging with other entertainment and attractions companies including interpretation centres, high-tech facilities, cultural, heritage and environmental-based parks, museums, zoos, water parks and corporate centres. The book also explores how the industry is diversifying into other areas of leisure and consumption together with real estate corporations, shopping centre operators and transmedia corporations.

Technology is also becoming a key player in the process of defining the economic, social, environmental, experiential and customer-oriented strategies of theme parks.

In the book you look at the history of theme parks. Did you find out anything that would surprise people?
There are many surprises – from the acknowledgement that the Romans created spaces with controlled access in which they could spend time and be entertained, to the discovery that in the Middle Ages strategies of immersion – with the technology of the time – were used to help religious inspiration and experience.

We were particularly interested in exploring the history of theme parks outside the Western world. The Old Summer Palace near Beijing, for example, built between the 18th and the 19th century, contained replicas of many different Chinese landscapes and buildings that could be experienced by visitors. In fact these visitors were limited to the emperor, his family and his guests – and this is maybe one of the most interesting aspects discussed in this chapter: who was allowed to access these ‘ancestors’ of the theme parks, and how that access was regulated.

There is a section on authenticity. What were the key takeaways?
This was an interesting chapter to put together – we wanted to look at the history of the concept of authenticity in academia, and evaluate its application to theme parks.

Recent scholarship has discarded the idea of authenticity as an attribute of objects, in the sense of the ‘museological authenticity’ of displayed material. Instead, scholars have developed the notion of ‘perceived authenticity,’ according to which the authenticity of something is determined by what visitors consider to be real, believable, and convincing. Here, obvious mistakes – such as in the representation of foreign cultures or anachronisms in the representation of historical themes – don’t necessarily contrast with the authenticity of a themed area.

An object or a place can also develop its own identity and aura over time, meaning new developments can acquire a sense of authenticity – a concept described as ‘emergent authenticity.’

Theme parks draw on these different kind of authenticities. In marketing, theme parks often draw on museological authenticity to advertise the accuracy of their themed areas.

Perceived authenticity plays a central role in design, where representations of specific themes need to match visitors’ expectations. The idea of emergent authenticity can manifest itself in fans’ reactions to such changes as the updating, replacement, and closure of ‘classic’ theme park attractions or in theme parks’ decisions to keep and even bring back certain traditional elements that may have otherwise fallen victim to the constant striving for novelty in the interest of economic competitiveness.

What can you tell us about immersion and theme parks?
From the point of view of immersion, theme parks are extremely interesting places because in contrast to other immersive media, the mediated or themed space and the space of reception are one and the same.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily lead to the total immersion of theme park visitors, as immersion depends on a large variety of factors that include not just the specific build-up of the immersive space, but also the recipients’ current disposition and the general context of the experience. In the book, we discuss theme parks’ capacity to engender or induce an immersed state of mind in visitors, focusing on two key strategies to achieve immersivity – narrativity and bodily affect.

What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
Theme parks must be taken seriously; as an industry, as a medium, and as a space of cultural significance. And we hope that we can contribute not only to scholarly dialogue, but also to an open and mutually beneficial dialogue with fans and stakeholders in the industry. As we write at the end of our introduction, our book is an open invitation to come and talk to us.

Salvador Anton Clavé is Professor of Regional Geographical Analysis, University Rovira i Virgili, Spain. Filippo Carlà-Uhink is Professor of Ancient History at the University of Potsdam, Germany. Florian Freitag is Professor of American Studies at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany.

Florian Freitag

Filippo Carlà-Uhink

Salvador Anton Clavé

The book explores theme parks from mulitple perspectives
Theme parks offer a highly immersive experience for visitors Credit: photo: Shutterstock/Party people studio
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People
Florian Freitag, Salvador Anton Clavé & Filippo Carlà-Uhink

Florian Freitag, Salvador Anton Clavé & Filippo Carlà-Uhink, authors of Key Concepts in Theme Park Studies


Published earlier this year, Key Concepts in Theme Park Studies aims to help readers understand the history, development, design and operation of theme parks. Written collaboratively by 13 scholars from different disciplines and countries, the book covers theme park origins, industry, design, people, culture, development and management, ethical issues and the methodologies of theme park studies.

The idea for the book was born in 2014, when one of the authors, Florian Freitag, a scholar in American Studies at the University of Duisberg-Essen, Germany, was giving a guest lecture on theme parks in front of an audience of geographers.

“During the Q&A I realised that although we were all talking about the same topic – namely, theme parks – we were not speaking the same language,” says Freitag. “It was then that I started thinking about a comprehensive, transdisciplinary introduction to theme park studies that would discuss key aspects of theme parks in a way that would combine the viewpoints and findings of theme park researchers in different disciplines and yet be accessible to all of them.”

Here the books’ authors tell us why it is an important resource for the industry.

What global trends are covered in
Key Concepts in Theme Park Studies?
The book discusses the expansion of the theme park industry worldwide in the context of increasing urbanisation, digital innovation, accelerated mobility, globalisation, and greater environmental awareness.

One interesting trend is the way the theme park industry is merging with other entertainment and attractions companies including interpretation centres, high-tech facilities, cultural, heritage and environmental-based parks, museums, zoos, water parks and corporate centres. The book also explores how the industry is diversifying into other areas of leisure and consumption together with real estate corporations, shopping centre operators and transmedia corporations.

Technology is also becoming a key player in the process of defining the economic, social, environmental, experiential and customer-oriented strategies of theme parks.

In the book you look at the history of theme parks. Did you find out anything that would surprise people?
There are many surprises – from the acknowledgement that the Romans created spaces with controlled access in which they could spend time and be entertained, to the discovery that in the Middle Ages strategies of immersion – with the technology of the time – were used to help religious inspiration and experience.

We were particularly interested in exploring the history of theme parks outside the Western world. The Old Summer Palace near Beijing, for example, built between the 18th and the 19th century, contained replicas of many different Chinese landscapes and buildings that could be experienced by visitors. In fact these visitors were limited to the emperor, his family and his guests – and this is maybe one of the most interesting aspects discussed in this chapter: who was allowed to access these ‘ancestors’ of the theme parks, and how that access was regulated.

There is a section on authenticity. What were the key takeaways?
This was an interesting chapter to put together – we wanted to look at the history of the concept of authenticity in academia, and evaluate its application to theme parks.

Recent scholarship has discarded the idea of authenticity as an attribute of objects, in the sense of the ‘museological authenticity’ of displayed material. Instead, scholars have developed the notion of ‘perceived authenticity,’ according to which the authenticity of something is determined by what visitors consider to be real, believable, and convincing. Here, obvious mistakes – such as in the representation of foreign cultures or anachronisms in the representation of historical themes – don’t necessarily contrast with the authenticity of a themed area.

An object or a place can also develop its own identity and aura over time, meaning new developments can acquire a sense of authenticity – a concept described as ‘emergent authenticity.’

Theme parks draw on these different kind of authenticities. In marketing, theme parks often draw on museological authenticity to advertise the accuracy of their themed areas.

Perceived authenticity plays a central role in design, where representations of specific themes need to match visitors’ expectations. The idea of emergent authenticity can manifest itself in fans’ reactions to such changes as the updating, replacement, and closure of ‘classic’ theme park attractions or in theme parks’ decisions to keep and even bring back certain traditional elements that may have otherwise fallen victim to the constant striving for novelty in the interest of economic competitiveness.

What can you tell us about immersion and theme parks?
From the point of view of immersion, theme parks are extremely interesting places because in contrast to other immersive media, the mediated or themed space and the space of reception are one and the same.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily lead to the total immersion of theme park visitors, as immersion depends on a large variety of factors that include not just the specific build-up of the immersive space, but also the recipients’ current disposition and the general context of the experience. In the book, we discuss theme parks’ capacity to engender or induce an immersed state of mind in visitors, focusing on two key strategies to achieve immersivity – narrativity and bodily affect.

What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
Theme parks must be taken seriously; as an industry, as a medium, and as a space of cultural significance. And we hope that we can contribute not only to scholarly dialogue, but also to an open and mutually beneficial dialogue with fans and stakeholders in the industry. As we write at the end of our introduction, our book is an open invitation to come and talk to us.

Salvador Anton Clavé is Professor of Regional Geographical Analysis, University Rovira i Virgili, Spain. Filippo Carlà-Uhink is Professor of Ancient History at the University of Potsdam, Germany. Florian Freitag is Professor of American Studies at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany.

Florian Freitag

Filippo Carlà-Uhink

Salvador Anton Clavé

The book explores theme parks from mulitple perspectives
Theme parks offer a highly immersive experience for visitors Credit: photo: Shutterstock/Party people studio
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COMPANY PROFILES
iPlayCO

iPlayCo was established in 1999. [more...]
DJW

David & Lynn Willrich started the Company over thirty years ago, from the Audio Visual Department [more...]
IAAPA EMEA

IAAPA Expo Europe was established in 2006 and has grown to the largest international conference and [more...]
Clip 'n Climb

Clip ‘n Climb currently offers facility owners and investors more than 40 colourful and unique Cha [more...]
+ More profiles  
CATALOGUE GALLERY
+ More catalogues  
DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

08-08 May 2024

Hospitality Design Conference

Hotel Melià , Milano , Italy
04-07 Nov 2024

Global Wellness Summit (GWS)

In person, St Andrews, United Kingdom
+ More diary  
 


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