Seeing life from the heavens looking down helps us be more aware of the incredible nature of our world. That’s what our brand is all about, helping you capture and relive experiences that celebrate you as a human.
Last week, action sports capture device company GoPro unveiled its new 5th generation products: the Hero 5 camera and Karma drone. Why is this related to online travel narratives? GoPro’s cameras arguably birthed the class of small, weather and impact resistant cameras which are used widely in the capture of POV and drone imagery today. GoPros are also used by travel photographers as a way to capture images in wet, wild or crowded conditions where a regular camera would be damaged or a burden to the photographer; by extreme sports enthusiasts and by travellers who want the lightest possible capture device on the market.
Regarding the use of GoPros for the telling of travel narratives, it is interesting to note the way in which the company positions themselves not as a consumer electronics (i.e. camera) company but rather as a content capture company by working on a variety of accessories including applications for wireless transfer and cloud storage designed to facilitate the process of recording and sharing content using GoPro cameras. Brand analyst, Jeff Harbaugh provides this reflection on the brand positioning of GoPro:
You aren’t for people who want to take snapshots either. That’s what we’ve got cell phones for. But if you can be the chosen way for the active outdoor market to create, edit, produce, and share content and if you can tie that community to you through not just your camera technology but your proprietary software, then you will be meeting a social need and requirement of the millennials, now a larger generation than the baby boomers.
Here, Harbaugh highlights the social need for younger generations to create and share content on social media as part of their day to day socialising and GoPro’s positioning as an enabler of this behaviour. In general, the development of drone technology has opened up a whole new angle for lifestyle capture. The social and legal implications of drone use are still unfolding and it will be interesting to see if drones like Karma become a popular travel accessory as they become more portable and reliable.
Looking at GoPro here brings to light the way in which consumer goods companies and social media platforms (or other types of content management systems) shape both the travel experience and the way in which online travel narratives are told. Crouch and Desforges (2003, p.13) explain that the use of a camera shapes experience as the tourists’ vision and memory are extended by the camera’s viewfinder, stating: “To use a camera is to experience place through the lens, with its creation of borders, inclusions and exclusions, its potential capacity to enlarge the scene in front of us, or illuminate through the flash.” With its slew of accessories in hardware and software form, the frontier of the GoPro ranges from so intimate to so large that it arguably starts to lose its borders. It is hard to think of a situation the GoPro can’t capture. With the rewards present on social media for new and interesting images, and the continual arrival of new products to facilitate travel capture, it easy to imagine that the content and quantity of online travel narratives will continue to increase. It will be interesting to monitor the repercussions of new technologies on the “interpersonal dimensions” of travel (Crouch & Desforges, 2003), and also to follow how the balance between experience and capture is enacted as travel technology and the online audience become more pervasive elements within the journey.
A final thought, the GoPro doesn’t have a viewfinder (or at least didn’t on previous models) meaning that the photographer is more likely to turn it on and let it roll, rather than framing and selecting specific scenes while in the landscape. Does this speak to a mode of automated capture (and perhaps, editing and upload) coming in the future, leaving the traveller free to experience the moment with the evidence provided by a machine?