The smartphone’s role in the contemporary backpacking experience

Everiin Silas, Anders Sundnes Løvlie, Richard Ling

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The purpose of this ethnographic study is to explore the smartphone’s role in the contemporary international backpacking experience. This paper will examine backpackers’ perceived changes in mediated relations and personal attitudes towards phone use in co-present situations pre-trip, on-trip, and post-trip. Urry & Larsen’s theory on tourist performances as well as Paris et al.’s experiences of technology induced anxieties and tensions while traveling provide a conceptual framework for the analysis. A sample of 11 backpackers were interviewed at youth dormitories in Bali and Malaysia. Post-trip interviews were conducted primarily online through Skype. The findings suggest that there is an ideal of staying offline while traveling. Yet, backpackers report connecting daily with their smartphones and reveal a travel-time legitimacy for sharing updates and receiving attention on social media. After the trip, backpackers perceive a reduction in their own phone use and an increased tolerance for others’ phone use in their presence.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNetworking Knowledge: Journal of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)40-53
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2016


  • Smartphone, Norms, Backpacking, Ethnography, Dependency, Social skills


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