Spatio-Temporality and Digital Tourism in UK Industrial UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites

  • Nathan Matthews

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis applies temporal-spatial theories, particularly liminality, to understand current and potential approaches to digital cultural heritage tourism. Through a comparative case study methodology, it considers the implications of digital virtualities in the context of four industrial World Cultural Heritage Sites, namely the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape, the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape, the Derwent Valley Mills and the Ironbridge Gorge.

    Utilising qualitative interviews, content analysis, survey data and a virtual ethnography, the study examines the use of digital technologies from the perspective of World Heritage Site managers and their audiences. It considers the role of the digital as a virtual space in which the relationship between these elements may be developed, re-evaluated and redefined. Moreover, it contemplates the ways in which the use of digital technology impacts on people’s relationship with the past and how heritage is experienced by stakeholders. To this end, the research forms part of an emerging literature that views the web as a participatory, virtual space in which multiple activities associated with heritage can be undertaken.

    The research findings suggest that there is a demand for liminoid experiences in cultural heritage tourism. Digital tools can be used to facilitate this demand, particularly in cases where the actual is absent. Digital technology allows the experiential, liminoid cultural heritage product to be experienced and participated in, in real time, by geo-spatially dispersed audiences. The results of this research indicate that traditional paradigms of audience engagement endure and the full potential of digital possibilities is yet to be recognised fully by industrial WHSs. The audience currently has limited expectations in this regard and, with some exceptions, use the technologies passively. There are nonetheless substantial opportunities for WHSs to transform their practices to achieve their management objectives and enhance the visitor experience using digital technology.
    Date of Award2016
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsKESS, Torfaen County Borough Council & SRS Business Solutions Ltd.
    SupervisorRichard Allen (Supervisor), Gillian Youngs (Supervisor) & Raymond Howell (Supervisor)


    • Digital Heritage
    • Cultural Tourism
    • Digital Cultures

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