Algorithmic Tourism & How Magazines Lost Aspiration

Two new pieces that reflect how digital platforms changed culture.

A work update from me. I published 10,800 words today, representing many, many months of writing. Here they are:

My Own Private Iceland (Vox / The Goods):

My trip to report on “overtourism” in Iceland made me question how we define tourism, and what we think of as “authentic” when we travel. These days, the algorithms of social media and online travel agencies tell us where to go, making tourism more generic and more crowded. Featuring: digital Northern Lights, Viking reenactors turned Game of Thrones tour guides, a nice Airbnb, the Natural Wine Bar Theory of Conflict Prevention, and much more.

The condition of overtourism pressures places to become commodities in the global marketplace the same way we warp our lifestyles to attract Instagram “Likes.” “You have to compete as a brand,” Pálsdóttir tells me. Countries and cities must constantly perform their identities in order to maintain the flow of tourists.

The Transformation of Condé Nast (The New Republic):

A review-essay on a new biography of Condé Nast, the rich man of the early 20th century who launched the magazine empire. Nast used elitism as a business model, projecting an image of aspiration with his “class publications” like Vogue and Vanity Fair in order to sell ads. That business model was destroyed by Google, Facebook, and Instagram, which automated the kind of human tastemaking Nast made his fortune from.

Nast emerges as the first great connoisseur of editorial talent on an industrial scale. He was a curator of publications, editors, writers, photographers, and illustrators, picking up one creative after another and adding them to his collection, keeping them satisfied with promotions and ostentatious perks, which included paying off one editor’s mortgage.

I hope you’ll read one or both of these pieces and please do let me know what you think! More soon.