Mahshad Akhoundoghli and Karla A. Boluk Title : Confronting the Panopticon: A Case Study of Marketing Activities of Outdoor Nature and Adventure Service Providers in Iran
Mahshad Akhoundoghli and Karla A. Boluk
The development of a national online social media platform referred to as “Halal net” by the Iranian governmenthas served torestrict access to themany popular instant messaging applications, monitor the sharing of photographs, and communication channels commonly used by outdoor nature and adventure tourism service providers for marketing purposes. Accordingly, content shared in the online public sphere by the tourism sector is exposed to surveillance and examination by the governmental body. While the phenomenon of censorship and surveillance of the internet is not new or limited to the context of Iran (e.g.,, the Great Firewall of China) as of now, there are limited empirical studies to investigate how this practice of power on the Internet function in the field of tourism.To address this gap, we interviewed 13 Iranian outdoor nature and adventure service providers and employed a poststructural qualitative case study and deconstruction analysis approach toexpose how the Iranian government’s socio-political controls challengethe online marketing activities of outdoor nature and adventure service providers. Drawing on Foucault’s panopticon theory we conceptualised the powers which enforced the control of marketing activities of outdoor nature and adventure service providers on social media. Following this analysis, we postulate ways the service providers did things differently to circumvent such influential powers. Finally, wehighlightthe importance of attending to the limits of panopticon theory, its malfunctions and blind spots in a tourism context, and theories and approaches that may alternatively be employed in tourism studies.