Issue #15 ‘Yak’ has arrived, you can buy a copy from our online store or subscribe now. Available January 29…
Would a person climb Mount Everest, Earth’s highest mountain, if they couldn’t tell anyone about it? Let’s say that the adventure to the top had to be clouded in secrecy. Would a climber risk their life without being able to tell the tale?
Academics Anat Keinan and Ran Kivetz were baffled by some people’s attraction to negative consumption experiences: sleeping on ice, flying solo across seas in makeshift tin planes, and so on. Would such people engage in these activities alone, without a soul watching, and without any record that it actually took place?
French extreme tightrope walker Philippe Petit went down in history for padding across a thin stretch of wire connecting the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre. 400 metres off the ground, Petit adjusted his balance, second by second, as the Manhattan early-morning breeze pushed and pulled at the wire swinging wildly below his feet. At the finale of his victory over death, Petit’s smile suddenly disappeared from his once-beaming face: his cameraman had forgotten to press record on the video camera.
Keinan and Kivetz note that humans are forever adding to their “experiential CVs”, or their collection of experiences proving to others that they are productive people. Critical to this is the joy of retelling the tale – which helps explain why travellers can spend more time recording their exotic adventures than actually experiencing them.
It could well be argued that the accumulation of experiences, or the “experiential CV” has much in common with other forms of “conspicuous consumption” – such as the purchase of luxury properties and cars, jewellery, and other displays of wealth, or success. Each is used to prove to others that one is worthy. It is a pity, indeed, that doing things for us, and us alone is no longer enough.