Importance of Symbolism and Consumption in Relation to Events and Tourist Destinations

By John Dudovskiy

Symbolism Symbol has been defined by Smith (2009) as a material object, written sign or something invisible that is used to represent something else. “The idea of ‘binding a matter with the matter’s image” is one that speaks to a more visceral aspect of symbolism and suggests a dimension of relational meaning for symbols that can play no comparable role in our understanding of a simple phonetic latter in the modern sense” (Scranton, 2010, p.47). According to Brodskaya (2007) in literature symbolism can be in forms of damnation, salvation, and reincarnation. Currently symbols are used for commercials purposes as well by many companies through associating their brands with a particular symbol or logo.

Consumption can be interpreted as buying, using and interpretation of things (Aldridge, 2003) and in this sense it is a different term from a traditional economic definition of consumption. “Consumption involves consuming ideas, images on television and in advertisements” (Bocock, 1993, p.33). There are debates about the role and scope of the notion of consumption, but generally, many researchers agree on the current meaning of consumption in a way that modern identities are structured around the experience of consumption (Dunn, 1998).

An interesting point relating to the issue of consumption is that it is very difficult for people to distinguish their ‘true’ and ‘false’ needs. True needs are air, water, food, sleep, and sex, without which it is impossible to live and people have to ‘consume’ them regularly, whereas ‘false’ needs are the ones created by marketing professionals, which makes people want to ‘consume’ their products or services. For instance, thirst for Coca Cola is a ‘false’ consumption need created by marketers. This is possible because people tend to express their desire through their consumption patterns. For example, if an individual desires to become a senior level executive, that individual may desire to wear expensive suit and ties. Accordingly companies produce expensive suits and ties and make people willing to become executives to ‘consume ‘their products.

Another issue that needs to be mentioned here is that identities are in a constant change. People change due to many reasons including changing family circumstances, external environment, personal tragedy etc. And as people change their consumption pattern change as well.

The importance of the concepts of symbolism and consumption in relation to an event can be best explained by using Live8 Concert event that took place in Hyde Park, London on July 2, 2005. It was a massive event with the participation of such famous singers as Elton John, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Sting, U2, Snoop Dog and others. The main aim of the event was to get attention of G8 leaders meeting at St. Petersburg, Russia and to get them raise an extra fifty billion per year for the cause of making poverty history (Make Promise Happen, online, 2008). At the same day similar concerts were organised in other big cities of the world as part of Live8 event, and in total about thousand artists participated in the concert.

The concept of symbolism is important in relation to Live 8 Concert in a way that not what happened during the concert, but what this concert means is important. In other words, it is not important that about thousands artists sang songs at the same day in largest cities of the world, but it is important that the event was able at attract about 3 billion people (Make Promises Happen, online, 2005) meaning that so many people care about the issue of making poverty a history.

Moreover, according to symbolism concept Live 8 Concert has many meaning, due to the fact that viewers interpret them differently. For instance, some viewers might perceive Live 8 event as a PR action by singers, while others truly believe the event to have a noble cause. Also, symbolism states that Live 8 event is focused on what is expressed by that event rather than what is being produced.

Symbolism concept can be applied to a place like tourist destination as well. The greatest amphitheatre in history Coliseum is a popular touristic destination situated in Rome and is a good example to explain symbolism concept in relation to a place. According to symbolism concept it is not important that Coliseum had stayed for since 72AD, but it is important that currently people have a chance to see a historical building in which real gladiatorial fights have taken place. Also Coliseum is considered to be a symbol of Roman Empire.

Consumption concept is related to the event in a way that consumption is the consumption of symbolic signs only. For instance people attending Live8 event in London’s Hyde Park are consuming the symbolic sign of helping to make poverty history regardless of the true motives behind the event. Similarly, people attending Coliseum in Rome are visiting a very old construction only. However, what makes more and more people visit Coliseum is the historical aura of the place and they are consuming historical heritage and mystique associated with Coliseum.

Consumption is also used as a means of construction or articulation of an identity. For instance if a person identifies himself as the one who helps making poverty a history, this person might attend or even sponsor Live8 event. Therefore it can also be said that consumption of an individual creates a sense or gives a clue about the personality of that individual.

Similarly, if an individual attends Coliseum touristic destination in Rome this experience is related to individual through consumption in two ways. Firstly, attending Coliseum is a consumption that will play a role in the formation of that individual. Secondly, an individual visits Coliseum because he has an active and curious personality.



  • Aldridge, AE, 2003, Consumption, Polity
  • Bocock, R, 1993, Consumption, Routledge
  • Brodskaya, N, Symbolism,
  • Dunn, RG, 1998, Identity Crises: A Social Critique of Postmodernity, University of Minnesota Press
  • Make Promise Happen, Live 8, Available at:  Accessed February 12, 2011
  • Scranton, L, 2010, The Cosmological Origins of Myth and Symbol: From the Dogon and Ancient  Egypt to India, Tibet and China, Bear & Co
  • Smith, AD, 2009, Ethno-Symbolism and Nationalism: A Cultural Approach