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Has Technology Killed the Tall Travel Tale?

January 15, 2013

In a recent issue of Outside, Ian Frazier offered a lament for the outdoorsman's yarn. “A truth about the outdoors is that it causes people to lie,' Frazier writes. “Strange forces out there in the wild have always conspired to corrupt human honesty.' But nowadays, between satellite imagery and the ubiquity of digital cameras, between GPS units and cellphone tracking, everything, Frazier argues, is fact-checkable. He goes on:

A favorite word for the technological fishbowl effect is transparency. Anything you do in far places, and anything that exists out there, can, in principle, be seen. Transparency is one of those words whose real meaning is its opposite, the way that countries with ministries of culture haven't any. Of course, all the technology known or yet to be known won't see even a part of everything or stop people from making things up. It's just that the realm of colorful prevarication has moved inside, where the heart does its sneaking. Most of the gods and demons and fairies and windigos who used to inhabit their own particular outdoor places died off long ago, and modern technology has zapped the survivors. If you want to spin a yarn, it will be about something inward and private…

I'm not sure I'm convinced, but—much like the questionable tales Frazier is worried about—it's an entertaining read nonetheless.

Ian Frazier's “Travels in Siberia' made our roundup of The Best Travel Books of 2010, while “Great Plains' landed on our list of The 100 Most Celebrated Travel Books of All Time.

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