This is uncool in so many ways.
On the face of it, it shouldn’t be uncool. But it is.
Climbing Everest is cool.
Being able to share your experiences with others in real time is cool too.
But, put those things together, and the effect is to diminish and demean IMHO.
The whole is considerably less than the sum of the parts.
I say this as someone who has a little first hand experience of wanting to share adventurous experiences.
I was a member of The Ambeciles, a 2010 Mongol Rally team that drove a second hand ambulance (bought on E-Bay for £3,000) from the UK to Mongolia (via Europe, Russia and 5 countries ending in “stan”) to raise money for several charities.
The Mongol Rally is designed to be an adventure. The Adventurists set it up that way.
As the last line of their “adventure warning” clearly states, “You really are on your own.”
Indeed, we found on a daily basis that the most interesting aspects of the journey, the most memorable stories, were the result of things going wrong. And when things went wrong you had to rely on your wits, and on the extraordinary willingness of local people to help you out, to get yourselves out of the messes that you found yourselves in.
With hindsight we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
But you can’t have your cake and eat it.
The remoteness and lack of connection to the outside world that makes for great adventure by definition also makes it impossible to share those adventurous experiences in real time.
So I drafted blog posts on a netbook in the back of what was effectively a dust-filled mobile greenhouse and then published, posted, facebooked and tweeted like mad when internet cafes and occasional hotel wifi opportunities presented themselves.
Meanwhile, back with Kenton Cool on Everest…
Here’s the video clip in which he discussed his intent to send the first tweet from the Everest summit, “in association with” his technology sponsor/partner Samsung.
This really does leave me cold.
I have no beef with Mr Cool. I have the utmost respect for what he has achieved. He is an extreme dude who isn’t pissing his life away in some faceless cube-farm.
(Although I do think he protests too much on behalf of his Samsung sponsor. Less gushing fulsomeness would definitely have been more.)
This image from the video is a succinct visual summary of why I do have a beef with him tweeting from the summit.
It’s the erection of this 3G mast that made the summit tweet possible.
And it’s the erection of this mast that has made the highest mountain (even) less remote than it was.
Less of an adventure? Discuss.
I wonder if such considerations crossed Kenton Cool’s mind. (I’ll ask once I’ve finished this post).
Adventure is an expensive business. We couldn’t have taken part in the rally without the generous support of a number of sponsors.
And I daresay the same goes for climbing Everest.
Every sponsor logo on the side of the ambulance was the result of extended periods of intense begging, stealing, borrowing, committing and promising. Not to mention the emotional punchbag feeling of multiple rejections.
Adventure is an expensive business. And sponsoring adventure is a sophisticated business.
It’s not as simple as “cash for logos”.
Quite rightly in this digitally enabled, socially connected world of ours, sponsors don’t just want a logo on the side of your vehicle. They want content. And if said content can be delivered in real time, increasing the sense of currency and happeningness, then so much the better.
And if a promise of real time content is what it takes to clinch a sponsorship deal then it is very hard not to make said promise.
Indeed, for our sponsors Direct Travel Insurance, we collected real time GPS data en route and created this piece of data visualisation (plus mini-blog) for them. However, whilst the data was collected in real time, it could only be shared and the site updated when we hit towns which had internet cafes or hotels with free wifi.
And we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
It was great to be properly disconnected for a while.
By and large the world is a better place for increased connectivity.
But there is still a place for remoteness.
I’m not so cross as you are.
The film – sure it’s plug plug plug – done quite well I think – but I noticed you got a little plug in for your own sponsor further down. And why not.
However – yes – it does all belittle the experience, the specialness, the uniqueness of scaling Everest. No getting away from that.
And I did think one of Kenton’s (sorry, makes me think of the character from the Archers) line was pretty crass. Something along the lines of, this will be my 9th time climbing Everest, so how to make it a bit special – I know, brainwave, I’ll bring a cellphone, that’ll do it. ‘Cos otherwise it might be a bit dull.
Then again, given that he’s such a prolific climber, he probably really does love and respect the whole experience.
I knew one of the original successful Everest expedition members slightly – the youngest member, the only one who’s still around – and he’s always been one of those modest undemonstrative English types.
As for this – well, I guess it’s progress. Things change.
Perhaps the alternative would possibly be even more patronising and belittling – putting Everest in a theme park type box – so we could pretend it was still the unscalable peak it once was.
I’m more sad than cross. I can’t help filing 3G signal coverage in the same mental folder as deforestation. The former is not as damaging as the latter but they’re both ways in which the human race has its wicked way with wilderness. I was much more happy than sad when, before departure, I studied GSM coverage maps for our Mongol Rally route and saw that vast areas were coloured white – i.e. zero reception.
http://www.mobileworldlive.com/maps/. Thanks as ever for the comment.
Yes – zero reception – then you know you’re really going somewhere. Agree with that.
I may be swimming against the tide here but in my opinion (and given how many people have died on that mountain) isn’t having a reliable method of communication in such a dangerous place a good thing?
Sure the video is a little crass and corporate but if having that mast their means more people come back alive I think it is ‘cool’.
Flipping the situation on its head a little. If someone knew they were going to die up there because of an accident and this gave them one last chance to speak to their family before the end isn’t that also a good thing?
At the end of the day if it saves lives I can live with the crappy tweets and videos.
Thanks Kelly. Hard to argue with your views on the face of it, but it depends on the extent to which the risk of death is part of the attraction of adventure. That will vary from individual to individual, but it would be good if the world’s mobile operators left a few remote places unconnected so that adventurous individuals can continue to exercise that choice.
N_Armstrong @GrndCntrlHouston That’s 1 small step 4 a man. 1 giant leap 4 mankind. ROMLMAO.
Phil, I agree.
I think it’s great to RECEIVE tweets such as the Everest one.
But to SEND them would be to make an incredible experience a little more banal. Fiddling around trying to find the caps lock and seeing your Twitter stream of topical gags and social media stats at what should be a transcendent moment in your life would be a pity.
Thanks Chris. I think you’ve nailed it with the send/receive distinction. As a result of a Twitter conversation arising from this post I was pointed in the direction of this post which makes a similar point. “Nobody should blog on their first expedition” – http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/2011/02/blog-expedition/
I take the point Phil is making here; technology isn’t to be shied away from, and anything that connects people to the outside world and thereby encourages them to explore it for themselves is a good thing.
I think the problem with this celebration of a ‘tweet’ is that Everest is such a remote spot that the mystery and danger of it somehow feels cheapened by this ‘oh, look, Samsang have SUCH an amazing phone that they can get reception anywhere’. Isn’t this removing nature from what we want from it – it’s ability to remain unspoilt and BEYOND human reach??
Despite the beauty of Kenton calling his wife, I’m left with a dry taste in my mouth – the poor mountain is already so over-run with countless endurance attempts that this looks like a way to try to separate out this journey from the rest. If this becomes the reason why we climb, then what next? A phone shop? A handset called ‘the Everest’?
Let us conquer nature by all means, but let’s not let it be led by a commercial agenda…
Hi Alison. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m increasingly of the opinion that part of the job of people like me, who work in digital marketing, is to protect advertisers from themselves. There’s a dangerous, locust-like advertising mindset that views everything as real estate that can be bought and branded. The internet isn’t like that. It’s not the same as TV or magazines. And the wilderness shouldn’t be like that either.
Just give me a shout if you have any Mongol Rally questions. As I said on Twitter, it will be epic.
Hey Phil, will do.
‘saving advertisers from themselves’ should be over the doors of every promotions/PR/graphic design doorway. Maybe in time that ’80’s mentality of ‘every ad-man for himself’ will dwindle: Twitter actually helps with that; information is expanding laterally and not in a forward motion, so in time, believe it or not, Google will be tendered obsoleet as the way people discover information changes. Doesn’t subtract from the Everest Tweet ethics. Prove an SOS can be sent by all means, but spare us the corporate nonsense.
Still, I had a massive tweetarguement with a ‘photo-journalist’ harping on about ‘needing’ an iPad2; I sent him an article exposing the awful human rights violations going on in the factories in China as the workers are driven to exhaustion to meet the demands of the West. He said he still wanted one. I was shocked; if he was a banker then I’d understand a lack of ethics, but a photo-journalist? He then defended himself by showing off that he’d been in Libya and
Haiti, and that he needed it for his job, despite already owning a brand new mac air-book. My point here is that a need was really a consumer want. No-one needs an ipad, certainly if if infringes on the lives and rights of others; no one needs to tweet from Everest – they
surely only want to.