Pilgrim's progress? A field ethnography of multimodal recording, curating, and sharing of the Camino de Santiago experience

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Purpose: Religious and secular pilgrimages present rich opportunities for investigating information activities in an original and intriguing context. While the Information Science community has previously shown interest in digital expressions of religion and spirituality, discussion on pilgrimage is at a nascent stage. The purpose of this study is to conduct an in situ investigation of how pilgrims record, curate, and share their experiences. Design/methodology/approach: A field ethnography was conducted while walking with, observing and interviewing pilgrims along the Camino de Santiago, a popular European pilgrimage and UNESCO World Heritage route. Data collected from 25 semi-structured interviews and participant observations were thematically analysed within a theoretical framework combining Stebbins' contemplation and Nature Challenge Activity in serious leisure and Hektor's model of information behaviour. Findings: This study expands the interpretation of pilgrimage by introducing new insights into pilgrims, different types of mobilities, spaces and objects, and social interactions. By using field ethnography and close-up observations of praxis, pilgrimage is analysed as a socio-technical process and discussed literature within and beyond Information Science. The work presents new understandings of the interplay between spirituality, embodied information practices, physical and online social interactions, analogue and digital media before, during and after these journeys and legacy aspirations. Originality/value: The study is original in its combination of theoretical models and their ethnographic in situ application. It contributes to a more in-depth, in-the-field understanding of how pilgrims document their experiences via a rich palette of old and new media, the dynamics of using digital technologies during such physical and inner journeys and pilgrims' sharing practices. Implications for serious leisure and information practices are discussed, from theoretical to practical challenges and opportunities offered by pilgrimage experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-238
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Documentation
Issue number1
Early online date11 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2024


  • pilgrimage routes
  • ethnography
  • information practice
  • digital communications
  • serious leisure
  • Camino de Santiago
  • walking
  • hiking
  • multimodality
  • information behaviour
  • fieldwork
  • thematic analysis


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