Dark Tourism Project: Ground Zero

Paper Info
Page count 15
Word count 3862
Read time 15 min
Subject Life & Experiences
Type Dissertation
Language 🇺🇸 US


The concept of dark tourism has gained significant traction in the academic domain in recent years. The most probable reason for such popularity is its counterintuitive nature. In contrast to the majority of other varieties, which are well-understood and backed by research, dark tourism focuses on sites and events associated with death, mass murders, violence, and suffering. The limited information available on the topic reveals interesting insights regarding the motivations of the visitors of such sites as well as social and psychological implications associated with the effects of dark tourism. However, the information is insufficient for developing reliable solutions.

Purpose of the Study

The following project aims at establishing the motivation for visiting dark tourism sites with a special focus on the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. The findings of the project will be reviewed against similar studies to establish their validity and ensure applicability to other cases and locations. In addition, it is expected that the project may yield information regarding the educational value of the tourism site in question and, if possible, provide insights regarding its potential for improvement.

Significance of the Study

The tourism sector is an important element of an economy in many countries. Due to this fact, the tourist sector is being constantly studied, which improves the efficiency of the approaches and strategies used in the industry. In addition to profitability concerns, tourism facilitates important cultural and social development. The dark tourism, on the other hand, is not enjoying the same attention from the scholars. However, two points can be derived from the available information. First, the social and cultural implications of dark tourism are likely equal or greater in importance than that of traditional tourism. Second, it is probable that the currently observed trend of growing popularity will continue at least in the short term. Thus, it would be reasonable to obtain the knowledge necessary for efficient organization of the practice. The first part of the report includes a review of available literature relevant to project purpose, a detailed description of project methods, and a list of questions for the survey used to collect the data.

Literature Review


Despite its relative novelty, both the awareness and popularity of the concept are growing at an increasing pace. From a cultural standpoint, this fascination provides an interesting area of inquiry in terms of driving forces and motives that prompt tourists to engage in this practice and its social and cultural outcomes. The following literature review provides an overview of the academic literature on the matter to establish the current consensus of the scholars regarding the motivation behind the behavior.

Literature Review

Dark tourism is a concept proposed in the late nineties of the twentieth century in an attempt to distinguish it from other forms of tourism (Hartmann, 2014). Its primary characteristic feature is the involvement of sites associated with death of humans. The main point to derive from this broad definition is the fact of counterintuitive attraction towards death and disaster, which has a significant potential for understanding of certain aspects of human nature. Hartmann (2014) pointed to significant breadth of the early sources on the matter, which compromised the focus of the inquiry and introduced unnecessary vagueness. A noticeable improvement was observed in the second decade, with the formulation of key issues in heritage site management. According to the author, the growing informational and inquiry capacity of the independent researchers has contributed to the pluralization of available historical data, which, in turn, prompted the interested parties to search for ways of gaining access to geographical landmarks and physical manifestations of the events (Hartmann, 2014). At the same time, the diversification of political, cultural, and social landscape at the global scale has unearthed numerous issues and points. As a result, heritage tourism has attained an additional angle of exposure to the dark and controversial aspects of familiar events. Considering the possibility that the described shift may become a mainstay of the contemporary culture, it would be reasonable to suggest that further growth of dark tourism’s popularity will occur.

Several approaches have been proposed to establish the mechanisms responsible for the growing attractiveness of the concept. For instance, Podoshen (2013) proposes a relationship between engagement in black tourism and the fascination with motifs of violence and death characteristic for an art form known as black metal. According to the researcher, the sole common theme observed in all cases of dark tourism is the fascination with death and disaster (Podoshen, 2013). Once this core characteristic is established, a wide range of cases is consistent with the definition, including assassination sites, terrorism sites, and concentration camps, among others. However, despite the observed rise in popularity, the concept has primarily been studied for managerial implications, whereas the motivation behind it remains unexplored. Podoshen (2013) suggests two components that can be used to account for the observed phenomenon. The first is simulation and emotional contagion. The tourists visiting a dark tourism site seek to simulate the perspective of victims through immersion in the environment where the atrocities have taken place. In the case of black metal fans, who served as an audience for the study, the simulation is sought after due to fascination with death-related themes. However, it would be unreasonable to deny the fact that regardless of the goal, such immersion provides insights that may be useful for gaining a historical and cultural perspective of the involved phenomenon or event. By extension, the fact of a presence at the site of interest enhances the experience through the possibility of physical agency. Simply put, the ability to physically interact with the object supposedly projects the emotions of the victims through metaphysical means (Podoshen, 2013). The second component is the comparison between landscapes. The opportunity to verify the topographical reality of sites of interest accounts for at least some of the instances of dark tourism. While the studied population derives them primarily from music and artistic performance, the locations of interest may vary depending on multiple factors.

Another perspective was provided in a paper by Podoshen, Andrzejewski, Venkatesh, and Wallin (2015a). To produce a more generalizable approach to the research of dark tourism, the authors identified several key aspects that require discussion and incorporation to the framework to produce consistent results in the area. The approach is based on the concept of emotion as one of the key driving forces behind tourism. Importantly, despite the evident negativity of the concept, the resulting emotions do not necessarily have to be negative. Instead, they can involve a thrill of avoiding an undesirable outcome, e.g. those following a successful escape attempt (Podoshen et al., 2015a). However, the methodology for the assessment of the described effects is still in the initial stage of development, which excludes the possibility of reaching a definitive conclusion on the matter. Another important aspect of dark tourism is that of isolation and dystopian aesthetics. The cultural fascination with both utopian and dystopian societies observable in other cultural and social aspects of artistic consumption provide a solid basis for the conclusion that it plays an equally significant role in motivation for dark tourism (Podoshen et al., 2015a). In this regard, dark tourism may be a part of a broader context of search for both functional and dysfunctional utopian elements in the everyday reality.

These conclusions are further refined in an exploratory examination by Podoshen, Venkatesh, Wallin, Andrzejewski, & Jin, (2015b). The authors suggest that the appealing concept of dystopia responsible for the emergence of several subgenres of artistic expression can be viewed as relevant not only to enthusiasts of specific art forms such as black metal described above, but, to some extent, to the majority of the population. The research team also asserts that violence, which is one of the main components of dark tourism and the one responsible for its counterintuitive nature, does not necessarily serve as an attraction for people who view it appealing per se, but instead consider it in a broader context of fulfillment of other needs (Podoshen et al., 2015b). A good example of this concept is violence that serves a just and righteous purpose. Another possibility is the exposure to violence in an attempt to overcome certain fears or lower the sensitivity barrier for certain phenomena. Since such use cases have been extensively studied and documented in other fields, it would be reasonable to consider their relevance in the context of dark tourism.

The element of emotional contagion discussed above may provide additional clarity regarding specific aspects of dark tourism such as treasure hunting. According to Thomas, Seitsonen, and Herva (2016), the surge in amateur archaeology occurring at the historical sites of World War II in Finland can be at least partially attributed to the desire of owning an artifact of material culture that served as an environment for the war crimes and atrocities of Nazi Germany (Thomas et al., 2016). This perspective provides an additional layer to dark tourism when viewed against the metaphysical perspective proposed by Podoshen (2013). The researchers also point to a unique geographical landscape of the region, which, presumably, adds to the overall effect of isolation and otherworldliness sought after by the tourists.

It is also necessary to acknowledge that the emotional component is likely amplified by the desire to neutralize the crippling psychological effect of death by letting it into one’s life. According to a recent study by Podoshen, Yan, Andrzejewski, Wallin, and Venkatesh (2018), the physical presence on site associated with death expands the exposure to morbid and death-related themes by adding the sense of agency. Being able to interact with the artifacts enhances the experience by minimizing the perceived historical barrier. In other words, the visitors are more likely to establish a connection with the historical events in a setting that disrupts their feeling of removal from the scene.

The aspect of exposure as a positive factor was further analyzed by Kidron (2013). According to the data obtained from interviews with descendants of Israeli Holocaust survivors’ relatives administered after the trip, the feelings of empathy were among the most often reported ones (Kidron, 2013). However, more importantly, the visitors also reported an enabled sense of identification with the victims and, by extension, a stronger sense of familial ties and perception of home. In other words, dark tourism serves as a major source of negative experience, which, in turn, facilitates positive emotions that strengthen the emotional and social bonds. According to Kidron (2013), these findings suggest that dark tourism may provide additional benefits beyond the aesthetic implications discussed above. In addition, the findings may be used to explore the possibility of enhancing the experience by modifying the environment in a way that would emphasize the familial ties identified above. This could be beneficial from an emotional standpoint as well as enhance the spiritual and cultural significance of the sites.

An analysis of interpretations of dark tourism guides further expands the significance of the matter. A study by Yankovska and Hannam (2014) revealed that educational experience is the central benefit according to the perception of guides from the Chernobyl zone. Environmental issues are gaining in popularity in the recent years due to the variety of technological and social factors, which can be considered a strong point for the dark tourism development. Additional advantages in the form of unique landscape and a distinctively dystopian environment as portrayed in popular media further enhances the effect (Yankovska & Hannam, 2014). Thus, the subset of toxic tourism is largely consistent with the characteristics identified above.

These implications are partially confirmed by the results of a study by Yan, Zhang, Zhang, Lu, and Guo (2016). The researchers utilize a case of Beichuan earthquake relics and apply structural equation modeling approach to determine the relationship between the visitors’ motivation for engagement in dark tourism and the resulting emotional and cognitive reactions. In addition to employing a systemic approach, the study is unique in that it uses a site of natural disaster rather than atrocities undertaken by humans as its principal case. The findings of the study suggest that visits to dark tourism sites bear significant educational capacity. However, it differs from traditional approaches to tourist education in that it trays away from its cognitive aspect. The research findings suggest that emotional experience received from the visit is more significant than the respective cognitive experience (Yan et al., 2016). In other words, while the value of dark tourism for educational purposes is apparent, the differences in its principles of action require better understanding before its full potential can be used systematically.

Summary and Implications

As can be seen from the information above, several approaches have been put forward in an attempt to determine the factors behind the growing popularity of dark tourism. The prevailing hypotheses assign simulation and emotional contagion the most significant roles in the process. Both factors rely on physical presence as their principal component and produce emotional feedback as a primary outcome. Interestingly, at least some of the reactions can be ascribed to the metaphysical perspective, either consciously or subconsciously adopted by certain demographic groups such as black metal fans. However, the majority of the visitors are more likely influenced by the sense of agency stemming from the ability to physically interact with the historical artifacts and get immersed in the landscape. However, the most important aspect apparent in the literature review is the educational potential of dark tourism. Several studies imply that the emotional feedback received during a visit to a dark tourist site may facilitate greater educational value than the respective cognitive experience. In addition, limited data suggest that such emotional experience may enhance resilience to psychologically challenging situations and enhance positive elements such as familial bonds and identity. Thus, to successfully utilize the benefits of black tourism, it is necessary to better understand the motivation of the visitors of a specific site to verify the discussed findings and possibly identify previously overlooked aspects.

Project Method


The following research aims at establishing the motivation of individuals visiting a specific dark tourism site (National September 11 Memorial and Museum). The obtained results will be compared to the findings of similar studies to determine whether they are within the expected area and studied for new insights on the matter. The primary research question of the study is as follows:

  • RQ1: What is the motivation for visiting National September 11 Memorial and Museum dark tourism site?

Two research sub-questions are as follows:

  • RQ1a: What educational value does the museum pose as a dark tourist site?
  • RQ1b: Can the site be improved to increase its value for dark tourists?

Study Design

The design of the study at hand uses an interpretivist paradigm. This choice can be justified by the fact that the issue at hand is grounded primarily in social processes. As can be seen from the literature review, opinions differ on what is the prevailing cause of fascination with death among the tourists. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect wide variations within the sample, which require in-depth explanation based on contextual factors. In addition, it should be mentioned that the concept of dark tourism is relatively new and the knowledge related to it has only recently been systematized and still requires a certain degree of flexibility to arrive at the conclusions. Since interpretivism provides the opportunity to build a theory through gradual improvement of understanding of the phenomenon, it aligns well with the goals of the research team (Walliman, 2015). It is also worth noting that since interpretivism places human beings at the center of inquiry, it allows arriving at a conclusion based on perceived effects, which is suitable for the project’s purposes.

Considering the chosen paradigm, the ontology of the study design can be described as underpinned by subjectivist ontology, which views social phenomena as created and maintained by the perceptions of social actors (humans) and actions resulting from them. Consequently, the study’s epistemology determines the approaches which allow us to comprehend the uniqueness of each respondents’ views by recognizing their perceived values.

Sampling Strategy

The analysis will be based on primary data obtained from the individuals who are expected to be familiar with the concept of dark tourism and are likely to be interested in it. Such an approach can be characterized as a non-probability sampling – a method in which only a certain proportion of the population has a chance of participating in the survey. Specifically, purposive sampling technique will be used, in which the participants will be selected based on the researcher’s judgment of their suitability for the project (Etikan, Musa, & Alkassim, 2016). In this specific case, the data collection process will be performed on a Facebook group the dark tourism site in question. In this way, the research team will ensure that the majority of responders are already familiar with dark tourism and exhibit a certain amount of interest in death-related themes and visitation of respective sites. At this point, it should be mentioned that non-probability sampling is considered less reliable in terms of generating representative data, primarily due to the fact that a significant proportion of the population is not allowed to participate (Fowler Jr., 2014). Since the possibility remains that the included group holds considerably different views, the findings of such study do not apply to a broader audience. However, the scope of the project and the time and resources available to the research team eliminate the possibility of obtaining a properly randomized probability-based sample, which justifies the selection. It is also worth mentioning that proper randomization is both complex and restrictive and would require a dedicated specialist to be conducted appropriately, which is not possible in the case of the study.

Research Instrument

The main research instrument selected for the study is a survey. The chosen instrument has several advantages for the project. First, a survey is easy to develop without the need for special training. Consequently, the administration process is both simple and fast, which allows obtaining a significantly large sample in a relatively short time. This aspect of a survey is especially important since the results may not sufficiently cover the studied issue and thus require a large sample to produce reliable findings (Rea & Parker, 2014). The second advantage is the convenience associated with this research instrument. Surveys can be delivered in person or can be completed on the phone, by mail, or online. With the condition that the questions are formulated appropriately, little to no assistance is required on the part of the researcher. Thus, the participants can decide on the timing and pace of completing it. Online surveys are especially noteworthy for their non-intrusive nature (the respondents may participate at will without being contacted first), lack of logistical issues (the delivery of results requires no effort on the part of each party), and timeliness (the results of each respondent are available to the researcher immediately after the respondent finishes the process). It should also be mentioned that the online mode of data collection may provide significant geographical diversification, which may mitigate the drawbacks of a non-probability sampling method. Finally, the results of a survey consisting entirely or primarily of close-ended questions are easy to analyze via simple quantitative determinants without the need for dedicated software. The main drawback aside from the limitations induced by close-ended questions is the possible lack of clarity. To decrease its likelihood, the survey will be tested on peers before the launch of data collection procedure and adjusted according to their feedback.

Data Collection

The data will be collected using a free online platform SurveyMonkey. The survey will be designed using mostly close-ended questions. Before launch, it will be self-administered in a test mode to ensure that all questions are functioning properly. After a test run on peers is conducted and the feedback and suggestions are incorporated, the administration of a Facebook page of National September 11 Memorial and Museum will be contacted to obtain permission for conducting a survey. The goals of the study along with its relevance will be provided, and all important considerations regarding the possible ethical issues and privacy implications will be discussed. After the permission is obtained, the survey will be pinned on a page with a short description clarifying the details. The description will specify the risks of loss of sensitive information and the measures taken by the project’s team aimed at minimizing these risks. The sample size sufficient for the project is estimated at 150 to 200 individuals considering the high likelihood of their familiarity with the matter. It is expected that such sample size can be achieved in one week of data collection. At the end of the identified period, the response rate will be checked and, if the sample size surpasses the expected minimum, the survey will be closed. If after a week of data collection the minimum sample size is not reached, the possibility of extension can be considered.

Data Analysis

Once the survey is closed, no responses will be submitted to the system. After this, it will be possible to proceed with the analysis. The majority of data will be processed using a quantitative approach. This decision is justified by the sample size and the use of close-ended questions, which can be processed accurately using the determinants such as mean, mode, and standard deviation, among others (Morgan, Reichert, & Harrison, 2017). It is expected that the majority of data will be handled via the built-in tools of a survey platform, which provide accurate and instant results in an accessible visual form. Some of the questions (Q6 and Q7) include the open-ended option which, if sufficiently consistent throughout the dataset, may also be processed using tools provided by SurveyMonkey. However, if significant variety is observed, these responses may be handled using a qualitative approach. They will be grouped by category, with the resulting groups being refined and adjusted until sufficient uniformity and applicability are reached (Richards, 2015). Admittedly, such an approach requires significant time, especially considering the expected sample size. However, it is unlikely that a large proportion of the respondents will choose the “other” option since both Q6 and Q7 already cover the most likely responses in the close-ended options.

Once the data is obtained, the results will be converted into a visual format for greater clarity and accessibility.

Ethical Review

The ethical approval from the instructor will be obtained by assessing the potential risks to participants’ privacy and confidentiality associated with the participation. First, the conditions of data collection and storage on the Survey Monkey platform need to be reviewed for potentially controversial points. Since the responses are anonymized, the possibility of a breach is decreased. Next, a strong password will be selected to protect the account through which access to survey results will be provided. Third, the data processed outside the system (e.g. the open-ended responses) will be stored and transferred in an encrypted format and protected with a passphrase. In addition, the note informing the participants of the potential risks and measures taken to minimize them will be presented to the instructor to ascertain its clarity. Finally, the questions and responses will be reviewed to ensure that issues that could lead to psychological and cultural problems are absent from the survey.


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Cite this paper


EduRaven. (2022, June 14). Dark Tourism Project: Ground Zero. Retrieved from https://eduraven.com/dark-tourism-project-ground-zero/


EduRaven. (2022, June 14). Dark Tourism Project: Ground Zero. https://eduraven.com/dark-tourism-project-ground-zero/

Work Cited

"Dark Tourism Project: Ground Zero." EduRaven, 14 June 2022, eduraven.com/dark-tourism-project-ground-zero/.


EduRaven. (2022) 'Dark Tourism Project: Ground Zero'. 14 June.


EduRaven. 2022. "Dark Tourism Project: Ground Zero." June 14, 2022. https://eduraven.com/dark-tourism-project-ground-zero/.

1. EduRaven. "Dark Tourism Project: Ground Zero." June 14, 2022. https://eduraven.com/dark-tourism-project-ground-zero/.


EduRaven. "Dark Tourism Project: Ground Zero." June 14, 2022. https://eduraven.com/dark-tourism-project-ground-zero/.


EduRaven. 2022. "Dark Tourism Project: Ground Zero." June 14, 2022. https://eduraven.com/dark-tourism-project-ground-zero/.

1. EduRaven. "Dark Tourism Project: Ground Zero." June 14, 2022. https://eduraven.com/dark-tourism-project-ground-zero/.


EduRaven. "Dark Tourism Project: Ground Zero." June 14, 2022. https://eduraven.com/dark-tourism-project-ground-zero/.