Gisela Zimmermann

Dissertation Project

Pilgrimage in the age of digital communication

Pilgrimages are sacred journeys to specific natural or human-made sites that have been imbued with special meaning by their societies. Nowadays, many pilgrims use their smartphones as a travel guide and to communicate with other pilgrims, as well as with people outside the pilgrim’s sphere. The linearity of pilgrimage today is extended by the circulation of digital content outside of spatial and temporal embeddings. Pilgrimage creates a complex network of
contemplation, communication, sensation and meaning, all of which are experienced and evaluated in a complex network. This network consists of
two complementary parts: a pilgrim’s physical journey, and their presence on social media. This dissertation project’s classical and virtual ethnographic approach examines how pilgrims combine their concrete ideas of a pilgrimage with digital societies’ concepts of a current lifestyle. The work intends to clarify the relationship between the circulating logics of medial presence and the physical undertaking of a journey.The work intends to clarify the relationship between the circulating logics of medial presence and being physical on the move.


Since October 2018, Gisela Zimmermann has been a PhD student and research assistant at the graduate research group “New Travel – New Media”. She began her PhD project at the University of Zurich, and undertook field research in Germany, Switzerland, France and Spain in 2017. Gisela Zimmermann worked as a public relations officer for the commission of Landscape Development Concept Farms and the Farm Networking Project between 2012 and 2014. She was the director of the Marchmuseum between 2012 and 2013, and a research assistant at the Marchmuseum between 2011 and 2012. In 2012, she completed her studies in cultural anthropology, economic and social history and religious studies at the University of Zurich, and her thesis examined museum
practice and regional identity, with the Linthebene as an example.

Research interests

  • Digital cultures
  • Media Anthropology
  • Object Culture, Museology
  • Pilgrimage research
  • Tourism

Work Placement

  • Church at Europa-Park



  • Hochschule Deggendorf (14.-16.11.2019): Insta-Research zum #westweg im Schwarzwald. Mit Nora Winsky, Forschungskolleg „Neues Reisen – Neue Medien“. Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für Tourismuswissenschaften e.V. (DGT): „Zukunft des Tourismus im ländlichen Raum“
  • Univerzitet Singidunum, Belgrad (26.-29.06.2019): Camino Stories online and offline. With Dr. Christian Kurrat, Fernuniversität Hagen. 11th annual International religious Tourism and Pilgrimage Conference
  • Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge (16.06.2019): What pilgrims say. How pilgrims stage their pilgrimage experience on social media. London International Research College. Pilgrimage and Tourism Conference.
  • Santiago de Compostela (14.-17.4.2019): Pilgrimage and Social Networks. SIEF Biannual Conference „Track Changes: Reflecting on a Transformin World“
  • Fernuniversität in Hagen (25.10.2018): Jakobsweg 2.0 – Pilgerrituale im virtuellen Raum. Vortrag im Workshop Pilgerforschung des Arbeitskreises Pilgern


  • Bachelor seminar at the Institute for Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology: Around the world on foot. (summer term 2022)
  • Pilgerfachtag der Landesarbeitsgemeinschaft Kirche und Tourismus Baden-Württemberg (23.4.2021): „Die Sehnsucht ist größer – Pilgern neu entdecken“. Workshop-Leitung: Mit Hashtags auf dem Jakobsweg – Pilgern im Spiegel von Social Media.
  • Uwe Baumann, Hannah Kanz, Damaris Müller, Ruth Weiand und Gisela Zimmermann: Feinfühlig. Das Instituskolloquium für die Ohren. Der Podcast zur digitalen Kulturforschung SS 2021.
  • Session on religios travel writing (20.12.2018): Proseminar “From Lilliput to Lonely Planet – Travel Writing as Genre and Cultural Practice” von Dr. Anne Rüggemeier.


  • SGV (Société Suisse des Traditions Populaires)
  • SIEF (Société Internationale d´Ethnologie et de Folklore)
  • GEEF (Gesellschaft für Europäische Ethnologie Freiburg)
  • SchwStV (Société des Etudiants Suisses)
  • Freundeskreis Staatsarchiv Zürich