Contribution to COST Action Sharing & Caring

In April 2020 I contributed a case study of my work to the COST Action group “Sharing and Caring”. The main objective of this action is to “develop a European network of actors focusing on the development of collaborative economy models and platforms and on social and technological implications of the collaborative economy through a practice focused approach”.

The collective behind the COST Action collects and publishes information on sharing initiatives from various countries involved in the action, in order to create a repository that is accessible to the wider public via their website.

In my case study on the performance of “home” in the platform economies of tourism, I describe how short-term rental platform have changed the meaning and practices of home for both hosts and guests involved. It summarizes a paper that I published in Fennia in 2018, which has been published open access here. The complete case study can be accessed here:

These are some of the findings that I share on the COST Action website:

  • The way Airbnb homes are shared and performed depends largely on the materialities of “home”, which are interwoven with the history and politics of their related contexts. People’s intimate spatialities are continuously shaped not just by themselves but also by outside forces. For example, with the largescale privatisation of energy in Bulgaria and the resulting rise in energy prices, many people struggled to afford their energy bills and to maintain thermal comfort. The inability to provide a comfortable thermal environment to guests, lead to feelings of unhomeliness on part of both host and guest.
  • Under specific and sometimes challenging conditions, Airbnb hosts and guests engage in certain practices of home-making to make each other “feel at home”. These include implicit and explicit bordering practices such as: pointing out how certain spaces (bathroom, kitchen etc.) should be used; informing each other which spaces are to be avoided during the stay (bedroom, study room, communal hallway etc.); avoiding being overtly present in the communal areas of the house (kitchen, living room, garden etc.); being deliberately silent for the duration of the stay, between and outside “quiet hours” of the day.
  • There was an ambiguous notion that some intimate practices should be shared as part of the Airbnb experience whereas others were not. For example, having breakfast together was (in some instances) encouraged, whereas leaving behind bodily products in the house was considered inappropriate.
  • Certain materialities of home that are deemed to possess particular “symbolical” value are selectively re-signified by the hosts in order to “stage” an authentic experience of life and home.
  • Both host and guest play a fundamental role in “home-making” by providing a hospitable atmosphere, not impinging on each other’s privacy, and performing “home” according to a set of social and cultural expectations on part of both host and guest.