My first monograph has been a long time in the making and for this reason I am particularly excited to see it published by Palgrave Macmillan. It is out now for order and preview in the following link: https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-031-04010-8
In this book I explore how digital platforms in the realm of tourism and hospitality have shaped social and material worlds. The book draws on 8 years of empirical research that I carried out in different countries; it is based on data that I collected through participant observation, qualitative and quantitative content analyses and extensive interviews with hosts and guests who participate in platform economies of tourism in the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Spain, Denmark and Ghana.
It would not have been possible to finish this project without the encouragement of several people who have generously supported me along the way: Rene Van Der Duim, Ulrich Ermann, Donna Houston, Jules Wilson, Soledad Morales Pérez, and Lluís Garay Tamajón. Last but not least, the final chapter of the book relies heavily on the work that I have published with my established co-author Claudio Minca, whom, together with Kiley Goyette, Heide Bruckner and Madeline Donald have been fundamental to think with and who have inspired me to take my work in different directions. Many thanks go out to all of them!
An overview of the book and links to the individual chapters:
This introduction chapter provides an outline of the structure of the book. Drawing on the story of Freya, a short-term rental host in Barcelona, Spain, it introduces the idea of the “platform economy” within the context of tourism. It concludes with some notes on the various methods that have been used in the research that underpins the book.
A Brief History of Tourism Platforms
It would be tempting to read the onset of tourism platforms as sudden and emblematic developments of their time. Yet, the tourism industry has long been considered one of the early adopters of computerized systems and digital technologies to automate transactions, to accelerate certain work processes and to optimize scale production. This chapter provides a brief history of the intimate link between tourism and the digital. In doing so, it shows how today’s tourism platforms as techno-organizational formations are both novel as well as conventional in their replication of already existing modes of political economic organization. In the latter sections of this chapter, the brief history and digital architecture of Airbnb is described since it features as a case study throughout the remainder of the book.
The Socio-spatial Impacts of Airbnb
This chapter provides an overview of the growing impact of short-term rental platforms on urban life, and more generally, their potential to disrupt and deregulate existing order in society and the tourism economy. It argues that the conditions that allow platforms to flourish are contingent upon the different political and sectoral contexts in which they operate and the public interests that are at stake. Moreover, they depend upon governments’ interest and ability to enforce (new) regulations upon them. By means of illustration, the chapter describes the development of Airbnb in Sofia, Bulgaria and sheds light on the broader urban transformations that have taken place in the city since the end of the socialist regime in 1989. The section provides empirical evidence of the unevenly distributed economic benefits produced by Airbnb, further adding to existing socio-economic disparities within the context of Sofia, Bulgaria.
Airbnb-ed Homes and Everyday Life
This chapter explores how short-term rental platforms transform the intimate spatialities, everyday practices, and the social relations at “home”. Drawing on an (auto)ethnographic study of Airbnb within the context of Sofia, the chapter shows that the meaning of home is continuously reshaped by the social and emotional relationships that are established between different hosts and different guests. While being disruptive it also argues that the Airbnb economy represents an opportunity for some hosts to produce and extract new values from their intimate spatialities and their ordinary practices of homemaking. Finally, the chapter illustrates how, in the process, having guests over oftentimes unsettles and rearranges the social relations between those already living in that “home”.
Datafication of Everyday Life and Bodies
This chapter investigates the effects of Airbnb’s operations and politics at the scale of individual lives and the body. It critically analyses how the concepts of “hospitality” and “life” are (re-)defined through the platform. By examining Airbnb’s use of data management and metrics it shows how the platform qualifies and shapes the ordinary lives of its individual hosts. Drawing on a qualitative content analysis of the platform’s applications as well as in-depth interviews with Airbnb hosts and forum discussions the chapter discusses how people understand and resist how Airbnb manages and instrumentalizes the data that is collected on part of their efforts.
In this concluding chapter the main findings of the book are summarized. The chapter also provides suggestions for future research on tourism and digital platforms.