Much of my research has been concerned with digital technologies and the role that digital technologies play in shaping and making places and spaces. Within this field of research I have paid particular attention to the gendered, classed and racialized inequalities that are sometimes reinforced or challenged through digital technolgies. When I carry out research projects I also try to stay attentive to geographical context; I keep in mind that practices, habits, communication, ideas, values, and other forms of (human) activity differ according to where these take place. I am fascinated by the intersections of context and culture.
My work has made theoretical and empirical contributions to the fields of digital/cultural/human geography, critical (digital) tourism studies, urban studies and housing studies. Over the past years, I have worked on the following projects:
Tourism Platforms and Digital Activism
My current project “Challenging Platform Capitalism from Within” (2020 – 2023) examines how tourism-related digital platforms transform the everyday lives of their users. It asks how users of those platforms assert their political agency to challenge and change platforms’ modes of governance. Empirically, I explore practices of data activism and data resistance in the short-term rental economy Airbnb. More about this project can be found on my other website: www.tourismplatforms.com This research project has been funded by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, where I work as a postdoctoral researcher. The first outcomes of the project are listed below:
- Roelofsen, M. 2022. Hospitality, Home and Life in the Platform Economies of Tourism. Palgrave Macmillan
- Roelofsen, M. & Goyette, K. 2022. “Second Shift 2.0. Intensifying housework in platform urbanism” In Strüber, A. and Bauriedl, S. (eds.) Platformization of Urban Life. Towards a Technocapitalist Transformation of European Cities. Transcript Publishing – Columbia University Press
- Roelofsen, M. 2021. Capitalizing on crises. Reflections on Airbnb’s transformations from the great recession to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Pecorelli, V. (ed.) From Overtourism to Undertourism: Sustainable Scenarios in Post Pandemic Times. Unicopli
- Roelofsen, M. & Minca, C. 2021. Sanitized homes and healthy bodies. Reflections on Airbnb’s response to the pandemic. Oikonomics 15 (May). https://doi.org/10.7238/o.n15.2104
- Roelofsen, M. & Minca, C. 2021. Alojamientos desinfectados y cuerpos sanos: reflexiones sobre la respuesta de Airbnb a la pandemia. Oikonomics 15 (May). https://doi.org/10.7238/o.n15.2104
Virtual Reality in Learning and Teaching Geography
Together with my colleague Dr Richard Carter-White at Macquarie University, I have been carrying out a research project on the opportunities, limitations, and assumptions around virtual reality (VR) as a tool for learning and teaching in geography. Our collaboration started in 2018 and is ongoing. With the project we wish to identify and map the pedagogical and ethical implications of using VR to teach geographies of difficult heritage. The first results of our study have been published in Geographical Research, the Open Access paper can be found here.
- Roelofsen M., and Carter-White, R. 2022 “Virtual reality as a spatial prompt in geography learning and teaching.” Geographical Research. https://doi.org/ 10.1111/1745-5871.12551
Biopolitics and Tourism in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic
This project combines several different studies on various tourism geographies of the COVID-19 pandemic, which are approached from a biopolitical perspective. I carry out this project together with Prof. Claudio Minca at the University of Bologna, Italy. The first results of this project have been presented in a session on Biopolitcs and the Geographies of Tourism at the Nordic Geographers Meeting in Joensuu, Finland.
Completed Research Projects
Accommodating Guests during Pandemic Times (2019 – 2022)
The project Accommodating Guests during Pandemic Times was based on a collaboration with Simon Lind Fischer and Torben Engstrøm Underlin from Business Academy Dania at Aarhus, Denmark. The purpose of this study was to investigate how Airbnb hosts experienced and responded to the COVID-19 health crisis. We also examined how these experiences and responses related to their motivations to host and to the type and spatial layout of their Airbnb accommodation. This qualitative multi-method small-scale case study relied on in-depth interviews and a focus group discussion carried out with a group of hosts affiliated to the Airbnb Host Community in Aarhus, Denmark. The study concluded that COVID-19 pandemic has unevenly affected Airbnb hosts. Hosts who share their homes with guests require different adaptations to their daily behaviour and cleaning practices at home than hosts who do not stay with their guests and rent out entire properties. However, unlike professional hosts who largely or solely rely on Airbnb for their income, occasional home-sharing hosts tend to be more flexible in coping with cancelled or fewer bookings. The results of this study can be found here.
- Fischer, S.L. & Roelofsen, M. 2022. Accommodating guests during pandemic times: a case-study of the Airbnb Host Community in Aarhus, Denmark. Journal of Tourism Futures. https://doi.org/10.1108/JTF-09-2021-0209
Media Based Assessment as a Primary Document Format in the Humanities (2019 – 2022)
Together with project leader Michael Rampe and collaborators Dr. Ronika Power and Dr. Bénédicte André at Macquarie University, Australia, I have contributed to the funding application proposal for a project on the use of media-based assessments in education. The project looked at Student Video Assessments where Echo360 software was used for delivery and assessment of student work. It investigated the commonalities and differences between 3 humanities disciplines using this form of assessment in the Faculty of Arts at Macquarie University with a view to informing further uptake in these and other disciplines. The study was successfully funded with AUD$ 7.000.- by the Echo360 in 2019. Some of the project results can be found here.
PhD Research Project (2014 – 2018)
Between February 2014 and July 2108 I carried out my PhD research project at the University of Graz, Austria. The PhD was funded through a competitive scholarship scheme offered by the Faculty of Environmental, Regional and Educational Sciences (URBI).
My PhD thesis has provided a critical analysis of the role of short-term rental platform Airbnb in shaping places and people’s everyday lives. It moved along three different scales: that of the city; that of the intimate spatialities of the home; and that of the everyday life of individuals. Empirically, it mainly focused on the Airbnb economy in Sofia (Bulgaria) but also more broadly investigated the platform’s design to analyse the ways in which the platform qualifies practices of hospitality amongs individual hosts. The thesis also considered the broader impact of Airbnb on the urban context of Sofia by drawing on an analysis of Airbnb listing data that was extracted from the platform in 2015 and 2018.
In my work I have largely relied on an ethnographic and autoethnographic approach. The latter approach considers the Self and body of the researcher as contingent to that what is researched. In my work I have drawn on my own experiences as host and as guest relying on visual methods such as photography and video to document my fieldwork. But I have also employed ethnographic methods such as participant observation and held in-depth interviews with other Airbnb hosts and guests. Additionally, I have used a qualitative content- and discourse analyses of web content.
My PhD thesis has resulted in three academic publications, which can be found here:
- 2018. Roelofsen, M. “Exploring the socio-spatial inequalities of Airbnb in Sofia, Bulgaria” Erdkunde 74(4) 313–327. https://doi.org/10.3112/erdkunde.2018.04.04
- 2018. Roelofsen, M. “Performing ‘home’ in the sharing economies of tourism: the Airbnb experience in Sofia, Bulgaria.” Fennia 196(1). https://doi.org/10.11143/fennia.66259
- 2018. Roelofsen, M., and Minca, C. “The Superhost. Biopolitics, place and community in the Airbnb dream-world of global hospitality.” Geoforum 91, 170–181. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2018.02.021
My fieldwork was generously funded through the Rudi Roth Grant for Research on South-Eastern and Eastern Europe. I am thankful for the generous support and supervision from Prof. Dr. Ulrich Ermann and Prof. René van der Duim who have guided me throughout my PhD trajectory.
Master Thesis Project (2011-2012) completed
Under the supervision of Dr. ir. Karin Peters, I have explored the complexities that underlie the formation of women’s social networks at traditional social student organisations in the Netherlands. This study informed my MSc thesis in the pursuit of an MSc degree in Leisure, Tourism and Environment at Wageningen University. In the Netherlands, traditional social student organisations are popularly termed the ‘corps’. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 20 women, I have investigated in which ways social networks at the corps are segregated, and to what extent their divisions depended on previously acquired economic, cultural and symbolic capital. I have analysed the hierarchical structures and ‘ranking’ of women’s year clubs within the corps. Secondly, I have examined how the enactment and achievement of femininity determines women’s ability to move through the corps’ social space. Finally, I have investigated the use of social capital for these women’s career progression. This study aimed to advance theory on the intersectionality of gender and class in leisure space. My thesis resulted in two publications that I co-authored with Dr Peters:
- Roelofsen, M. & Peters, K. 2017. “Het was gewoon vanzelfsprekend.” Over lidmaatschap van het corps, sociale netwerken en vrouwelijkheid. Vrijetijdstudies 1:35, 21-31.
- Roelofsen, M. & Peters, K. 2015. Doing femininity and respectability: social networks and social capital among female members of Dutch student organisations. Leisure Studies 36(33): 341-356. DOI: 10.1080/02614367.2015.1105860