Current research projects
I have a particular interest in the role of digital technologies shaping and making (tourism) space. My work makes broader theoretical and empirical contributions to the fields of digital geography, critical (digital) tourism studies, and urban studies. My broader research strategy is to continue exploring the role of the digital in shaping and understanding (urban) space and more specifically the role of tourism platform economies in the production and consumption of space.
My current project focuses on how tourism-related digital platforms transform the everyday lives of their users. In particular I will be looking at 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 digitally-enabled economies of tourism, predominantly drawing on short-term rental platform 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.
Since 2018, together with my colleague Dr Richard Carter-White at Macquarie University, I am carrying out a research project on the opportunities, limitations, and assumptions around virtual reality (VR) as a tool for learning and teaching in geography. With the project we wish to identify and map the pedagogical and ethical implications of using VR to teach geographies of difficult heritage.
PhD Research Project (2014-2018) completed
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