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Tourism in the Network Society, Amsterdam, 5-6 April 2013

Tourism in the Network Society: Computer-Mediated Hospitality and the Transformation of Urban Tourism and Travel Practice


University of Amsterdam, 5-6 April 2013

Since the mid-2000s, the emergence of computer-mediated communication and online community platforms has generated new forms of touristic hospitality as well as tourist behaviour. Instead of booking packaged tours and accommodation through professional tourism agents, travelers have started to use sites such as CouchSurfing, Hospitality Club, SabbaticalHomes or AirBnB to create direct contact with possible hosts, travel companions or local guides. The principle of these new sites is that hosts and guests initially interact within the online environment, and then meet up, hang out and even host each other in the offline context of actual travel. Computer-mediated hospitality platforms cut out traditional intermediaries such as travel agents and create a new type of tourism, in which private people are enabled to open their homes to tourists from around the world and to mediate personalised narratives about culture, heritage and everyday life. These platforms create new forms of relationships between hosts and tourists and promote what users often claim as a cosmopolitan atmosphere.

The aim of the workshop was to explore the societal transformations induced by such computer-mediated hospitality and tourism, to analyze the ideological underpinnings of different online communities, and to assess their potentials and limits in generating new forms of cosmopolitanism in practice. The focus on computer-mediated hospitality also offered a privileged entrance to a broader study on the emergence and organization of computer-mediated communication, online communities and contemporary network society.


Topic 1 — Methodologies to study trans-cultural mobilities

Which methodologies can be used to approach network society through the specific prism of computer mediated hospitality platforms?

Topic 2 — Hospitality and society

How do computer-mediated hospitality transform actual travel and hospitality practice, in particular the means by which hosts and guest get in contact, generate trust and manage their interactions?

Topic 3 — Policy and management

From a practitioner’s perspective, what are the practical and technological aspects of developing, managing and also policing tourism and hospitality websites and related online communities (e.g. issues of netiquette, trust, net knowledge and community motivation; use of new technologies, software, Smartphone apps)?

Topic 4 — Self, other and place

How do computer-mediated hospitality platforms enable different actors to participate in the processes of cultural representation and the (re-)production of social identities at various scales?



Jennie Germann Molz
Assistant Professor at Holy Cross in Worcester, MA (USA)


The workshop was jointly organized by the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands and the Tourism-Contact-Culture Research Network (TOCUCO). It is convened by De-Jung Chen and David Picard.



Abram, Simone (Leeds Metropolitan University, UK)

Bialski, Paula (Hafen University Hamburg, Germany)

Buchberger, Sonja (SOAS, University of London, UK)

Chen, De-Jung (University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands)

Picard, David (New University of Lisbon, Portugal)

Salazar, Noël(Leuven University, Belgium)

Terhorst, Pieter (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Zuev, Dennis (ISCTE-IUL, Lisbon, Portugal)



Day 1 (5 April 2013, Friday)
10.45-11.45 The (im)mobile Life of Digital Photographs: The Case of Tourist Photography / by Jonas Larsen
11.45-13.00 Lunch
13.00-14.30 Session 1: Global community, local practice
(1) Domestic hospitality goes online in the Maghreb / Sonja Buchberger
(2) Surfing along the Trans-Siberian Railway: warm-glow of cosmopolitan learning in Siberia / Dennis Zuev
(3) Intimate encounters with otherness - exploring similarity and difference on Serbia's couches / by Alexander Chaplin
14.30-15.00 Coffee break
15.00-16.30 Session 2: Tourist experiences and tourist places
(4) The transformation of tourist places in the Internet age / De-Jung Chen
(5) Places and Couchsurfers: the cases of Paris and Berlin / Brenda Le Bigot
(6) Digital Recognition” of other community members and new travel practices / Michele Altomonte
16.30-17.00 Coffee break
17.00-18.00 Session 3: The development and management of computer-mediated-hospitality network
(7) The Pains of Being Intimately Mobile: short-term rentals versus hospitality networks / Paula Bialski
(8) Homestay: An Experiment in Hospitality / Fiona Hallinan
18.30-21.00 Dinner at Café de Jaren (Address: Nieuwe Doelenstraat 20 – 22, 1012 CP Amsterdam)

Day 2 (6 April 2013, Saturday)
At Perdu (Address: Kloveniersburgwal 86, 1012 CZ Amsterdam)
09.30-10.30 Dwelling Together in a Mobile Society: From Network Sociality to Network Hospitality / Jennie Germann Molz
10.30-11.00 Coffee break
11.00-12.00 Conclusion discussion
14.00-16.30 Couchsurfers’ meetup "One Couch at a Time" documentary screening & discussion with Couchsurfers

Downlaod a copy of the conference handbook.