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Open Access Publications from the University of California

'CouchSurfing' : explorations in cosmopolitanism, trust, and resistance

  • Author(s): Shapiro, Josh D.
  • et al.

This dissertation is based on qualitative and quantitative research conducted via a case study of, a hybrid online/offline hospitality exchange network that enables travelers to locate locals who offer them free accommodation. Chapter one begins with a statistical analysis of CouchSurfers to determine if they hold a cosmopolitan orientation. My analysis incorporates nationally representative samples from 21 different countries, over 1400 CouchSurfers, and 74,000 respondents to the World Value Survey into a single statistical model. My results demonstrate that being a CouchSurfer was the single most important predictor of self-identifying as a global citizen with the world as a whole. Chapter two tackles the concept of trust, which is the glue that holds the CouchSurfing community together. Trust is required to deal with the uncertainty inherent in CouchSurfing. Both trust and trustworthiness are established explicitly and implicitly through multiple elements and layers of the CouchSurfing process. I came to understand that the development of trust within this network was multi-causal but was largely dependent on a member's perception of familiarity. Each of the CouchSurfing stages identified helps to embed a "familiar world" in the individual members of the CouchSurfing community and describe how trust is then embodied and exchanged in both online and offline settings. Chapter three enters the discussion of the globalization process that fosters questions regarding the detriments and benefits of a shrinking world. By delving into various critiques of globalization from CouchSurfers I will trace the seemingly impervious path of rationalization and disenchantment. However, by also moving beyond CouchSurfers' critique of globalization, this chapter intends to provide an account of how CouchSurfers seem to find freedom and meaning within a world they see ensnared by disenchantment. Taken as a whole, the chapters weave together a narrative of what it means to be a CouchSurfer and elucidate the larger values and worldview of this community. As society changes and adapts to rapid globalization and technological advancements, CouchSurfing offers insights and implications for society

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