Becoming Airbnbeings: on datafication and the quantified Self in tourism

Abstract

Provocatively drawing inspiration from an episode of the Netflix series Black Mirror and China’s Social Credit System this article critically examines the politics and practices of datafication, quantification and qualification associated to the Airbnb platform. It first explores some of the ideas and ontological claims that endorse Airbnb’s digital infrastructure. Secondly, it looks at how the company’s use of data management and metrics has become increasingly instrumental in maintaining control over hosts and guests and obtaining desirable and profitable outcomes. It does so by unpicking various applications and technologies used by Airbnb to monitor, record and measure the behaviour of hosts and guests. Drawing on in-depth interviews with Airbnb hosts and their participation in forum discussions the article discusses how people understand – and resist – Airbnb’s ‘ranking logic’ and the ways in which their Selves and their homes should be rated and ranked and put into circulation as ‘value’ by the platform. In particular, the article argues that, through the review and rating system incorporated in the platform, both guests and hosts actively contribute to the production of a set of constantly changing hierarchies that represent the driving force of Airbnb as a biopolitical social regulator.

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