Recognition, Trust and Reputation in Youth Travel Practices

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: F204
Distributed Paper
Michele ALTOMONTE , Social Sciences, UniversitÓ di Torino, Italy
The study investigates the issues of recognition, trust and reputation focusing on the dynamics of an online community promoting worldwide free hospitality: the couchsurfers.

With the only guarantee of the information displayed in users profiles, this website enables a potentially risky exchange, where people share their private spaces and time with unknown travellers. I analyse the process of trusting a stranger in terms of recognition of a cross-national common ground and of strategies that users can adopt in order to orientate themselves while dealing with global diversity. Mutual hospitality is here seen as a concrete experience of Kant’s cosmopolitan right, based on a willingness to engage with foreigners and on a sense of belonging to humanity that is perceived, pursued and performed by youth.

In order to illustrate this process, I have collected the data from 5 networks of 11 users, 482 online references and 15 qualitative interviews. The 3 key-elements that my work identifies are: 1) the expression and recognition of three cosmopolitan ideals that create that sense of commonality that enables the communication among members: the value of Sharing, the search for Authenticity and the desire of learning while travelling (the Bildung); 2) the creation of pathways of trust that can diffuse cooperation through the same global mediums as those of risk and fear; 3) the development of ‘social devices’, like the use of a system of public online reputation, for decoding transnational reality and for engaging with others worldwide.