Surf's Up: Communicative Aspects of Online Trust-Building among Couchsurfing Hosts

Surf's Up: Communicative Aspects of Online Trust-Building among Couchsurfing Hosts

Maura Cherney (University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, USA), Daniel Cochece Davis (Illinois State University, USA) and Sandra Metts (Illinois State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1072-7.ch013
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Abstract

As human interaction increasingly shifts to on-line environments, the age-old challenge of determining communicators' credibility becomes all the more important and challenging. The absence of nonverbal behaviors adds to this challenge, though “rich media” attempt to compensate for this traditional lacuna within mediated interpersonal communication. The present study seeks to empirically understand how the ability and necessity of trust and credibility are built, maintained, and depreciated in online environments, using the on-line “Couchsurfing” travel environment as a worthy sample. In this environment, both hosts and guests must determine whether the other is a viable candidate for free housing, even though they have typically never met face-to-face, or even spoken via phone. Results show participants relying on information found in members' request messages and references, both when accepting and rejecting requests, with a lack of reliance placed on photos and other textual profile information.
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Background

Advancements in technology allow for a more collaborative, extended opportunity for the peer-to-peer travel economy than ever existed in the past (Guttentag, 2015). The hospitality exchange web community, Couchsurfing, puts travelers in contact with hosts in geographic areas where they plan on traveling. The website has ten million active members, representing over 200,000 cities and every country on Earth (Couchsurfing International, 2016a), and it includes communication with the potential to move from an online environment to face-to-face interaction.

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