Social networking sites' influence on travelers' authentic experience: a case study of CouchSurfing

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Liu, Xiao
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Middle Tennessee State University
This study explored travelers' experiences in the era of network hospitality 2.0 using as a case study. The following research questions guided this study: 1) what experience does CouchSurfing create for travelers before, during and after their travel? 2) how does couch surfers' experience relate to authenticity in context of network hospitality 2.0? data was collected through semi-structured interviews, online surveys, and textual analysis of couch surfers' online comments about their experience. Data analysis produced three independent manuscripts that examine couch surfers' experiences from various perspectives. The first manuscript used the Rasch Model to examine the couch surfers' perceptions of online factors that contribute to their decision-making in search for a host before traveling offline. The second manuscript seeks deeper understanding of couch surfers' authentic using semi-structured interviews. The last manuscript explores authenticity that is manifested in couch surfers' own expressions of their experience in online reviews. Quantitative data analysis found that the factors couch surfers perceive most important are: negative references, positive references, couch availability, personal description and pictures. Qualitative data indicated that network hospitality 2.0 provides opportunities for couch surfers to experience authenticity. However, when applying qualitative data to existential authenticity, some types of existential authenticity are more frequently seen in the data than others.
Authenticity, Couch surfing, Network hospitality, Social networking sites