Projects

I’m currently working on three project lines. Please find the details below.

1. Intimate Strangers

Digital technology is radically transforming touristic experiences. Online hospitality platforms, allowing private individuals to lease or rent short-term lodging, are redefining what counts as a travel destination. Airbnb is the emblematic example of such peer-to-peer tourism, currently featuring over three million lodgings. Its latest slogan, ‘live there’, reflects the search for ‘local’ and ‘genuine’ experiences against the manufactured experiences of the tourist industry. Under this banner, the platform introduces large numbers of tourists into residential areas. This has been connected to a number of unintended social issues, from aggression to noise pollution to a weakened sense of community.

Intimate Strangers explores the mechanisms underlying Airbnb’s hospitality problems. Starting from the premise that the service is informed by an ideology of authenticity in which the ‘local’ experience is idealized and commodified, it analyzes how this authenticity is negotiated in interactions between hosts, guests and locals, and how it produces tensions between concerns of privacy and intimacy. The project combines online, quantitative data analyses of user-generated content on Airbnb with offline interviews involving hosts, guests, and local stakeholders. In sum, the project offers empirically supported insight into the effects of peer-to-peer tourism on hospitality.

2. ExTraVid

Established in 2017, ExTraVid (Exploring Travel in Videogames) is a project investigating video games as travel sites. It documents our favorite travel experiences in games, and aims to see what the relations are between virtual and physical travel.

Videogames enact travel and play out travel narratives. With games becoming more graphically realistic and mechanically sophisticated, the boundaries between terrestrial and virtual travel start to blur. Players and travelers, in other words, are interrelated within our contemporary algorithmic culture.

3. Digital Hermeneutics

What is the status and value of practices of interpretation in the Humanities today? Over the last decades, many scholars have written about the limits of interpretation, and in some case argued that it is something we can overcome—think of post- and anti-hermeneutic tendencies in media archaeology (Wolfgang Ernst, Friedrich Kittler; Vilém Flusser); speculative realism and object-oriented ontology (Levi Bryant; Graham Harman; Quentin Meillassoux); surface reading (Heather Love; Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick), and quantitative formalism (Franco Moretti; Sarah Allison; Matthew Jockers). Recent forms of ‘distant reading’ in the Digital Humanities, experiments in machine reading, critiques of historicism, and narratives of the ‘turn away from the linguistic turn’ all present important alternatives to the practice of interpreting individual texts and objects.

Digital Hermeneutics provides a platform for debates on interpretation in times of big data and post-hermeneutic approaches. We look for ways to bring the hermeneutic tradition in Humanities research and teaching together with recent (quantified, material, or object-oriented) alternatives. See digitalhermeneutics.com.

BLOG: Scripted Journeys

I run a blog on the intersection of travel and technology, called Scripted Journeys.