CSPS Research Seminar: Problems in paradise: Airbnb, the ‘sharing economy’ and social reproduction in New Zealand’s regional tourist towns

Tuesday 30 October, 12:30-13:30

Leeuwenborch C0083

Problems in paradise: Airbnb, the ‘sharing economy’ and social reproduction in New Zealand’s regional tourist towns

Stella Pennell

Since its inception in 2008 Airbnb has become the largest accommodation provider in the world. In  New Zealand regional tourist towns are disproportionately represented, making them suitable sites for investigation of the Airbnb phenomenon. Drawing on interviews conducted in 2017 with Airbnb hosts from four regional tourist towns in New Zealand, a biopolitical lens illuminates forms of social reproduction emerging for these Airbnb hosts at community, family and personal levels. Airbnb is emblematic of ‘platform capitalism’: capitalism operated through digital infrastructures. Airbnb’s ‘dividuation’ of subjects (hosts) into data bites produces forms of subjectivity anticipated, but not guaranteed, to be amenable to the ‘dataveillance’ by which the platform operates. This research identifies three forms of subjectivity that allow hosts to engage with different effects. This set of subject-positions illuminate the calculative rationalities and material and affective resources employed by Airbnb hosts amidst a horizon of biopolitical contradictions.

Stella Pennell is a PhD candidate at Massey University, New Zealand, currently at WUR on a guest fellowship with CSPS. Stella’s research interests are in regional sociology and tourism. 

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