Relational Work in Airbnb reviews

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Abstract


Peer-to-peer businesses such as Airbnb have recently given rise to new travel trends in which electronic word of mouth, in the form of online consumer reviews (OCRs, henceforth), is the main trust mechanism with a threefold purpose: to make informed decisions regarding accommodation, gain good reputation, and manage the relational component as continuity from the offline stage of the experience. In the light of the above, this study will analyse 120 reviews (60 positive and 60 negative) written by Airbnb travellers and linked to three different emotional orientations: delighted/satisfied, ambivalent/neutral, and dissatisfied/disappointed. Taking an illocutionary and stylistic domain perspective, the reviews will be examined to understand how users manage relational work (Watts 1989, Locher and Watts 2005, Locher 2006, Locher and Watts 2008), and to ascertain what is likely to be the ‘norm’ in this particular genre (i.e., OCRs) and for the particular Virtual Community of Practice (VCoP, henceforth) (i.e., guests and hosts interacting in Airbnb). The results show that being polite seems to be the norm (hence being politic), while being rude or offensive is the exception. The data also suggest that users tend to be politic/polite through very enthusiastic and friendly messages, while dissatisfaction and ambivalence are shown by means of a process of depersonalisation, with a tone based on formality and distancing from the host. Information is also obtained from what is not said, which creates the implicature of dissatisfaction. This seems to be implicitly understood by the members of this VCoP, who seem to perceive sociability as pivotal to assess their experience.


About the authors

María de la O Hernández-López

Pablo de Olavide University

Author for correspondence.
Email: mariolahl@upo.es
Ctra. Utrera, 1, 41013 Seville, Spain

Lecturer Pablo de Olavide University. She holds a PhD in English Linguistics from Pablo de Olavide University and an MA in Applied Linguistics from Birkbeck College (London).

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