“They do not know what promotes the desire to excel.” Politics and data activism in the platform economies of tourism

Dr Maartje Roelofsen1

1Department Of Geography And Planning, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia


This presentation aims at exploring practices of data activism and data resistance in the digitally-enabled economies of tourism, drawing empirically on the short-term rental platform Airbnb. Since Airbnb’s meteoric rise, users of the platform have become increasingly aware of the critical role of data collection and think politically about how data is put to use to achieve certain objectives. Drawing on online posts in Airbnb’s community fora, I wish to elicit both affirmative engagement with datafication on part of the Airbnb users as well as their resistance to the platforms’ appropriation of data. I highlight various forms of contestation and protest, from critiques to algorithmic design and decision-making to practices of “supportive-reviewing” among hosts and guests. Whether through individual or collective action, users challenge the ways in which the platform collects, monitors and appropriates data. They also demand recognition for more just ways of developing the platform’s infrastructure. This presentation intends to show how tourism platforms have become important means of self-expression and social change, allowing users to challenge and influence the ways in which knowledge and information (about themselves and their homes) are framed and activated.


I am a cultural geographer and an associate lecturer at the Department of Geography and Planning at Macquarie University. My background is in tourism studies and leisure studies and I have completed my doctoral degree in Human Geography at the University of Graz (Austria). I have a particular interest in the role of digital technologies shaping and making (tourism) space. My work makes broader theoretical and empirical contributions to work in digital geography, critical (digital) tourism studies, and to urban studies. maartje.roelofsen@mq.edu.au

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