Social Networks and cultural exchanges: the phenomena of Couchsurfing
Institute of Social Sciences University of Minho Guimaraes, Portugal
This paper intends to discuss the role of information and communication technologies, specially the Internet and the increasing phenomena of social networks based on on-line platforms, as relevant promoters for trans-national connections between individuals which are currently emerging by on going transformations in travel and leisure practices.
The main purpose of this study is to evaluate the potential of ICT?s as a key agent that nowadays has been contributing to activate social changes by the appearance of new collective practices, namely by the emergence of new mobility behaviours as a consequence of on-going transformations in the way peoples travel and spend their holidays.
The more and more frequent use of low-costs flights has been responsible for an exponential increase of holidays abroad for publics that were not so familiar with this opportunity, however the accommodation costs still remains relevant limiting the length of this journeys as well as the consumption practices and interactions in the destination place. Some telematic portals has been appearing recently in order to minimize this constraint.
In this paper we will evaluate the implications of the telematic portal "couchsurfing", which will be presented as a social network composed by more than 860 thousand members, who are available to receive in their homes, free of any charge, other members of this worldwide community. This service will be discussed as a social software, functioning as a volunteer-based worldwide network connecting travellers with members of local communities, and aiming to create educational exchanges; spread tolerance and facilitate cultural understanding. It can be stated that the main purpose of this on-line service is to facilitate connections worldwide and cultural exchanges.
Based in a quantitative and representative approach it will be presented the profile of the Portuguese "couchsurfer", as well as it will be evaluated the repercussions of this phenomena among Portuguese members.