Literature Review of Couchsurfing Research

The Disclaimer

This is not a comprehensive review (although you’re welcome to add more sources in comments or send me an email). This is also not a real scientific literature review. Some results are contradictory and it is up to you to judge who is right and who is wrong.

This is just a list of academic papers/theses/articles published on the topic of Couchsurfing. I used many of these papers when I was writing my thesis and articles on CS. I hope this little review will help you in your research.

This post is also available in pdf.

The List

(Adamic, Lauterbach, Teng, & Ackerman, 2011) combines data analysis of ratings, a large-scale survey, and in-depth interviews trying to understand the ratings on CS. Many users tend to overrate other members being afraid that they may provide reciprocally negative reference or rating. Negative references are underrepresented (only 1 to 2500 positives). Authors propose rating design that would encourage more balanced feedback.

(Ayers-Greenidge, 2012) explores guest’s motivations to use CS. Author finds that motivation to be a traveller (rather than tourist) is the most important, while initial motivation to save money when travelling is also popular. Author ties trust to the concept of intimate tourism. The similarity is an important factor in selecting possible host.

(Bialski & Batorski, 2010) ties concept of trust in CS to familiarity. Using an online survey of 3000 CS members, and 30 personal interviews, authors outline three stages of the CS experience when the trust emerges: pre-selection of users, website and profile navigation and offline contact. Familiarity plays crucial role in the formation of trust.

Continue reading Literature Review of Couchsurfing Research

Couchsurfing survey results: motivations and negative experiences

This is the second post, providing an overview of the data collected during my survey research of network. In the first post I wrote about demographics, CS use and individual trust in the network. In this one I will speak about motivation to use Couchsurfing and negative experiences in this social network.

Motivations users were asked to evaluate the importance of several reasons as motivations for taking up couchsurfing and joining the network. This somewhat reflects the official Couchsurfing discourse about sharing and learning as the main stimuli to use the network.
reasons to use couchsurfing

The similar set of questions asked about motivation for using Couchsurfing service at the time of the survey. This time saving money was named “a very important reason” even less often (only by 36.7%), while sharing own culture, learning other cultures and desire to help others gained the most (around 6% as a very important reason each).

Among other reasons to use Couchsurfing respondents particularly often named possibility to learn foreign languages and self-improvement (usually through the improvement of one’s social skills). Still a reason named even more often than previous two was using Couchsurfing “to find love or sex”. Apparently significant number of people use as a dating website, although as it can be seen from the negative experience section in the same survey, not everyone is happy with that.

Negative experiences

Looking into the negative experiences on Couchsurfing was also one of the key topics of the research. On Couchsurfing only 1 in every 2500 references is negative. Previous researchers estimated that the percentage of actual negative experiences are much higher, up to 14.7%[1]. In the discussed survey 24.2% of respondents admitted having a negative experience on Couchsurfing. Hardly anyone has ever left a negative reference though. Reasons for that are too complicated to be addressed in this small post.

The main sources of negative experiences can be broadly classified into several groups:

  1. Generally inappropriate behaviour (dirtiness, careless by the visitors, excessive demands by the hosts, occasional drunkenness by both the visitors and hosts)
  2. Sexual harassment (inappropriate remarks or suggestive behaviour towards female members, solved either by discussing the issue or leaving. This kind of negative experiences most often resulted in actual negative references)
  3. Betrayal of Couchsurfing values (most subjective and somewhat ambiguous category of negative experiences related to unfulfilled expectations about adherence of other party to the CS principles)

Some people admitted that because of negative experiences they ended up frequently using AirBnB or hostels as an alternative to Couchsurfing.

Making world a better place?

Despite the negative experiences majority of users agree with the statement that couchsurfing as a cultural practice makes the world a better place.
does couchsurfing make world  a better place

There can be different ways of measuring positive impact of the network. Those providing more detailed answer to the question indicated that couchsurfing can help in reducing the prejudice and promoting tolerance. As one of the Couchsurfing members put it: “I think Couchsurfing develops more tolerance towards different cultures, more awareness about what life is really like in other parts of the world and simply broadens your horizon by meeting different people with different minds.”

When directly asked about trust and tolerance, most of the respondents indicated their participation in Couchsurfing made them more tolerant and trustful towards strangers.

The dataset described here is a part of my PhD research on Couchsurfing and hospitality networks, the full SPSS-dataset will be available for anyone after my PhD is published (which will happen early in 2015).

Couchsurfing survey results: experience and trust

The dataset described here is a part of my PhD research on Couchsurfing and hospitality networks, the full SPSS-dataset will be available for anyone after my PhD is published (which will happen early in 2015).

In the series of posts on Poisoned Coffee I will provide an overview of the data collected along with some comments. In the first one I will provide basic information about people who participated in the survey, CS use and individual trust in the network.

Second post discusses the negative experiences and motivation to use

In total 990 users participated in the survey.
The respondents age and gender distribution was the following:
couchsurfing data 1

Similarly to the findings of the Stanford research group[1], I observed certain specification in the usage of Couchsurfing: many members use the network either for hosting or for surfing but not both. The experience in the following table is counted in the number of times a user hosted or stayed at other user’s place.
couchsurfing experience

1-2 days are the most common span for one stay arranged through the network. More than two-thirds of all respondents indicated that as their typical visiting time.
typical time spent couchsurfing

During the stay, more than a half of all users (51,7%) say they often engage into common activities with their guests or hosts. 77.9% at least sometimes accompany the guest around the city they live, showing around. 67% of users admitted they maintain contact with people they met through Couchsurfing “sometimes” or “often”. In contrast only 15.9 and 13.8 per cent of people indicated they frequently participate in CS meeting and CS groups respectively.
activities on couchsurfing

The Couchsurfing users were asked a number of trust-related questions, one of which was the standard trust-question: “Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you need to be very careful in dealing with people?”
It allowed to assess respondent’s trust on a 11-point scale. From 0 to 10.
trust in couchsurfing

Mean trust index by country (only countries with more than 20 valid answers are included):
trust index by country

When compared with the control group who did not use hospitality exchange networks, CS users were found significantly more trustful.