Digitally networked activism and the geographies of resistance in contested tourism spaces: Understanding the role of online collaborative tourism platforms

Authors: Julie Wilson*, Faculty of Economics and Business Studies, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya / Open University of Catalonia, Soledad Morales*, Faculty of Economics and Business Studies, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya / Open University of Catalonia, Lluís Garay Tamajón, Faculty of Economics and Business Studies, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya / Open University of Catalonia
Topics: Tourism Geography, Urban Geography, Development
Keywords: tourism, contested spaces, geographies of resistance, uneven development, digital platforms, collaborative economy, inequality, social movements, online protest and resistance, spectacle, situationism, social networks as digital frontstages
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Hoover, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Tourism-related collaborative economy (CE) activities have grown in scale and scope in recent years and the resulting impacts of this major disruptive shift are particularly felt in local neighbourhoods. There has been a strong, critical response from social movements across the globe in opposition to the negative impacts generated / the inherent contradictions in the rhetoric of many major tourism-related CE platforms. In the city of Barcelona, protest and resistance collectives are gaining considerable momentum via activism that is highly organised, digitally and socially networked and increasingly multinational in scope. Platform capitalism is one of their primary concerns – particularly the more extractive ‘unicorn’ models, such as the accommodation platform AirBnB. Taking Barcelona as a case study, this paper presents an analysis the critical narratives on Twitter in opposition to AirBnB’s activities in different districts of the city. This analysis is contrasted with data by disaggregated by district on resident population distribution, the location of principle tourism nodes, ‘formal’ accommodation concentration and the presence / strength of protest and resistance movements. The study is based on a digital content analysis of approximately 25,000 tweets made in relation to AirBnB and Barcelona identifiably oriented towards conflict / protest / resistance narratives. Taking the notions of contested spaces, uneven development and the geographies of resistance as an underlying interpretative framework, the paper examines how negative impacts of tourism saturation can be managed more sustainably to generate long-lasting, tangible benefits for those places and spaces that need to co-exist with tourism.

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