couchsurfin’ the world is a photodocumentary book project about web- based hospitality communities
Internet communication has grown rapidly in the last decade with increase in the use of social network applications such as facebook.com. These networks have changed the fundamental ways individuals interact with the world, both on and off line. The exchange of personal information by users in web based networks create a feeling of participation in a large community, something akin to the world. However these profiled networks are limited to the virtual space and do not attempt to engage members in real-life or global connection. Web-based hospitality communities, such as “couchsurfing.org” or “hospitalityclub.org” take a significant step further. These networks provide an easy connection between the world wide web and the analog world, their goal is to facilitate in the meeting of members face to face with the hopes of fostering cultural understanding. The developers of hospitality communities believe that traditional modes of visiting new places, using hotels, hostels, or guided tours, yields only a surface understanding of the places visited and that the spirit of travel seeks to know more. In general contacts between travelers and the inhabitants of a destination are minimal and superficial. The users of said hospitality networks are traveling to learn about place, people, custom and culture in addition to experiencing the spectacles of tourism.
The hospitality networks try to solve this problem by bringing residents and travelers together via offering free places to stay at private homes. Travelers are walking off the beaten tracks of tourism by leaving hotel rooms behind. This move offers an opportunity to observe the private life of an unfamiliar culture. Hospitality networks claim to be providing an important step in international understanding. These networks operate with profiles so that members browse and select communication with potential hosts, it is against the rules of the community to ask for money in exchange for hospitality. The interest of either side is not financial, but cultural. It is based on mutual curiosity and intended to be a “cultural flow” instead of a “cash flow”, a “life-seeing” rather than the “sight-seeing” of typical tourism industries. This new type of traveling appeals everywhere in the world, Couchsurfing.org boasts a membership of well over two million members globally and a growth of 1,500 new users everyday.
To understand the reality of hospitality networks I made five separate journeys documenting the differing motivations and uses of hospitality networks by my protagonists. All of my navigators differing in social and personal backgrounds as they explored lands foreign to themselves, following both individuals and friends traveling together, each journey in a different part of the world, and in a different mode of travel.
Please check your local bookstore to see the full project, or follow this link to purchase your copy of the book “couchsurfin’ the world” produced by