Looking back at Seminar #3 Cities, Tourism & AirBnB with Jennie Germann Molz

On 15 December the seminar series Cities & Mobilities featured the talk by Jennie Germann Molz “Sharing the City: Tourism Mobilities, Network Hospitality, and the Politics of Scale”. You can see the full lecture on the website of the Centre for Urban Studies.

While the presentations and lectures focussed on the effects and perceptions of tourist mobilities (across the globe and across cities) and AirBnB, in the discussion these issues were used to raise bigger questions about belonging, change and socialities in a mobile world.

The first presentation by Letizia Chiappini and Petter Törnberg and the discussion afterwards focused on inequalities that AirBnB produces and/or amplifies and on the relationship between AirBnB and gentrification. It appears that AirBnB becomes a medium that both reflects and produces urban imaginaries, and as such increasingly shapes ideas about cities and cities themselves.

The second presentation by Willem Boterman and Fenne Pinkster provoked a discussion about normativities of being a tourist and being mobile as well as the paradoxes in the debate on the impact of tourism: the desire to be not disturbed by tourists in “home” city often goes along with the desire to travel, to be a tourist. The ideas about appropriate mobilities translate from “global” mobilities of tourists to tourists’ movement through the city: certain practices of moving through the city are seen as not belonging in Amsterdam, e.g. on a beer bike or in a horse carriage, whereas others are fine (see also my earlier post in on interrelationship of mobilities). The discussion then revolved around the questions of belonging and home, diversity and change, mobility and fixity: who “belongs” in the city if the city centre has been constantly reshaped by new groups moving in or dwelling temporarily? What kind of diversity does tourism bring to the urban scene and what kind of diversity may be displaced? Is staying put (in particular places and circumstances) in a mobile world a privilege, a luxury, a need or an illusion – because our immobilities are only desirable and possible in the context of mobilities?

Jennie’s lecture (too rich to be summarised in a few words here) focused on the role of scale (home-neighbourhood-city-…- “anywhere”) in the politics of AirBnB promotion and interaction with cities as well as the spatialities and temporalities of belonging. The discussion picked up on the AiBnB offer of “belonging  anywhere”: Do we want to belong anywhere? How long does it take to “belong”? Brett Petzer raised the question of the impact of AirBnb as a new aesthetic and Fenne Pinkster highlighted people’s desire for “safe adventure” as the main attraction of the idea behind AirBnB. Femke Blockhuis from the city of Amsterdam discussed the role of the city in shaping the impact of AirBnB on urban living, and emphasized the necessity of dialogue with such platforms. After some collective pondering on the perceived irreversibility of trends like platform capitalism and the growing presence and power of AirBnB, Bart Stuart’s final remark left us thinking about sociality and hospitality with and without platforms: do we need AirBnB to be good hosts, do we need platforms in order to share the city?

 

Read more about the Cities & Mobilities Seminar series and come join the discussion!

 

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