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Reconfiguring relations of accountability: the consequences of social media for the travel sector

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Expanding use of Web 2.0 technologies has generated complex information dynamics that are propelling organisations in unexpected directions, redrawing boundaries and shifting relationships. As online user-generated content gains momentum, we focus on an analysis of its consequences for relations of accountability. Our specific interest is in the use of so-called “social media” such as TripAdvisor, where participant reviews are used to rank the popularity of services provided by the travel sector. Although ranking mechanisms are not new, they become “power-charged” - to use Donna Harraway’s term - when enacted through Web 2.0 technologies. As such, they perform a substantial redistribution of accountability. We draw on data from an on-going field study to highlight the experience of a small hotel in a national park area whose business revenues have increased significantly since it became ranked as the number one hotel in the area on TripAdvisor. Using a sociomaterial approach, we discuss how phenomena such as TripAdvisor can have acute implications for small businesses in remote geographical areas. In our conclusions, we examine how the current design and performance of Web 2.0 technologies creates forms of connectivity and accountability that may have profound consequences for organisations.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/33751/

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