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Welcoming Online Communities: Social Sustainability of ESN Kalmar
Linnaeus University, School of Business and Economics, Department of Organisation and Entrepreneurship.
2018 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Erasmus Student Network (ESN) plays an important role in the integration process of international students who spend their study abroad period in a new country. ESN community in Kalmar in Sweden has Facebook groups for every semester which spread the hospitality through the local ESN members, also called as ‘hosts’, for the new members who can be called either ‘guests’, ‘tourists’, ‘exchange students’ or ‘freemovers’.

The previous literature in tourism regarding social life online has emphasised the user-generated content on travel-related online communities on social media and ‘mobility turn’ that is an emerged topic in social sciences and has put social into travel and has thus forced researches to come up with new mobile methods to study online communities. Despite the fact that the word ‘social’ seems to be everywhere, social sustainability has been somewhat overlooked research area particularly in terms of online communities. This thesis project aims to fill this gap in the tourism literature and seeks to find out what social sustainability means in a context of online communities. Social sustainability forms the conceptual framework of the thesis and discusses the hosts and guests paradigm connecting it to online environments.

The empirical material was collected by using qualitative methods including online survey distributed on ESN Kalmar Facebook groups and netnography concerning the ESN Kalmar online communities on Facebook. In addition to a theoretical contribution, the thesis project makes a methodological addition since netnography is still underutilised method among tourism scholars. These methods provided comprehensive data both from subjective and objective perspectives. The data was analysed by thematic analysis under the themes of social support, well-being and friendships, which were found to be connected to socially sustainable communities in the literature.

The results found that online communities benefit from offline meetings that make the relationships between the community members stronger and thus create trust among the members. The role of the hosts and their local knowledge in the online community was proven vital in making guests to feel welcome, cared and supported during their study abroad period. However, the socially sustainable online community requires interaction and hospitality from both parties. Social sustainability of an online community can be disrupted if the community members are not cooperating and being open enough.

Besides the local importance of the study in developing ESN Kalmar’s online community dynamics by emphasising the role of social sustainability, the results can be applied to discussions of internet behaviour in general. Also, the study provides help for communities where the roles between the hosts and guests are constantly “on move”.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. , p. 65
Keywords [en]
Social sustainability, online communities, hosts and guests, mobile methods, social media
National Category
Economics and Business
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-74893OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-74893DiVA, id: diva2:1212691
Subject / course
Tourism Studies
Educational program
Tourism and Sustainability, 60 credits
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2018-06-20 Created: 2018-06-03 Last updated: 2018-06-20Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

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Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
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More styles
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  • en-GB
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  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
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