Nathan Lynn Sany

Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Spring 5-14-2014

Major Department or Program



Jason Pribilsky


This thesis provides an anthropological investigation of hospitality arranged by, the largest hospitality exchange network on the Web. Couchsurfers, as members of the couchsurfing network are called, are tourists who travel around the world and stay for free with strangers with the tacit expectation that—perhaps someday—they too will provide a proverbial “couch” for their host in the future. Couchsurfing is essentially an iteration of “alternative tourism,” a form of travel that seeks out authentic experiences that better the world instead of consumption and leisure which are reportedly inexorable elements of modern mass tourism. In this thesis, I combine personal couchsurfing experience, primary ethnographic research with couchsurfers in the Pacific Northwest, and careful examination of secondary research from the fields of mobilities, tourism studies, and anthropology to analyze the couchsurfing community. I explore couchsurfing at many levels beyond tourism and explore how the network exists at the intersection of modernity, virtual communities, authenticity, digital representation, nostalgia, and sharing economies.

Page Count


Subject Headings

Hospitality industry -- Marketing -- Social aspects, Social networks, Web sites -- Analysis, Hospitality -- Tourism, Internet -- Hospitality, Tourism -- Computer network resources -- -- Personal narratives, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2014 -- Anthropology Department

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Public Accessible Thesis

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