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Becoming Intimately Mobile

Series:

Paula Bialski

As more and more people become mobile to visit friends, family, and business colleagues using social networking websites, technologies in use today like Couchsurfing.com or online hitchhiking websites (OHWs) are allowing people to create new, planned encounters also between strangers. This book adds to the small body of work currently existing in the social sciences which describes ways in which the internet aids such face-to-face intimacy. Based on extensive research including 5 years of ethnography of couch surfers and OHW users and insights from over 3500 open-ended survey responses, this book explores the way meetings are initiated, relationships are strengthened or avoided, and the way hospitality and homemaking are negotiated. By explaining the process of becoming intimately mobile, this work creates an in-depth account of the relationships being created today as well as the problems that arise when defining friendship and closeness in a mobile world.

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Chapter 6 Technologies of Friendship

Extract

While conducting ethnography in the fall of 2009, I found a woman who put up an advertisement of mitfahrgelegenheit.de for a ride from Frankfurt to Brussels. I emailed her my request two days before our ride would take place, and she re- plied back, confirming my spot in the car. I didn’t check my email for one day, and once in Frankfurt, I sent a text message to the driver hours before our depar- ture, double-checking if everything was going smoothly. The driver replied that she gave my spot away to somebody else a few days ago. I was more than an- noyed. I had to be in Brussels that evening, and keeping up with my mission to rideshare, I had little choice – I could pay over 70 Euros to get to Brussels and walk to the nearest train station or become a hitchhiker and get in the first car that came along. I decided to hitchhike the 200km distance to Koln, and then open the laptop I was carrying with me and search OHWs once in Koln using a wireless network. I stood by the side of a gas station off-ramp waiting for someone to pick me up. I had no control, no choice over which car will offer me a ride. Within 10 minutes of waiting, one dodgy male construction worker took me 20 kilometres to a better spot on the highway towards Koln. Then, after another 10 minute wait, three 70-year-old retirees driving to Holland for a...

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