In this paper, the aim is to study virtual presence in travel blogs. The paper seeks to argue that though some conceptualization of virtual presence has been made in the literature, this only took account of one's presence among a community of “known” others. Increasingly, however, in blogging and other online communities, users do not necessarily know the “others” but they nevertheless interact with them and develop friendships and lasting relationships. This stresses the multidimensional character of the study; one which sees presence as the core topic by considering different perspectives to it.
An exploratory case study is conducted with a backpackers' blogging site, its members and audience; a setting that was considered suitable for finding answers to the research questions. The data are analysed qualitatively following a thematic analysis approach.
It was found that the invisible and unknown audience has an important role to play in backpackers' presence online. In particular, the study highlights the role played by the audience in shaping the blogging experience and the sense of presence that this experience develops.
The exploratory case study carries a number of limitations. The findings are based on: reflections and views shared with the researchers by the bloggers, through interviews; a discussion forum; and on an enacted audience through their reflections.
For practitioners, the study has implications in the areas of attracting and keeping audiences' interest and also in how to develop and support shared identity among independent travellers.
The paper contributes to a better understanding of online communities and virtual social networks in general by showing how virtual worlds reshape social space and social interactions.
Panteli, N., Yan, L. and Chamakiotis, P. (2011), "Writing to the unknown: bloggers and the presence of backpackers", Information Technology & People, Vol. 24 No. 4, pp. 362-377. https://doi.org/10.1108/09593841111182241Download as .RIS
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