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Stabilising collaborative consumer networks: how technological mediation shapes relational work

Marian Makkar (School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, College of Business, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Sheau-Fen Yap (Department of Marketing, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Russell Belk (Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto, Canada)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 16 December 2020

Issue publication date: 11 May 2021




This paper aims to examine the role of technology in shaping the interplay between intimate and economic relations in collaborative consumer networks (CCNs).


This research is based on a three-year participatory netnographic and ethnographic field study of hosts, guests and community members within the Airbnb home-sharing network in New Zealand. The data consist of interviews, online and offline participant observations and brief discussions onsite (large-scale Airbnb events, host meetups and during Airbnb stays).


The findings reveal how technologies shape the relational work of home-sharing between intimate and economic institutions through grooming, bundling, brokerage, buffering and social edgework. This paper proposes a framework of triadic relational work enacted by network actors, involving complex exchange structures.

Research limitations/implications

This study focusses on a single context – a market-mediated home-sharing platform. The findings may not apply to other contexts of economic and social exchanges.

Practical implications

The study reveals that the construction of specific relational packages by Airbnb hosts using their digital technologies pave a path for home-sharing to skirt the norms of the home as a place of intimacy and the market as a place for economics. This allows these two spheres to flourish with little controversy.


By augmenting Zelizer’s relational work, this study produces theoretical insights into the agentic role of technology in creating and stabilising a CCN.



The authors sincerely thank the Associate Editor and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback and suggestions on earlier drafts of this paper.

Funding: This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.


Makkar, M., Yap, S.-F. and Belk, R. (2021), "Stabilising collaborative consumer networks: how technological mediation shapes relational work", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 55 No. 5, pp. 1385-1410.



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