Online consumer reviews and the symmetrisation of markets: Controversies about new standard evaluation devices in the tourism industry
Vincent Cardon (University of Amiens)
Paper short abstract:
Paper long abstract:
"Online consumer reviews" (OCR) proliferate on the web. They allow any Internet user to give advices on a broad range of products and services and thereby to guide consumers' choice based on her own experience. This way of evaluating products that is reputed to restore symmetry in the relationships of the demand and supply sides of the market is rather standard and is made of a rating associated with a written review. I focus firstly on the interaction between these two dimensions, based on a quantitative analysis of users' contributions on the tourism website TripAdvisor. The lexical analysis of 680000 comments reveals widely diverse writing practices and the use of categories of opinion that vary with the rating attributed, the trip's context, the language, and the hotel category. Market and rating hierarchies also have their own textual expressions. The higher contributors rate a hotel, the more they tend to adopt a narrative approach to their consumption experience. OCRs' success also triggered reactions from the industry that resulted in particular in the creation of an AFNOR (French Standardization Agency) think tank. Hotel managers, committed to « moralize » the internet through the fight against « fake » reviews, are trying to impose an objectification and standardization of the reviews of hotels provided by consumers, in order to get a better grip on their reputation. The ethnographic analysis of those reactions is the object of our second focus of our proposal that examines how some technical innovations imply fights between diverse standards.
Solidarities and asymmetries in spaces of standardisation