Dr Alex Zarifis
Several countries’ economies have been disrupted by the sharing economy. However, each country and its consumers have different characteristics including the language used. When the language is different does it change the interaction? If we have a discussion in English and a similar discussion in German will it have the same meaning exactly, or does language lead us dawn a different path? Is language a tool or a companion holding our hand on our journey?
This research compares the text in the profile of those offering their properties in England in English, and in Germany in German, to explore if trust is built, and privacy concerns are reduced, in the same way.
Figure 1. How landlords build trust in the sharing economy
The landlords make an effort to build trust in themselves, and the accuracy of the description they provide. The landlords build trust with six methods: (1) The first is the level of formality in the description. More formality conveys a level of professionalism. (2) The second is distance and proximity. Some landlords want to keep a distance so it is clear that this is a formal relationship, while others try to be more friendly and approachable. (3) The third is ‘emotiveness’ and humour, that can create a sense of shared values. (4) The fourth method of building trust is being assertive and passive aggressive, that sends a message that the rules given in the description are expected to be followed. (5) The fifth method is conformity to the platform language style and terminology that suggests that the platform rules will be followed. (6) Lastly, the sixth method to build trust is setting boundaries that offer clarity and transparency.
Privacy concerns are not usually reduced directly by the landlord as this is left to the platform. The findings indicate that language has a limited influence and the platform norms and habits have the largest influence. We can say that the platform has choreographed this dance sufficiently between the participants so that different languages have a limited influence on the outcome.
Zarifis A., Ingham R. & Kroenung, J. (2019) ‘Exploring the language of the sharing economy: Building trust and reducing privacy concern on Airbnb in German and English’, Cogent Business & Management, vol.6, iss.1, pp.1-15. Available from (open access): https://doi.org/10.1080/23311975.2019.1666641