We are pleased to announce that on February 1st 2013, our colleague and dear friend Silvia De Ascaniis successfully defended her doctoral thesis:
Online Travel Reviews. An argumentative and textual genre perspective.
Silvia is now going on with her research at webatelier.net, and is the executive director of two Doctoral Programs, both of them founded by the Swiss National Research Foundation, Cross-Field (www.cross-field.ch) and Argupolis (www.argupolis.net).
Congratulations Dr. Silvia De Ascaniis!!!
Online Travel Reviews (OTR) are the most accessible and prevalent form of eWOM in the field of eTourism. They represent people’s wish to share their travel experiences online, recommend a tourism product or complain about it, and are increasingly relied on by users to make a variety of decisions, thanks to their easiness of access and multiplicity of contributors.
The dissertation adopted a communicative approach, to investigate how OTR contribute to and inform travel decision-making. OTR communicative purpose, the strategies adopted to pursue such purpose, their textual structure, their content patterns and the contexts where they are produced (i.e. technological, cultural and individual context) were analyzed, in order to to answer the question: “which kind of communicative event is an OTR?”. A corpus of 138 OTR about destination Rome, collected from TripAdvisor, underwent a two stage analytical process. In the first stage, OTR were characterized as an emergent textual genre, which presents singular properties and differentiates itself from other travel genres and online genres. The dominant communicative act of an OTR (i.e. “what the reviewer makes to the reader with her text”) is one of advice, with which the reviewer proposes to the reader to engage in a course of action – i.e. visit/not visit a destination – because of the desirability of the outcome. This reasoning chain corresponds, indeed, to the argumentation scheme of practical reasoning (or pragmatic argumentation).
In a second phase of the research, the argumentative texture of OTR has been specifically considered. The standpoint is constituted by the travel advice, and the argument is the reviewer’s opinion about the destination. This argument works, in turn, as standpoint for a lower level argumentative move, where data are provided by the reviewer to support her opinion; data can be, for instance, descriptions of attractions or reports of travel events. Three main inferential principles are at play in OTR: arguments based on the authority of the writer, who was at place and is, therefore, in a “position to know” about the destination; arguments based on the properties of some aspects of the destination (e.g. food, people, attractions), which are extended to the destination as a whole; arguments based on the desirability of the goal for the reader, which support the adoption of the means suggested by the reviewer.
The research has a number of implications both at the theoretical as well as at the practical level. It represents, in fact, a contribution both to the field of genre studies and to the research on argumentation in context. Theoretical results, then, may be applied to improve marketing strategies and to develop automated strategies, both for filtering ‘good-quality’ OTR and for selecting relevant ones according to information needs and travel expectations.
The Jury was composed by:
Prof. Lorenzo Cantoni, USI (thesis supervisor),
Prof. Dr. U. Gretzel, University of Wollongong (external jury member),
Prof. Dr. M. Taboada, Simon Fraser University (external jury member),
President of the Jury Prof. Michael Gibbert