Jingxuan Zhang

MDes

Power and Imaginary: Airbnb as an Urban Regeneration Model in the Former French Concession of Shanghai

Advised by Susan N. Snyder and George E. Thomas

This thesis looks at the role of Airbnb as a disruptive urban regeneration model in the former French Concession of Shanghai. Compared to traditional urban regeneration projects led by the local government and developers, in this area, Airbnb represents a new model based on global digital platforms and driven by imaginaries constructed by mass and social media. This thesis aims to reexamine how the mediascape creates imaginaries about the history and urban culture of Shanghai and how the imaginaries are used as selling points in urban regeneration, especially for Airbnb. Through exploring the relationship between Airbnb and social media, this thesis tries to explain why media becomes the primary agent in this model, spreading homogeneous tastes and lifestyles in local neighborhoods. The research finally points out that instead of providing tourists with access to “authentic” local communities, Airbnb, as a new urban regeneration model, is changing place identities under the influence of mediascapes and global cultural forces.

Jingxuan Zhang, MDes. A photo collage of various residential buildings in an urban setting, both interiors and exteriors. Over these images are the words, "influencer, cinema, photography, design, literature," along with a large hashtag symbol.
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