The hospitality in the social network Couchsurfing: Crossing the virtual threshold in Jaguarão, in the extreme south of Brazil

Abstract This article addresses a social practice mediated by a virtual social network of travelers called Couchsurfing. Translated as "sofa surfing", this practice is known for the free hosting offer, worldwide, enabling online and offline interaction between registered individuals, as well as promoting the exchange of hospitality, in which host becomes a guest in other travel situations and vice versa. In this research, the hosts and guests of the municipality of Jaguarão, located in the extreme south of the state of Rio Grande do Sul (RS), Brazil, were investigated. The objectives of the article are to identify and discuss the main interests and motivations for the network and Couchsurfing trips among Jaguarian hosts and guests, as well as to understand the system of exchange between guests and hosts inspired by the studies of hospitality based on the Theory of Gift , by Marcel Mauss. The research had a qualitative approach and approached the etnographic method. The methodological course included a bibliographical study and a cyberspace field research, with semi-structured interviews and observations. The exchanges take place online and offline, in different prisms. The research presents new challenges for tourism, leisure and hospitality studies in the context of emerging social practices, such as Couchsurfing.