Collaborating and Connecting: The Emergence of a Sharing Economy

BY: Juliet B. Schor and Connor J. Fitzmaurice

While sharing is a longstanding form of exchange, new forms of sharing have emerged. What is innovative about today’s sharing is that it is a market form in which strangers—rather than kin and communities—exchange goods and services. The contemporary sharing economy creates new ways of provisioning goods and services and opportunities for what we have called connected consumption, relying on peer-to-peer relationships rather than existing market actors to mediate exchanges. In this chapter, we suggest that participation in the sharing economy is motivated by economic and ecological concerns, as well as a desire to increase social connections. However, we question how effective the sharing economy has been in meeting these goals. Further, we suggest the importance of digital technologies, facilitating the emergence of “circuits of commerce,” in overcoming the trust and reputational barriers that once restricted sharing to kin and community. Finally, we suggest that the market orientation and organization of sharing economy platforms—as well as whether exchanges are monetized or nonmonetized—are critical characteristics shaping these platforms and their potential to provide truly alternative economic arrangements.

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