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Saturday, 31 October 2015

Sharing >>> the sharing economy >>> the sharing society >>> the sharing state >>>

'Sharing' is being talked about a lot these days.

There is 'sharing information':
Information society - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Information Feudalism: Who Owns the Knowledge Economy?: Amazon.co.uk: Peter Drahos, John Braithwaite: 9781853839177: Books
Futures Forum: Transitioning to an economy based on sharing information

There is the 'sharing society':
Center for a Stateless Society » An Open Letter to the Greek People
Futures Forum: Solidarity, the DIY-aid movement and civil society >>> transitioning to a sustainable society, a resilient economy

There is the 'gift economy':
Futures Forum: Sharing economy or gift economy?

The exact definition of the 'sharing economy' is more difficult...
Here are some very good resources:
What is the Sharing Economy?
The sharing economy: a short introduction to its political evolution | Share The World's Resources (STWR)
Debating the Sharing Economy
Uber, Airbnb and consequences of the sharing economy: Research roundup - Journalist's Resource Journalist's Resource

Earlier this month, the Guardian gave its own overview:

Why the term 'sharing economy' needs to die

Alex Hern

Nothing is being shared when you hire a cleaner to tidy your house or a car to drive you to work, even if you use an app to do it

 
A promotional image from TaskRabbit, one of the biggest companies labelled as part of the ‘sharing economy’. Taskrabbit Photograph: Taskrabbit

@alexhern
 Monday 5 October 2015

The “sharing economy” is a meaningless term that was only coined in the first place because of the tech industry’s desire to pretend everything it does is new and groundbreaking.

Now, almost a decade after it started seeing use, it’s worse than simply being meaningless: it’s actively obfuscatory, lumping together a hugely disparate bunch of companies, many of which push the definition to its limits, and the biggest examples of which have nothing to do with “sharing” at all.

The term grew out of the open-source community, where coders contribute to programs released to the world free-of-charge. The push for a similar model to be applied to the real world dates back to the early 2000s, but it took the financial crisis for it to grow from a niche idea to one taken seriously.

By the 2010s, the focus had narrowed from a nebulous attempt to bring the open source ethos out of the coding world to a more specific look at how to use technology to enable more efficient use of scarce resources. At the same time, the buzzwords had also stabilised, with a number of academic-sounding terms such as “commons-based peer production” (as coined by NYU law professor Yochai Benkler) to two main contenders: “the sharing economy”, and “collaborative consumption”.

The time was ripe for both ideas to take off. With unemployment in the west still high, and ideas of “post-growth capitalism” floating in the ether, groups that could articulate an alternative view of the world were popular. And the archetypal collaborative consumption models were seemingly win-win. A typical analogy for the sort of model people wanted to build was focused on household tools: if you own a drill, you likely don’t use it 364 days of the year; why not let others use it in the meantime?

In its purest sense, that is the sharing economy. But it very quickly ran into an issue: while some people act out of altruism, most don’t. My drill is mine. Why should I share it with you?

Some sites, such as Freecycle, still focus on acting out of the goodness of one’s heart, but the success stories of the sharing economy solved the problem by looking to the old economy. And so “sharing” became “renting”. Even today, one report finds 20 companies in the sharing economy whose offering can be summed up as “you can borrow stuff you don’t want to buy”. Nine of them have a name beginning with “rent”.

Once money started changing hands in earnest, business really started booming. In 2011, the same year Time magazine named the “sharing society” one of the Ten Ideas That Will Change The World, AirBnB raised $120m in VC funding. The company was mentioned in Time’s piece, which still emphasised the feel-good backdrop to the story: “There’s a green element here, of course: sharing and renting more stuff means producing and wasting less stuff, which is good for the planet and even better for one’s self-image.”

While renting out a spare room in a flat (or even renting out a flat) may be close enough to “sharing” to be hair-splitting, it’s a different case for hiring a driver to take you across a city. And yet Uber is one of the most famous examples of the sharing economy in the world – and certainly the highest capitalised, worth well north of $50bn.

The company’s defenders argue that it justifies that label because of the similarity to AirBnB: Uber drivers have an asset lying unused, which they want to monetise with the power of the internet. The difference, of course, is that an Uber driver’s labour is an integral part of the whole shebang. You aren’t renting their car: you’re renting their car and them.

If that’s still not clear-cut enough, consider TaskRabbit, the last member of the holy trinity of the Sharing Economy. The company allows customers to hire temporary labour to cook, clean, assemble furniture or queue for the latest iPhone. It’s a far cry from “collaborative consumption”.

Instead, the companies lumped together as examples of the sharing economy have come to be typified by something altogether different: a dependence on tenuous labour, particularly that provided by individuals working as third-party contractors rather than full employees.

For that reason, I’ve been using another term to describe these companies: “gig economy”. It’s not as well-known as “sharing economy”, which means it sounds weird to some ears (“do you mean Uber only hires musicians?”). But it emphasises the unifying aspect is short-term, tenuous “gigs” – often more than one juggled at the same time.

But there are other popular alternatives as well. In the US, “1099 economy” is often used, referring to the American tax code for independent contractors, while in the UK, similar emphasis is placed on “zero-hour contracts”: terms of employment which provide no fixed hours and don’t even guarantee work will be provided at all.

Are those terms better term than “gig economy”? Is there a better phrase still? Let me know in the comments below. 

Why the term 'sharing economy' needs to die | Technology | The Guardian

Forbes magazine seems to agree:
The "Sharing Economy" Is Not Going To Create Economic Growth - Forbes

As does the Atlantic magazine:
The Sharing Economy Doesn't Need to Be Full of Monopolies - The Atlantic

Interestingly, whereas much of the press has interpreted the EU Commission's declaration this week as supporting the sharing economy:
UPDATE 1-Europe should embrace sharing economy - Commission | Reuters
... the Financial Times is much more nuanced, saying the Commission is 'treading carefully':
EU pledges crackdown on rip-off pricing schemes - FT.com

Lastly, there is the 'sharing state':

The sharing state

Not every platform in the sharing economy – Uber meets Airbnb and Couchsurfing – is socially progressive. But the pace at which these mass, dispersed solutions have spread suggests there is a huge appetite for shared solutions which mobilise otherwise idle assets. Airbnb in particular is creating a relationally rich economy, which helps those with limited resources find better solutions.

We Work, the shared New York-based workspace provider, has become a $15bn (£9.6bn) company by providing community workspaces for small companies, in the process providing an alternative to traditional landlords. How about a We Homes approach to co-housing solutions to create affordable, aspirational social housing? Or We Care, a national programme based on the brilliant Shared Lives Plus programme in which people with spare rooms and time provide adult social care at home?

Imaginative ideas that could help save the Labour party | Politics | The Guardian

We are seeing fundamental challenges to the way in which we live and work:
Beyond Current Horizons : The boundaries between informal and formal work | Technology, children, schools and families
David Graeber interview: ‘So many people spend their working lives doing jobs they think are unnecessary’ | Books | The Guardian

See also:
Futures Forum: The sharing economy >>> “This on-demand, or so-called gig, economy is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation. But it is also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.
Futures Forum: Airbnb: tourists, local residents and the sharing economy
Futures Forum: Uber and the sharing economy
Futures Forum: Is Uber really part of the 'sharing economy'? >>>>>>>>> "The whole point of a genuine p2p and sharing economy is empowerment for those directly participating in it."
Futures Forum: The sharing economy >>> “A lot of people want to do the right thing but they are struggling because the systems and culture aren’t right. Companies and governments have got a big role to play in doing that.”
Futures Forum: The 'sharing economy', 'resilience' and 'nudging': Evgeny Morozov on "The rise of data and the death of politics"
Futures Forum: The 'sharing economy' in the news...
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