In a groundbreaking paper, “Sharing Nicely: On Shareable Goods and the Emergence of Sharing as a Modality of Economic Production“, Yochai Benkler, an entrepreneurial legal studies professor at Harvard, used carpooling as an example of large-scale sharing of private goods.
Excess capacity existed long before anyone began talking about an economy based on sharing What empowered this new way of doing business was technology.
“In the collaborative economy it’s not the idea of sharing that’s new; people have been doing that for eons,” notes H.O. Maycotte, founder and CEO of data rights management company Umbel in an article published on Dell.com.
Seen in this light, the distinctive feature of the sharing economy – its use of technology – is less about sharing and more about reducing costs by enabling vast numbers of customers and freelance workers to do business with each other, under the umbrella of the companies‘ brands.
In the PwC study, 81% of people familiar with the sharing economy agreed that “It is less expensive to share goods than to own them individually” and 57% agreed, “Access is the new ownership. Twitter“.
While 78% of the people surveyed by PwC said that the new sharing companies helped build a stronger community and 86% agreed that it was more fun doing business with these “Upstarts” than with traditional companies, research published in the Journal of Consumer Research takes issue with this “Romanticized view on access.”
According to the researchers, Giana M. Eckhardt and Fleura Bardhi, users of Zipcar “Don’t feel any of the reciprocal obligations that arise when sharing with one another. They experience Zipcar in the anonymous way one experiences a hotel; they know others have used the cars, but have no desire to interact with them. They don’t view other Zipsters as co-sharers of the cars, but rather are mistrustful of them, and rely on the company to police the sharing system so it’s equitable for everyone.”