ELLIOTT KEENE

Time to Share: A Socio-Economic Revolution?

Posted on: November 21, 2010

After hearing about Rachel Botsman‘s new book ‘What’s Mine Is Yours – The Rise Of Collaborative Consumption”, I became interested in the general theme of this inspiring idea  – that the 21st century represents the formation of a liberated society that simply shares. By prioritizing access over ownership and valuing primary experience, this is a new era defined by trust between strangers.

According to Botsman, our society is shifting away from a greedy ‘hyperconsumption’, that has drilled the values of credit and advertising into our ‘free’ minds for much of the 20th century, where individual ownership takes president. The capitalist drive for materialism and owning something as a status symbol – is, apparently, not representative of the future. Instead we must build a sustainable future for our world by utilizing localised resources that should be available to all – hence the term ‘collaborative consumption’.

To put this into some perspective for myself, I think the infinite connections made available on the internet are a good example of what this whole concept is getting at. I need not point out (but I will) the rise in social media in our lives – as we blog, share and link most of what we come across on the web, and have never before been more encouraged to. The way media is heading is online, and the recent expanse in people using Twitter to tweet what they are reading about, what’s just happened to them or what they think etc, has led to the increasing presence of such social networking in the news and in professional journalism, for example. So are we in the perfect climate to now start changing people’s mentality?

Check out the video below, which more or less sums up the main ideas behind the book.

Botsman gives various examples of how people are finding innovative ways exchange, using ‘social lending platforms’, such as car sharing sites (eg. Zipshare) and reuse/swap networks (eg. Freecycle and Swaptree). What I find most interesting is the peer-to-peer rentals for a room for the night or even a plot of land (Landshare) or the big surge in bike sharing, (BIXI) which has become the fastest growing form of transport in the world – apparently! Sites like Ebay have been around and in huge demand for years, of course, but fail to grasp the environmental factor that doesn’t require money to persuade people to part with their things.

This environmentally responsive concept is ideal for the disposable trend mindset and vast amount of choice available in today’s culture, with an economy obsessed with ever-changing electronic and fashion brands. Obviously then, this requires urging people to change their behaviour, but more importantly the way they view materialism and having what they want as their own. Asking people to radically alter their instinct to strive for greed in order to gain success, into striving for equality and the recycling of benefits – requires psychologically changing.

One functioning model for collaborative consumption could be a public library. Public interest in the library is in decline and many people would make use of web-based sources for finding out about something or reading e-books these days. If the life of the library does indeed continue, then its only survival could be through the private sector. Wikipedia demonstrates what is known as ‘crowdsourcing’ on an internet platform, where many volunteers contribute to the gigantic 17 million article online encyclopaedia, as a free online pool of knowledge – an example of how many hands can make for light work, so to speak. Many would believe that this sort of idea is characteristic of the world we now live in – so can we share and learn to use things economically when we need them?

However it is not just sharing your belongings or your knowledge, it is social responsibility on another level, encouraging people to invest more in social connections and communities, for the opportunities of a stronger social contribution. This revolutionary concept relies on shared purpose and values through an agreement on principles – which sounds impossible to achieve today, and many heavy criticism mentions communism with high transaction costs – as well as the thought that efficiency can decrease with scale! Realistically, developing countries such as India and China are not likely to take a step backwards from the consumer powered lifestyles that are leading their industrial expansions, just because it is ‘good’ to share.

Perhaps we are unconsciously evolving into this notion of collaborative consumption, but surely such a systematic change is going to be a struggle – telling people how they should be living their lives is always a disruptive approach. But I do find this very interesting as the strength of the Welfare State leaves many in doubt about how much longer we can live like we are – it does raise many questions. Could such a far-fetched approach affect the way businesses are run? And, if this is taken seriously, could it be considered as the future of the economy? One that, according to the New York Times would be ‘driven entirely by reputation’?

For more information on the concepts and the authors visit the book’s Official website here.

If you want to get involved through social media then why not ‘like’ the Facebook page . See what everyone’s saying on Twitter right here or tweet @rachelbotsman or @collcons

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