Posts tagged ‘collaborative consumption’

October 11, 2011

“Do you really need a power drill, or you just need a hole in the wall?”

by Ariana Stolarz

This year’s PSFK Conference in San Francisco brought together an interesting blend of speakers to discuss issues in innovation, design, creativity and communal participation. In a nutshell, three memes surfaced throughout the day: the ideas of 1) Purpose—as in always design with a purpose, 2) Perspectives—in contrast to mono-cultural views, and 3) Commons—as in disperse but together we can build trust, facilitate sharing, and enable community.

Following up on some of the concepts discussed by Caroline Woolard in class (OurGoods.org and Trade School), Micki Krimmel, founder of NeighborGoods, shook the crowd most eloquently:  “Do you really need a power drill, or you just need a hole in the wall?”—A shocking fact: the average lifetime usage of a household power drill is only twelve minutes. (Check Noah’s post, published on 10/4!).

Joe Gebbia, Co-founder behind Airbnb, also talked about collaborative consumption and the role of the middleman. Most discussions (and Botsman and Rogers’ What’s Mine is Yours) agree that collaborative consumption examples share another common element: direct links between producers and consumers, bypassing the middleman.  However, what if we see these practices as the emergence of a new middleman? Airbnb intermediations present new characteristics, for sure. Yet, these new middlemen are in essence, connectors between a mutuality of wants and lacks.  What’s different this time is not just a matter of scale. The Internet’s architecture is designed to enable collaboration between non-related human beings who don’t even share a common locale. New notions of trustbetween strangers amend old definitions of collaboration, in particular, the idea that rules could mainly be enforced within tight circles of friends, families and acquaintances. As discussed in class, today’s examples of collaborative consumption, where reviews and ratings are published for the rest world to see, represent repeated plays of the prisoner’s dilemma. In other words, the incentives for defectors to pursue their goals are low when compared with the risks associated with being excluded from the game. (Airbnb is now offering professional photography to help make renting out your space even easier, and also as part of the verification of a property. Read more here).

Gerald Richard’s talk was unquestionably captivating. Gerald is the founder of 826 National, a nonprofit organization that provides strategic leadership, and other resources to ensure the success of its network of eight writing and tutoring centers. Its main goal is to foster literacy among kids. In Gerald’s own words, “It’s not home. It’s not school. It’s a place that kids own”.

Gerald shared this video with the audience:

More about 826National…

September 24, 2011

Collaborative Consumption: Collective Intelligence to the Service of Trading, Bartering, and Swapping

by Ariana Stolarz

The Cyberspace promotes the “rapid integration of intelligences”
(Pierre Levy, Becoming Virtual: Reality in the Digital Age, p. 146).

The C-Factor. In recent years, the concepts of community, cooperation, collaboration, crowdsourcing, the commons, and collective intelligence have circulated and considerably increased their appeal with academics, marketers, and the informed public. A great deal of literature seeks to explain the reasons why people collaborate, while emphasizing the role of digital technologies as catalyst for the various examples to succeed. Currently, new and creative ways of self-motivated collective action have proliferated beyond the exchange of knowledge and information. I am particularly interested in the raise of what has been called collaborative consumption—understood as new practices of “bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping, redefined through technology and peer communities”—, and in getting a deeper understanding of the reasons why this concept is now trending (Botsman and Rogers, What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, p. xv).

The throwaway mode of living—characterized by the raise of hyper-consumerism and the production and consumption of disposable items since the early fifties—is now witnessing successful counterexamples of repetitive consumption practices over ownership. At the heart of these practices is the calculation of how we can take an object’s “idling capacity and redistribute elsewhere” (Botsman and Rogers 83). Some examples, just to illustrate a few, include the swapping sites SwapTree, Squidoo, U-Exchange, and ThreadUp, where users swipe books, movies, games, and kids’ clothes. FreeCycle and ReUseIt are sites where people give unwanted items away. The car sharing and per hour car rental, facilitated through platforms such as RelayRide, GetAround, Whipcar, Zipcar, ZimRide, NuRide, and GoLoco, is predicted to become a $12.5 billion industry (Botsman and Rogers xiv-xviii, 84-85). In all these examples, the direct link between producers and consumers is restored leaving aside the middleman.

Numerous authors study the proliferation of a variety of technologies of cooperation, its uses and individual motivations. While most of this literature places a central role in the medium – one architected to foster collaboration – I will argue that the success of current collaborative consumption practices lays at the intersection of a) new technologies of cooperation (computer-networked platforms), b) social modes of organization (in particular, network theories), and c) cultural transformations (more specifically, i) a reinvigorated meaning of trust that emerged from the convergence of new technologies and social networking functions; and ii) a need to be more open to new ways of accessing what one needs and how to go about getting it,  heightened by an increased consciousness in environmental issues and the effects of the global economic crisis) (see Regis Debray’s  mediological approach, Media Manifestos: On the Technological Transmission of Cultural Forms).

Of course, digital technologies are key vehicles for these transmissions to thrive. The Internet offers platforms, such as Swap.com, that make technically possible what was previously theoretically unimaginable: new reliable forms of collaboration among otherwise unconnected individuals.