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Beyond the neoliberal city: commoning sharing practices and sharing the urban commons

Authors:

Abstract

For all their similarities and consonances, sharing and the commons have remained separate and distinct discourses. In this paper, these two discourses are intertwined in the context of the following questions: (1) How can the political formation of the commons regulate, or even enhance, intrinsically unstable sharing practices, which are often based on the power asymmetry between providers and net users? (2) How can certain sharing practices in the city catalyze the beginning of the (urban) commons? In addressing these questions, this article aims to offer another urban vision beyond the hegemonic neoliberal city.
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Beyond the neoliberal city: commoning sharing practices and
sharing the urban commons
1. Introduction: A new polity galvanized by sharing?
After nearly a decade of rapid development, the Sharing Economy still has yet to deliver on
its emancipatory promises. The Sharing Economy presented the promises of collaborative
consumption to a world struggling with economic insecurity and resource precarity (Botsman
& Roger, 2011). Yet Schor (2017) suggests that instead of growing equity, the Sharing
Economy has in fact exacerbated inequality—effectively creating a risk shift from firms to
workers (Schor & Attwood-Charles, 2017), and quite so often, also from sharing practices to
the socio-spatial environment (for example, the nuisances of Airbnb on neighbors, or the
negative externalities of bike-sharing) (Frenken & Schor, 2017: 8). And while sharing is not
novel, the idea of sharing with strangers in the Sharing Economy was nevertheless new
(Schor, 2017). Yet this perception of apparent openness and universal inclusivity belies actual
practices. In an extensive study of four cases in the Sharing Economy—namely, a time bank,
a food swap, a makerspace, and an open-access educational initiative—researchers discovered
considerable evidence of distinguishing practices, where participants in these sharing
practices segregated themselves by cultural capital and relied on cues to exclude individuals
whom they perceived to be low-status (Schor et al., 2016: 78). Based on these findings, has
the Sharing Economy then fallen short of the promises of greater equity, and in tandem, that it
has also increased the share of burdens and woes on the least advantaged members in the
society? Is it possible then to suggest that the Sharing Economy has failed as an ethical idea?
To paraphrase C. West Churchman (1913-2004), it does appear that sharing has become
something of a cautionary tale where its implementation has destroyed the original ethical
idea (see van Gigch, Koenigsberg & Dean, 1997: 735).
But as a vastly captivating and potentially profitable economic idea, the Sharing Economy is
surely roaring ahead. According to one major study, the Sharing Economy is anticipated to
grow rapidly to an estimated global revenue of nearly $355 billion by 2025
(PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2015). In view of a global economy that is increasingly fragile and
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curtailed by fewer avenues for sustaining compound economic growth (Harvey, 2010: 27), the
growth opportunities anticipated by the Sharing Economy are surely significant. Here,
consider the following two recent developments in the Sharing Economy. WeWork, which is
a major provider of shared office space, invested $2.5b (USD) just in 2018 alone (Powell &
Evans, 2019). And on the other front of shared mobility, in late 2018, Waymo launched the
world’s first commercial (quasi) autonomous ride-share services in Phoenix, Arizona, while
ironically conceding that the greatest expense for a profitable ride-sharing operation is the
cost of paying a driver (LeBeau, 2018). Taken together as further evidence of rapid growth,
now powered by emerging digital and artificial intelligence technologies, the Sharing
Economy as an economic idea appears unrelenting.
This discrepancy between the Sharing Economy as an economic idea, and the Sharing
Economy as an ethical idea, may appear to suggest that the Sharing Economy is a misnomer
for what are actually rent-seeking practices (see Slee, 2015), or simply, “opportunistic
economic exchanges” (Katrini, 2018: 430). Furthermore, critics have argued that the concept
of ‘sharing’ in the Sharing Economy is merely an emotive and approbative rhetoric to ‘get
away with anything’ (John, 2017). However, these views risk depicting sharing practices as
singularly transactional at the expense of missing many of the novel behaviors, practices and
institutions that are beginning to congeal because of the Sharing Economy (Jarvis, 2017)—
novel economic relations and social associations that may point to a new kind of urban polity
(Bradley & Pargman, 2017). If nothing else, the anticipated growth of the Sharing Economy
as well as the imminent consolidation of an urban sharing culture (see Benedictus, 2019), all
present an invaluable window to recalibrate and reevaluate the political prospects of sharing
practices. The rapid evolution of urban sharing practices today ought to prompt a critical
reflection on what counts as practices of equitable and constructive sharing in cities, and what
potential, if any, such sharing practices might have in the construction of sociopolitical
alternatives beyond the neoliberal formation. If the consolidation of an urban sharing culture
is all but imminent, then this present moment may offer the best odds for projecting new
polities that are predicated on sharing activities and practices.
Recent empirical studies on the Sharing Economy align in this direction. These studies do not
deny the various negative impacts of the Sharing Economy (see Frenken & Schor, 2017;
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Schor et al., 2016; Schor, 2017; Slee, 2015), or the threat that social relations could be readily
commodified through sharing practices (see Enright & Rossi, 2018: 43). However, these
studies suggest that the Sharing Economy should neither be singularly framed as a
transactional practice, nor as a practice dichotomized by the binary of ‘pseudo sharing’ and
‘real sharing’ (see John, 2017). In short, monetary exchanges in the Sharing Economy do not
necessarily obviate the social and approbative sentiments of participating in sharing practices,
and social behaviors and relations in sharing practices are also multi-layered and complex
(Bocker & Meelen, 2017). In one study on the motivations of participants in the Sharing
Economy, researchers discovered that on top of economic motivations (i.e., to share rather
than to own a high economic value asset), social motivations exist as well (Bocker & Meelen,
2017). Such social motivations range from simply enjoying the activity of sharing, to
conforming to the norms of showing concern for the environment by consuming less.
Furthermore, it is possible to distinguish three types of stakeholders in any sharing system—
between those who own the shared resources, those who manage these resources, and those
who use these resources (Katrini, 2018). On this, researchers have observed that motivations
differ quite drastically between providers and users of the shared asset (Bocker & Meelen,
2017: 36). While users were mainly driven by economic motivations, providers of these assets
were driven by environmental and other social motivations. This particular study suggests that
even when monetary exchanges were involved in the process of sharing, other environmental
and social motivations for sharing were present as well (Bocker & Meelen, 2017: 37).
Supporting these findings, another study suggests that collaborative consumption (or sharing)
has the potential of increasing access while reducing investments in resources and
infrastructure—especially for assets with high prices and high cost of ownership (Benjaafar et
al., 2018). In other words, the environmental and social motivations behind the sharing of
high-value assets do lead to an actual reduction in consumption and waste.
These sentiments, motivations and aspirations are significant to the extent that they depart
from the entrenched reification of the rational and self-interested agents (or firms) competing
with each other, while maximizing their gains and minimizing losses by leveraging on their
idle resources within a marketized Sharing Economy. While these studies cited do not deny
the presence of self-interest, their findings however suggest that a different form of economic
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relation and political association can emerge from the Sharing Economy. Instead of the
market binary of consumers and producers, these studies suggest the emergence of a
sociotechnical network of providers and users facilitated by ubiquitous computing, and all
whose interests and aspirations are constantly shaped and re-shaped by the social
dependencies and experiences of sharing. By departing from the hegemonic reliance on the
corporatist market economy for consumption and production, and adopting a greater mutual
dependence on fellow citizens for goods and services now, a new political economy that was
once distant is now becoming increasingly plausible, and perhaps, also imminent, beyond the
neoliberal formation.
But how can these sentiments, motivations and aspirations in sharing practices be mobilized,
and further, organized into new polities? What are the new social relations that can be created
through emancipatory sharing practices, which in turn form the basis of new political
associations? And conversely, what are the existing political ideas or institutions that can
further catalyze these sentiments, motivations and aspirations in sharing practices today? One
likely institution, which has also come into sharper focus in recent years, is the commons.
Even though the idea of sharing is closely linked to that of the commons (John, 2017: 150),
the commons is more than about sharing activities or practices. The commons is generally
characterized as a social system in which resources are shared by a community of users and
producers, which also defines the rules of use and production, distribution, and circulation of
these resources through democratic and horizontal forms of governance (De Angelis &
Harvie, 2014). In other words, the commons is not only about the sharing of commonly
owned resources; it is also about all the relations and activities entailed by the co-production
of these resources (see Ruivenkamp & Hilton, 2017). Framed this way, and within the
neoliberal city characterized by the simultaneous enclosure and deprivation of amenities and
resources for many in the city (Hodkinson, 2012), the urban commons as an institution for
organizing the equitable sharing and production of resources does appear to present a
promising urban imaginary capable of counterpoising the enclosures and inequities of the
neoliberal city.
2. Knowledge gaps, and research questions in this paper
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Although sharing may be a necessary practice in the commons, it is however not sufficient to
constitute the commons. No matter the extent or the frequency of sharing resources, Ostrom’s
(2006) seminal work demonstrates that successful commons require an institutional
framework beyond sharing to govern the production, consumption and maintenance of the
commons. Here, it is important to further call out and then question the assumed affinity
between the concepts of sharing and the commons. Consider the following illustrative
examples: many forms of sustained sharing require the guarantee of distributive justice (John,
2017). Yet the work of Ostrom (2006) contains neither an acknowledgment nor a conception
of justice (Obeng-Odoom, 2016: 375). Furthermore, and categorically, sharing is primarily a
procedural idea—sharing is a distinctive form of resource distribution (Belk, 2010). In
contrast, the commons is a substantive political idea (Harvey, 2011)—the commons
comprises of principles, norms and rules of shared resource production and use that are
radically different from the privatization, commodification and marketization of resources
found in all neoliberal political economy. These differences begin to suggest that the concepts
of sharing and the commons do not cohere as naturally as it has been generally assumed.
In spite of this dissimilitude, could operative concepts and frameworks of the commons
nonetheless come to mitigate, if not also diminish, the negative impacts of sharing? How can
sharing practices that aim to depart from the transactional mode of the Sharing Economy
begin to learn from the commons—and what to borrow and what not to—in order to stabilize,
regulate or even enhance sharing practices? For instance, sharing practices today can bring
about many negative consequences. Especially salient here are the negative externalities of
bike sharing programs, where bicycles are often irresponsibly parked or even dumped in
unexpected spaces, inconveniencing pedestrians and irking residents, which in turn have
motivated an entire range of countermeasures including geotagging and penalties (Rushe,
2017), and the corresponding risks of geo-surveillance and unsolicited advertising (Duarte,
2016). How might adapting the institutions of the commons within sharing practices then
diminish these negative externalities of bike sharing, if any?
Conversely, how can sharing practices catalyze the formation of a commons? How might
sharing practices facilitate the transition of communities towards the commons (Katrini, 2018:
427)? In one case, researchers suggest the possibility for coworking spaces (as shared
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workspaces) to transform urban spaces (Armondi & Di Vita, 2017). And in another case of R-
Urban, different sharing practices were integrated in a highly effective co-production
ecosystem for urban resilience (Petrescu, Petcou & Baibarac, 2016). These studies
demonstrate that sharing practices have environments that include and overlap with other
urban systems, and in this way, have the potential to transform the constitution of these other
systems (De Angelis, 2017). Although it is still too early to accurately assess the impacts of
sharing practices on the formation of the urban commons, it is nevertheless true that urban
spaces have to be changed as a response to the new functions and informational flows brought
about by sharing in the city (see Batty, 2018), and that physical urban spaces have to be re-
designed to facilitate such sharing practices (Katrini, 2018). With every incremental change
that departs from the land-use patterns of neoliberal urban development, the materialization of
the commons then becomes increasingly reinforced.
In sum, despite that all commons have to presume some degree of sharing, neither the urban
commons as an incipient political formation in the city has been explicitly defined in terms of
sharing practices, nor have studies on sharing as a discourse been systematically developed to
advance the prospects of the urban commons. The key questions are therefore: How can the
political conception and institution of the urban commons stabilize, regulate and even
enhance sharing practices in the city beyond the framework of the Sharing Economy today,
and conversely, how can an emerging political theory of sharing catalyze the formation of the
urban commons?
Because these are open questions, the theoretical gulf between sharing and the urban
commons is indeed far wider than what initial intuitions appear to suggest. If the prior
questions raised are meaningful ones, then bridging this gulf by drawing sharing and the
urban commons together may mean making a simultaneous advance in both areas of
knowledge in the context of the city. The synthesis of sharing and the urban commons may
provide a clearer visual on the sociopolitical possibilities and ramifications of an ascendant
sharing culture in the city.
3. A concise literature review on the commons and the sharing discourse
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Here, it is important to first outline the theoretical background of sharing and the commons.
From the commons, it has been examined from the angle of collective management of shared
resources mostly in rural contexts. This strand frames the commons as common-pool
resources (or CPRs) but does not address how such commons can be reclaimed in the present
within the city (Huron, 2015). On the other hand, an emerging strand in this canon focuses on
defining the commons as an emancipatory formation outside the capitalist landscape (Enright
& Rossi, 2018: 35; Ruivenkamp & Hilton, 2017), and especially in the context of the city
(Kip et al., 2015); but this strand has yet to ascertain on how such commons could be created
or designed (Kratzwald, 2015: 30-31), or maintained over the long term in the city (Huron,
2015). For these reasons, while the commons framed by the neo-institutionalist strand of
CPRs is relatively well-developed, this canon does not yet offer an adequate analogy for
theorizing the urban commons in neoliberal cities today (Harvey, 2012: 70). Similarly, while
the commons as an emancipatory formation is urgently needed in many places today, the
theory and praxis of the urban commons lag far behind this need within an urban environment
that is all too inimical to the formation of any sustained commons. As Huron (2015) has
astutely observed, real estate interests in the city constantly threaten anything that begins to
resemble the urban commons. And from a different but no less challenging direction, the
vagaries of short term democratic tenure of state and municipal authorities, and the transitory
nature of their power relations, can undermine the longer-term sustainability of the urban
commons (Petrescu, Petcou & Baibarac, 2016). In all, there has been no shortage of real or
imagined urban commons as an alternative to the neoliberal formation. But it is quite another
matter to locate an actual, durable and scalable urban commons in any one major city today.
And from the discourse on sharing, sharing is a far larger and more variegated discourse.
Apart from the critical debates on the sharing economy (see Davies et al., 2017; Schor &
Attwood-Charles, 2017), and apart from the earlier research on understanding sharing in
consumer culture (Belk, 2010), more recently, sharing has been systematically studied for its
conceptual significance in contemporary society, especially in digital practices (John, 2017),
as it has also been examined from a pre-modern anthropological perspective (Widlok, 2017).
And sharing has been interrogated as an urban practice in various cities (McLaren &
Agyeman, 2015), as it has been also framed as a function of sharing urban spaces (Chan &
Zhang, 2018). Importantly, sharing as ‘sharing culture’ has also been defined as an alternative
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pathway to serve citizens’ everyday needs through the formation of relations that facilitate the
co-production and co-management of resources (Katrini, 2018). These more recent studies on
the contemporary concept, anthropology, urban sharing, and the sharing culture respectively
go to suggest that an evolving conception of sharing does exist independently from the way
that it has been framed by the Sharing Economy discourse. But except for the work of
Bradley and Pargman (2017) that highlights certain affinities between sharing resources and
the “commons of the 21st century”, little work, if any, has been focused on distilling the
commons through the literature on sharing.
Even so, sharing and the commons have become increasingly intertwined in recent literature.
First, the commons offers the necessary theoretical armature that can advance sharing as a
proto-sociopolitical institution that sharing practices, on their own, are unlikely to attain.
Presently, sharing practices lack the institutional and political framework necessary for them
to develop into sustained practices with enduring emancipatory potential. This kind of
framework is however integral to every commons. And in surveying the different definitions
of the commons, Kip et al. (2015: 13) suggest that the commons as a construct tends to
comprise of three main parts: (i) common resources that are shared; (ii) commoning practices
or institutions that govern the commons; and (iii) a community of commoners, or people who
are involved in the production and reproduction of this commons. This framework
demonstrates that the constitution of the commons has to presume activities or practices of
sharing. In this way, what sharing practices lack might be found in the commons. By
integrating some institution of the commons in sharing practices today, it may be possible to
develop these practices into sustained and productive enclaves capable of generating
resources and services to citizens who are seeking alternative provision within the neoliberal
city.
Second, consider recent research on the following types of sharing practices: coproduction
(Petrescu, Petcou & Baibarac, 2016); cohousing (Chatterton, 2016; Huron, 2015; Jarvis,
2017); coworking (Babb, Curtis & McLeod, 2018; Mariotti, Pacchi & Di Vita, 2017; Merkel,
2017); infrastructure that can support sharing practices (Hult & Bradley, 2017); and on shared
urban mobility (Chan & Zhang, 2018; Duarte, 2016; Mateo-Babiano, Bean, Corcoran &
Pojani, 2016; Munkacsy & Monzon, 2018). All these research have mobilized the concept of
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sharing in ways distinct from how it has been framed in the Sharing Economy discourse, and
in tandem, have also positioned sharing as an urban practice. Significantly, this recent
research has also oriented sharing toward the ideals of resilience (Petrescu, Petcou &
Baibarac, 2016), togetherness (Jarvis, 2017), collaboration (Mariotti et al., 2017; Merkel,
2017), trust and relationship building (Hult & Bradley, 2017), and social capital and ethics
(Chan & Zhang, 2018)—qualities that are also vital to the commons. This research trajectory
suggests that not only is sharing methodologically relevant and valuable to the advancement
of the commons, but research in sharing is also taking a political turn towards the
associational relations that can support the formation and the maintenance of the commons.
And thirdly, the sharing discourse may be able to inform and advance the commons in the
city. Harvey (2012) observes that commons in the city, or the urban commons, is peculiar for
this reason: it is prone to a large and fluid membership comprising of many strangers who
share little in common beyond the resources of the urban commons in question. Unlike the
commons in Ostrom’s (2006) study, where members of the commons are more likely to know
each other, or at least, to acknowledge each other as political members of the same commons,
the urban commons cannot assume this for its modus operandi. And intrinsic to urban life are
the different backgrounds and capabilities of these strangers rendering the sharing of any
common resources an intensely political exercise, where both agonistic and antagonistic
conflicts are likely unavoidable (Sundaresan, 2011: 72). For these reasons, the urban
commons are likely to require rules for administering sustained shared activities but with little
traction on how to enforce them. On this, emerging urban prototypes of sharing spaces in the
form of coworking spaces and even hackerspaces are instructive. While these “shared social
spaces” (Chan & Zhang, 2018) are certainly not the urban commons yet, they nonetheless
represent the necessary precursors for studying and understanding how conflicts over shared
resources are resolved between strangers, and how novel institutions or even improvised
arrangements are administered to deal with problems associated with free-riding, negligence
and even sabotage in the context of the city (see Davies, 2017).
4. Further thoughts on the use of the commons to stabilize and reinforce sharing
practices
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To what extent can sharing practices then draw on the institution of the commons to stabilize,
reinforce, or even enhance sharing behaviors? Here, it is first important to distinguish
transactional sharing practices from transformational sharing practices (see Ede, 2014).
Transactional sharing practices are simply alternative forms of market exchanges. In contrast,
transformative sharing practices change the social relations between individuals or groups
engaged in sharing activities. On this, sharing practices that aim to transform the participants’
behaviors in relation to the production and management shared resources, and that are further
guided by a social mission, are more likely to be aligned to the vision of a commons (Bradley
& Pargman, 2017). However, such sharing practices remain vulnerable to exploitations. This
is because sharing is usually typified by an imbalance of net users and providers (Widlok,
2017): sharing occurs because of a contingent match between the motivations and
resourcefulness of a smaller pool of providers, and the needs of a greater pool of users. Any
change in this contingent match—whether it may be because of resource abuse or wastage, or
conflicts between users and providers—would threaten and destabilize the sharing practice.
In this way, it is vital that such sharing practices are reinforced beyond the contingent match
between the needs of net users and the resourcefulness of providers. Existing cases reveal that
where joint governance of shared resources is likely and also desirable, for instance, in
coproduction (Petrescu, Petcou & Baibarac, 2016), or in cohousing (Jarvis, 2017), the joint
purpose of cooperating beyond the procedural function of sharing resources is also likely to
exist. For this reason, if sharing practices are to adapt the institution of the commons in order
to stabilize, reinforce, or even enhance sharing, then they would require the specific attribute
of the commons that have the greatest chance of developing this joint purpose between the
unequal parties of net users and providers.
One such attribute of the commons is by sharing power (Stavrides, 2016), and one direct
implication of sharing power is to include users in the making and modifying of rules that
govern sharing behaviors (see Ostrom, 2016: 93). After all, power is first and foremost, the
power to decide (Stavrides, 2016). In this way, sharing power by allowing users to make and
modify rules of sharing challenges the implied functional hierarchy of any sharing practice.
As discussed, sharing practices tend to comprise of net providers and users, where providers
impose rules or protocols that users must comply in order to enjoy the benefits of sharing. The
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apparent egalitarianism of sharing practices conceals what is in fact an asymmetry of power
relations, where the owners or providers of the shared resources have the power to exclude or
sanction non-compliant users. But if users are also included to make or modify rules that
govern sharing behaviors—as Ostrom (2006) suggests as one of the key design principles of
successful commons—then this arrangement may begin to approach the ideal of egalitarian
sharing practices. Furthermore, how then might sharing power also lead to a greater sense of
stakeholdership (hence also, accountability) and trust in the sharing practice, which may lead
to further cooperative behavior where the original sharing practice expands and bleeds into
other new sharing categories and practices (see Katrini, 2018: 431-432)?
On this note, it is also possible to suggest that the aforementioned projection may be
anthropologically speaking, too optimistic. Perhaps on the contrary, sharing power might lead
to more abuses, and to the erosion of trust, before finally, to the corrosion of the entire sharing
practice. When power is shared in sharing practices, which is the more probable scenario?
It is clear that this question cannot be addressed entirely by inclining either to a more positive
or to a more negative anthropological depiction of users (that is, human nature) in sharing
practices. Instead, this question has to be addressed empirically by studying how sharing
practices evolve when power is shared more or less equally by both users and providers. The
empirical study of sharing practices that also share power may then begin to yield formative
conditions and variables vital to the further development of sustained communities of sharing,
which in turn would permit the formulation of new hypotheses for the design of
transformational sharing practices.
5. Further thoughts on how sharing can catalyze the formation of the urban commons
From the opposite direction, one could ask how sharing activities or practices can catalyze the
formation of the urban commons. This is an important question for sharing practices that have
the aspiration to become a political formation that does more than just sharing resources.
However, it is important to note that not all sharing practices aspire to become a commons.
Similarly, not all sharing practices that aspire to become a commons are suitably conditioned
to evolve into a commons because sharing practices can be structured by conditions inimical
to the formation of the commons.
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Consider first the work of Widlok (2017). Drawing from his extensive studies on traditional
societies, Widlok (2017) suggests that the act of sharing is usually premised on the presence
of net providers (that is, those who mostly offer the resources), and net users (that is, those
who mostly take the resources)—a relation that is not only unequal, but also non-reciprocal.
After all, certain people are consistently in a better position to give (Price, 1975: 6). This
asymmetrical reality is corroborated by recent studies in the Sharing Economy (Bocker &
Meelen, 2017), where individuals with access to idle assets serve as providers, while others
who lack such access become users. Frenken and Schor (2017: 7) even argue that this
asymmetry of sharing is reinforced by the state of inequality today, when valuable assets with
idle capacities are increasingly concentrated in a small group of well-off people, who serve as
the net providers for an even larger group of net users who are unable to afford but require
access to these assets—a situation that they also refer to as the “Piketty-effect of the sharing
economy”. Furthermore, sharing does not presuppose sociality or positive social relations,
and clearly from the evidence cited, is also not automatically conducive to a more just
distribution of shared resources (Davies & Evans, 2018). The sum of these realities suggest
that sharing activities tend to presume already unequal access to resources, which in turn
engender structural and functional hierarchies that then preclude the emergence of either
commoning or the commons.
Nevertheless, there are sharing practices today that demonstrate the promise of catalyzing the
formation of the urban commons. As sharing practices, they not only share certain designated
resources, but also physical or urban spaces (see Chan & Zhang, 2018). In other words, for
these sharing practices to exist, they have to presume a shared spatiality of togetherness and
interdependence—especially in relation to the city—which however, is not a resource that has
been explicitly designated for sharing. Paraphrasing De Angelis (2017: 213), these are sharing
practices that have environments that include and overlap with other urban systems, which
these sharing practices can influence. Examples of such sharing practices include the
coworking space, and also the hackerspace—all that are found in the city, and are
interdependent on other urban systems for their sustained operation.
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Here, consider the new urban typology of the coworking space and how it is able to transform
urban spaces. In one study, researchers suggest that the diffusion of coworking spaces in the
city may have the urban effects of positively enhancing community building, improving
surrounding public spaces, and ultimately, revitalizing the city (Mariotti, Pacchi & Di Vita,
2017: 57). In the largest coworking spaces they studied, the researchers discovered that these
coworking spaces also offer business discount schemes for their coworkers in neighborhood
shops and services (Mariotti, Pacchi & Di Vita, 2017: 60), which can effectively boost the
social and economic relations in these neighborhoods. While these studies are nascent, they
nevertheless offer suggestive evidence of what De Angelis (2017: 241) refers to as “boundary
commoning”—where one commons begin to produce a structural coupling with other
commons and in this process, construct a new and enlarged system of interdependencies.
On this point, what can prevent these sharing practices with many positive spill-overs from
simply just reinforcing and intensifying the economic relations of the neoliberal city? What
might incline them to further develop into commons? De Angelis (2017) argues that one
important attribute for the perpetuation of any urban commons is legitimacy. The urban
commons that is encouraged to persist in a neoliberal city against many odds is one that
possesses political legitimacy. Following this, how then can an aspirational coworking space,
beyond just offering new economic opportunities to the urban precinct where it is located,
also bring about other supports and services to the community that serves its needs? How can
this coworking space gain greater legitimacy by reinforcing and supporting the community
and not, by the neoliberal disposition of privatization and enclosure, supplant and evict the
original rights and occupants of this community? While these are questions that not all
coworking space would want to ask, they are however the key questions for every sharing
practice that has the aspiration of impacting the neoliberal city in a constructive and perhaps,
also emancipatory way.
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... In contrast with the neoliberal model of the city that commodifies as many urban resources as possible, sharing practices represents one of the most pragmatic alternative responses to the privatisation of leisure space. 44 The Riccio is now a self-regulated facility that occupies a few square metres of public garden, however, its operation potentially involves the whole community and more. ...
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Charrette 7(2) Autumn 2021 The paper exposes the issue of community empowerment and its regulatory framework through the case study of the design and construction of a book-sharing pavilion, the Riccio (Hedgehog), in an Italian mid-size town. In a context that is new to collaborative governance, the negotiation between the municipality, the local entrepreneurs, and an informal group of citizens, has proven to facilitate the reception of the designed outcome with a view on possible reiterations of the same process in the future. It thus contributes to the understanding of the nurturing potential of communities for architectural education and practice, proposing the support of ad hoc forms of partnership agreements that can disclose new possibilities of enhancing collaborative governance of the urban commons.
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This article proposes a social phenomenology of intentional sharing and togetherness from a degrowth perspective: extending human relations instead of market relations; deepening democracy; defending ecosystems; and realising a more equal global distribution of wealth. Social phenomenology looks beyond individual mutual exchange to the rich but fragile social construction of collectively negotiated ethical purpose. Intentional communities of cohousing are identified as part of a solution to dismantle privatised, conspicuous consumption. This approach challenges the tendency in popular sharing economy discourse to conflate different types of togetherness, highlighting instead the social significance of skilful cooperation and conviviality in groups and associations.
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In the context of this Companion, this chapter aims to introduce coworking as a practice of “distributed, interorganizational, collaborative knowledge work” (Spinuzzi 2012, p. 400) and coworking spaces as “complex and heterogeneous relational innovation landscapes” (Schmidt et al. 2014, p. 245). It will explore how an understanding of coworking and coworking spaces can contribute to research questions in economic geography in three different ways. First, a look into coworking sheds light on a growing group of economic actors that have not been fully acknowledged in economic geography: freelancers. Second, it provides a comprehensive micro-perspective into social dynamics of knowledge generation because these spaces bring together heterogeneous groups of actors and different knowledge bases and could further illuminate the role of different types of proximity or distance and shared practice for knowledge generation and innovation. And third, coworking spaces themselves become meaningful actors within the urban creative economy mediating between freelancers, firms and organizations. As new and distinct knowledge sites, coworking spaces can provide an empirical lens into theoretical questions of relational and spatial proximity for creativity and innovation beyond the firm and within creative urban milieus (Boschma 2005; Amin and Roberts 2008; Desrochers et al., Chapter 14, this volume). In this chapter, I will combine sociological perspectives with recent research in economic geography on the social dynamics of knowledge creation, proximity and the spatialities of creative and innovative processes. The discussion will draw mainly on empirical literature from the field of culture and creative industries, where freelance work has been a subject of intense study for the past decade. However, that does not mean that all freelancers working in those shared offices are creative workers nor that all freelancers work in coworking spaces.
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This paper explores how local authorities can develop infrastructure for collaborative consumption, i.e. sharing amongst citizens of tools, spaces and practical skills. The City of Malmö, Sweden, is used as a case study to illustrate the work with such “sharing infrastructure”. Existing planning research and planning practice for sustainability generally focus on facilitating citizens to live in a more eco-friendly way in terms of housing, modes of transport, waste flows and use of green space, but do not address citizens’ consumption of other material goods. This paper points to a potential role for local public planning in relation to collaborative consumption through creating sharing infrastructure, i.e. providing access to shared tools and spaces for making and repairing, thus enabling citizens to act in the city not only as consumers, but also as makers and sharers.
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Bike sharing nowadays is a must-have element of the urban transport system that is changing mobility patterns in cities worldwide. BiciMAD, a fleet of bicycles with electric pedal-assistance (pedelecs)—introduced in the center of Madrid (Spain) in 2014—is an example of the latest generation. In this article, Innovation Diffusion Theory (IDT) is adapted and applied as a framework to study data from a series of surveys among BiciMAD subscribers to describe adopter profiles and analyze attributes that influence the time of adoption, including an additional one: cycling familiarity. Empirical results are presented to show how an innovation (in terms of technology and service configuration on the level of a city) is dispersed. Conclusions show that smart bike sharing is an innovation vector in urban mobility, an attractive new travel mode for the identified adopter categories, namely (1) lifestyle cyclists, the venturesome and technology enthusiast Earliest Adopters, (2) dedicated cyclists, the rational and deliberate Early Majority, (3) leisure cyclists, the skeptical and peer-dependent Late Majority, and (4) fair-weather cyclists, the prudent Laggards.
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Sharing practices have increased over the last decade as a byproduct of the economic recession and the wider use of online services, creating the hype of ‘Sharing Economy’. However, sharing economy as defined today includes contradictory cases of renting, sharing, commoning, collaboration, solidarity, and typical businesses. This article focuses on cases that outline sharing as an act that facilitates a transition of urban communities towards places that are socially interactive and resourceful. Those practices are defined as ‘Sharing Culture’. Sharing culture relates to social networks that grow informally within a region and have as their goal to co-produce, manage and share resources, time, services, knowledge, information, and support based on solidarity rather than economic profit. Ultimately, sharing culture creates an alternative pathway for citizens to serve daily needs in a more sustainable, resourceful, and socially engaging manner by investing in regional and local assets. Because sharing culture is tightly related to the everyday and the local, the social construct of a region as well as the physical design influence how and where it emerges. Through a theoretical review of sharing practices and empirical data from a short selection of sharing culture cases, this article explores what sharing culture is, how it emerges, and highlights the importance of physical space in the process of diffusion within an area. The goal of this article is twofold: first, to provide a new theoretical framework, that of the sharing culture, which enriches the current debate on sharing and collaborative practices and distances itself from economic transactions of sharing economy, while focusing on human needs and characteristics of solidarity. Second, the article intends to reveal the lack of systematic research on how these practices are influenced by physical space.
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For social analysts, what has come to be called the “sharing economy” raises important questions. After a discussion of history and definitions, we focus on 3 areas of research in the for-profit segment, also called the platform economy: social connection, conditions for laborers, and inequalities. Although we find that some parts of the platform economy, particularly Airbnb, do foster social connection, there are also ways in which even shared hospitality is becoming more like conventional exchange. With respect to labor conditions, we find they vary across platforms and the degree to which workers are dependent on the platform to meet their basic needs. On inequality, there is mounting evidence that platforms are facilitating person-to-person discrimination by race. In addition, platforms are advantaging those who already have human capital or physical assets, in contrast to claims that they provide widespread opportunity or even advantage less privileged individuals.
Book
This book examines the economy of sharing in a variety of social and political contexts around the world, with consideration given to the role of sharing in relation to social order and social change, political power, group formation, individual networks and concepts of personhood. Widlok advocates a refreshingly broad comparative approach to our understanding of sharing, with a rich range of material from hunter-gatherer ethnography alongside debates and empirical illustrations from globalized society, helping students to avoid Western economic bias in their thinking. Anthropology and the Economy of Sharing also demonstrates that sharing is distinct from gift-giving, exchange and reciprocity, which have become dominant themes in economic anthropology, and suggests that a new focus on sharing will have significant repercussions for anthropological theory. Breaking new ground in this key topic, this volume provides students with a coherent and accessible overview of the economy of sharing from an anthropological perspective.