It all began as you will well imagine with the Internet. In social networks and open-source platforms, an entire generation swiftly interiorized the principles of sharing and exchanging. And now the so-called digital natives are transposing these cultural techniques onto real social space. Instead of song tracks or files, they’re sharing objects and services in the here-and-now. And that changes the prior attitude toward consumerism: “Collaborative consumption” offers an alternative economic model that focuses much more on using than on owning: Things and resources become accessible for many.
In 2010, together with Roo Rogers Rachel Botsman published the book “What’s Mine is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live”. And now, a good three years later, it’s safe to say: consuming collaboratively has won out. Sharing is not a flash in the pan. On the contrary. As the growing number of sharing platforms shows, collaborative consumption is a growing social movement. Sharing and joint use not only means we have less of a burden to carry round with us, but we also meet people in the immediate vicinity who we would hardly have met without swapping and sharing things. Sharing strengthens a new type of leisurely, open and uncomplicated coexistence. “Peer-to-peer” networks also mean you can potentially earn something into the bargain, depending on your profession and ambition, it may even be a considerable sum. To what extent can sharing and swapping become part of everyday life? Is it always just something for the idealists and people with a lot of time on their hands?
Since, in the context of the IAA we are just focusing on the topic of “assistance systems”, we took a look around at how and where sharing is practical in everyday life. Starting with the ride to work, go for a different (no longer new) T-shirt, hang up a picture without owning tools, and at the end cook for 12 friends in a kitchen that is not our own.
Not one car, but many!
The automobile industry is worried: The auto is no longer a status symbol among young urbanites. Precisely in the conurbations of the world, owning one is expensive and hardly practical when it comes to finding a parking space. A bike or public transport usually prove faster. While in 2000 over half the men in the 18-29 year bracket owned a car, today in Germany the figure has dropped to one third. Compared to this, the number of users who opt for car sharing has tripled over the last seven years. The reason: easier access via a smartphone that offers access to temporary use of a car at any time and anywhere. Hardly surprising that carmakers such as BMW and Mercedes are picking up the slack with their proprietary car-sharing systems “DriveNow” and “Car2Go” in order to get into contact with the apostate non-owners of cars and lock into future business models relating to mobility.
Earn money with an auto
And those who do not drive to work by car need not leave their four-wheeled friend unused behind at home. “Let your car earn money” is the motto of the peer-to-peer platform “Tamyca”, an usual name that abbreviates “Take my car”. At present, this private car-sharing platform offers some 3,500 vehicles in 650 cities. Anyone wanting to hire out their auto places a profile of him/herself and the car on the platform. A calendar shows the potential user when the auto is available and what it costs. Alongside the pleasure of being able to choose from among a whole host of different vehicles (from a James Bond Aston Martin to Mr. Bean’s old Mini), there’s another factor, too: social contact. Because during the hand-over you tend to meet the car’s owner; word has it, new loves met this way.
Park in a stranger’s slot
We have a chassis beneath us and are on the road. And face the question: Where to leave the car? Precisely in cities, parking tends to be a real hassle. The solution: You park in someone else’s spot and pay them a bit for the privilege. That at any rate is the successful concept behind “ParkatmyHouse”. This peer-to-peer platform networks those looking for parking spaces with all those who have one to offer, for example because they aer not at home during the day and the space otherwise remains empty. Today, ParkatmyHouse is successful in both the United States and Canada. In 2011, BMW invested in the sharing company and now integrates the ParkatmyHouse App into the BMW’s proprietary service Apps. In this way offering its customers comfort on the road over and above the car itself.
Surf on the sofa
Anyone who is on the move worldwide and does not shy away from human contact (sociophobes and misanthropes should on principle stay away from collaborative consumption) will save a lot of money by couchsurfing when overnighting. The name says it all: You sleep on the guest sofa of someone you don’t know. Free of charge. Go online on the peer-to-peer platform and trawl the relevant city for accommodation that is located appropriately. And also check out the profiles of the potential hosts and decide whether they appeal to you. And of course you have to be willing to let strangers stay on your couch. The community’s rating system means that the freeloaders swiftly get exposed.
Anyone preferring a little more social distance will instead click “Airbnb”. Here, you pay for the room, apartment or the whole house the classic way – with money. And this peer-to-peer platform has now emerged as one of the most successful Websites for anyone not wanting to stay in a hotel, but simply wanting to overnight differently – be it in an unusual apartment, in a different district, or even in a tree-house. Choose your domicile from among 33,000 possibles in 192 different countries world-wide.
Wear new clothes free of charge
If you’re on the road and haven’t got the right clothes with you, then simply swap things for the right outfit at a “swapping party” or on an online platform such as "Kleiderkreisel" or "Swapstyle". What no longer fits the one person or what you’re tired of looking at will possibly be exactly what someone else wants. And given the Internet’s great range the probability you’ll find something is far higher than if you just asked round your friends.
Quick help from next door
Collaborative consumption as in sharing and joint use is not just a matter of goods and things. Services by individuals aer increasingly on offer in the Net, as the ant-like nature of the market can only be tapped using network structures. At “Taskrabbit” you simply enter a profile and state your skills. Services range from assembling furniture to tending to gardens, from helping fill in tax returns to training dogs. Take Dan B., for example, one of the “Top Taskrabbits” he’s already bagged 300 ratings, all of them positive. A real all-rounder. Follow online where he is now and what he’s doing.
DIY without a toolbox
So what else is left to do? “Frents” is based on the idea “What I don’t have my neighbor does”. Anyone wanting to hang a picture on the wall needs a hole in it, but doesn’t necessarily need a drill. Frents is a kind of “Facebook of things”. And via Facebook you can hook up with like-minded souls and benefit from the “joint” pool of things by placing those items online that you’re willing to lend out. Saving money and getting to know new people into the bargain.
Expanding your living space
In many single-person or two-person households the kitchen often stays unused. People either eat out with friends – or are happy with a small snack. So why bother with a two-meter-long table and a large kitchen if you only invite friends round for a cookfest four or five times a year? Precisely in cities such as Hamburg, Frankfurt or Munich, every extra square meter costs real cash and all unused space is a luxury. “Gekreuzte Möhrchen” is a kitchen with a long table in downtown Hamburg that you can if necessary rent. A glance at Japan gives you an idea of the array of possible inhabitable shared space options that can be imagined: from small rooms where you can be completely alone for an hour to shared playrooms or even rooms for stroking your cat if you’re a part-time cat owner.
Micro-economies between you and me
The individual sharing services thus offer an alternative for everyone who does not want to rely on the offerings of the ‘big’ service providers and likes a personal touch. Yet, no new barter economy really arises – even if digital networking increases the probability of finding someone to swap stuff with. On most platforms: no money, no joy. Yet the digital natives are nevertheless donning a new role: They are no longer not just consumers, but also service providers and producers. “Airbnb” increasingly features professional sharers. There is a growing number of profiles of people not just offering a flat or room, but a broad range of apartments in all shapes and sizes.
On balance, these mini-services between you and me are surprisingly professionally organized, and ideal for the everyday world as they aren’t complicated. In particular in large conurbations the result are a great range of offerings and it is above all urbanites, not rarely the singles among them, who yearn for a community that is as ready to help out as a family or village community. Albeit more flexibly and more leisurely.