Varieties of Sharing: Action Frameworks, Structures, and Working Conditions in a New Field

Varieties of Sharing: Action Frameworks, Structures, and Working Conditions in a New Field

Christian Papsdorf (Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany) and Markus Hertwig (Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5849-2.ch009
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Abstract

This chapter focuses on one element in the digitalisation of work: the forms and conditions of working in the so-called ‘sharing economy' (SE). Based on an analysis of 67 SE platforms, it distinguishes three segments, each of which constitutes a distinctive institutional sphere within the sharing economy: these are an ‘exchange and gift economy', a ‘niche and sideline economy', and the ‘platform economy'. In a further step, the study then identified and compared five dimensions of work within these segments: the type of activity, the form of compensation or recompense involved (monetary or non-monetary), skills and competencies required, the role of technology, and control mechanisms. Each segment is associated with a particular pattern of these dimensions. The chapter then discusses the shift in the traditionally understood determinants of work now observable in the sharing economy. While some of these determinants are being added to by new factors, others are being displaced by internet communities and the socio-technical structures and strategies of the platform providers.
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2. The ‘Sharing Economy:’ Concept And State Of Research

As Martin (2016: 151) has shown, the concept of the SE embraces and is used to cover a wide range of phenomena, making it difficult to arrive at a single and consistent definition. In practice, it continues to represent a somewhat ambiguous notion embracing a long list of synonyms, not all of which are equivalent in meaning (Martin 2016; Belk 2014; Dillahunt and Malone 2015).1 Nonetheless, it is possible to discern some consensus between the various attempts at a definition. On this, the SE can be seen as a set of business models, platforms and exchange relationships (Alen and Berg 2014, following Daunoriene et al. 2015), in which resources, services or access to material goods (on a temporary basis) are gifted, exchanged, lent or purchased (Dillahunt und Malone 2015; Richardson 2015) between private individuals (peer-to-peer) in return for a fee or other forms of compensation (Belk 2014) via web-based social media platforms (Hamari et al. 2015).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Work: Work is defined here in a wide sense as a purposive social practice that entails expending time and effort, while the form of compensation involved can be monetary or non-monetary. Thus, work does not necessarily have a commercial purpose (as ‘employment’).

Sharing Economy: The sharing economy is regarded a distinct area of social life, which comprises social activities mediated by internet-based platforms and market places that connect suppliers and customers offering and buying a wide range of products and services through processes that operate outside the conventions of traditional business models.

Gift and Exchange Economy: This segment of the SE best embodies the original and authentic notion of sharing, where resources are made over to other users, or offered temporarily, on ecological, altruistic, or other non-economic grounds. This can take the form of lending free-of-charge, donation, or swapping, with no need for there to be any equivalent in terms of value or costs incurred.

Dimensions of Work: Work is an abstract concept which comprises dimensions that build typical patterns. Central dimensions analyzed here are the type of activity, the form of compensation or recompense involved (monetary or non-monetary), skills and competencies (qualification) required, the role of technology, and control.

Niche and Sideline Economy: Actors in this segment of the SE are predominantly ‘lay’ people and amateurs who seek a monetary reward. This can take the form of lending or selling physical goods or offering basic trade skills or household services, such as plumbing or electrical repairs, for payment.

Platform Economy or Digitized Old Economy: This segment of the SE consists of initiatives in which services are provided by individuals who are formally economically active (as employees or self-employed). Service providers lend resources and perform simple, but possibly also complex and demanding, services in return for monetary reward, typically involving resources and services already available on the market.

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