Rise of Collaborative Consumption

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Book: What's Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers (Fall, HarperCollins), 2010

URL = http://www.collaborativeconsumption.com


"Rachel Botsman is a good friend of Shareable.net, and we're really looking forward to this book. "Collaborative Consumption," explain the authors, "occurs when people come together through virtual and real-world communities to share, barter, trade, rent, gift, lend, and swap to get the same pleasures of ownership with reduced personal burden and cost and lower environmental impact. The book travels amongst the quiet revolutionaries (consumers, community organizers and companies) from all around the world who are at the heart of Collaborative Consumption." (http://shareable.net/blog/six-books-in-2010)


  • Introduction: What’s Mine Is Yours xi

  • Part 1 Context
  1. One Enough Is Enough 3
  2. Two All-Consuming 19
  3. Three From Generation Me to Generation We 41

  • Part 2 Groundswell
  1. Four The Rise of Collaborative Consumption 67
  2. Five Better Than Ownership 95
  3. Six What Goes Around Comes Around 121
  4. Seven We Are All in This Together 151

  • Part 3 Implications
  1. Eight Collaborative Design 183
  2. Nine Community Is the Brand 197
  3. Ten The Evolution of Collaborative Consumption 209


Better Than Ownership

From pp. 97-98, chapter five:

"The relationship between physical products, individual ownership, and self-identity is undergoing a profound evolution. We don’t want the CD, we want the music it plays; we don’t want the disc, we want the storage it holds; we don’t want the answering machine, we want the messages it saves; we don’t want the DVD, we want the movie it carries. In other words, we don’t want the stuff but the needs or experiences it fulfills. As our possessions “dematerialize” into the intangible, our preconceptions of ownership are changing, creating a dotted line between “what’s mine,” “what’s yours,” and “what’s ours.” This shift is fueling a world where usage trumps possessions, and as Kevin Kelly, a passionate conservationist and founder of Wired magazine, puts it, where “access is better than ownership.”

There are new channels emerging—channels that don’t require you to own anything other than a computer or even just an iPhone—to share what we are doing (Twitter), what we are reading (Shelfari), what we are interested in (Digg), the groups we belong to (LinkedIn), and of course who our friends are (Facebook). As our online “brands” define “who we are” and “what we like,” actual ownership becomes less important than demonstrating use or use by association. We can now show status, group affiliation, and belonging without necessarily having to buy physical objects. Self-expression through objects will, of course, not become obsolete. We will, for instance, always treasure possessions that have high sentimental value, such as our wedding rings, relics from travels, or family heirlooms. But our relationship to satisfying what we want and signaling who we are is far more immaterial than that of any previous generation."

Redefining Value

From pp. 220-221, chapter 10:

"Collaborative Consumption may be consumer and community orientated, but its benefits are shared across businesses. Thousands of new opportunities have already emerged under Collaborative Consumption with successful revenue models based on memberships (Zipcar, Bag Borrow or Steal), service fees (Airbnb, Zopa), and micropayments for usage (BIXI, BabyPlays) being established. Also, as companies start to redefine themselves as acting as the bridge between individual users and the community, we will trust them more, and as a result interact with them in different ways. This broader and deeper relationship provides an opportunity for the company to offer more ancillary services such as personalization, workshops, and community support. Etsy is an example of this model. The net result is that while we may see a downturn in the number of products consumed and the amount we shop we won’t necessarily see a decrease in the overall revenue of the company. This democratization and flowering of new companies does not necessarily come at the detriment of existing businesses. Companies such as Interface and Netflix show that it is possible to reposition from an old vertical retail model to an integrated collaborative one with huge cost savings and increases in consumer loyalty.

We believe Collaborative Consumption is part of an even bigger shift from a production-oriented measurement system that just gauges the amount we sell to a multidimensional notion of value that also takes into consideration the well-being of current and future generations. Just as individuals are beginning to rethink the dichotomy between self-interest and collective good, some governments and businesses are starting to rethink their own metrics that have prioritized certain forms of progress."

Excerpt from What's Mine Is Yours by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers. Copyright © 2010 by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers. Posted with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


1. Venessa Miemis:

"The general theme of the book is that we’re shifting away from a society of hyper-consumption and equating personal self-worth with amount of material good accumulated, and instead to a world where our ability to access and exchange resources, develop a reputation, and build community and social capital takes precedence in how we choose to express who we are and what we choose to define us.

The authors give hundreds of examples of how people are finding new ways to share and exchange value – what they call “collaborative consumption” – using social lending platforms (Zopa, LendingClub, Prosper), open barter networks (ITEX, Bartercard), peer-to-peer coworking and currencies (Hub Culture), reuse networks (Freecycle), car sharing (ZipCar, GoGet), bike sharing (BIXI), swap trading (SwapTree), and peer to peer rentals for plots of land (Landshare, a room for the night (Airbnb), or any other item you could imagine (Zilok).

The list goes on, and the book is packed with some pretty interesting statistics (for instance, did you know that bike sharing is the fastest-growing form of transportation in the world, or that peer-to-peer social lending is set to grow to $5 billion by 2013?). All the examples are broken down in three main categories of collaborative consumption: product service systems, redistribution markets, and collaborative lifestyles – which highlights that there are numerous ways that consumption is being redefined.

I loved that in the closing chapters, they pull out “design thinking” as being at the center of collaborative consumption. (we’ve had thorough discussions on that topic here before) The idea is that it’s not just about creating more things anymore, but about thinking from a systems perspective and understanding how to find the balance in the relationship between business, sustainability, and consumption. Our planet can’t handle an endless supply of product creation, so the shift is underway for us to begin to design for participation, collaboration, and enabling new experiences. When this intention is present in design, it can lead to empowerment, changes in the thoughts and behaviors of large groups of people, and advances in conscious decision-making.

All in all, if you’re unaware of what’s happening in the peer-to-peer exchange space, this book will quickly bring you up to speed.

In closing, here are a few of my main takeaways:

- The Internet enables a new infrastructure for participation, reducing the transaction costs of matching the wants and needs of people and giving them the opportunity to coordinate. We’re finding this enables us to allocate resources and solve distribution problems more rapidly and effectively.

- By taking out the middlemen, people can begin to build trust with one other again. In the online space, this becomes transparent as reputation systems become more robust, revealing our interests, our social connections, and the trail of behaviors and actions across the Web.

- The “Tragedy of the Commons” is not a given. People are capable of sharing resources if given the tools to self-organize, coordinate, and monitor each other.

- New marketplaces are being built for people to build community, shape their personal identities, earn recognition, and participate in meaningful activity. They are finding new outlets for autonomy, control, freedom, and self-expression. While these activities strengthen social capital, they are also done for very practical reasons – to save time and/or money, to be more sustainable, or to gain access to better services.

- Aided by new communication infrastructures, we are learning to find the balance between the pursuit of one’s own self-interest and the greater good." (http://emergentbydesign.com/2010/10/03/the-rise-of-collaborative-consumption/)

2. Si Alhir:

"Botsman and Rogers elaborate that

Hyper-consumption is about “the endless acquisition of more stuff in ever greater amounts” and Collaborative Consumption is about “traditional sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, fighting, and swapping, redefined through technology and peer communities.” Collaborative Consumption is an “emerging socioeconomic groundswell” where “the old stigmatized C’s associated with coming together and ‘sharing’ — cooperatives, collectives, and communes — are being refreshed and reinvented into appealing and valuable forms of collaboration and community,” which is cultivating a culture and fostering an economy of “what’s mine is yours.”

The book, which is very rich in breadth and depth, elegantly organizes its concepts in an Introduction and three parts: Part 1, Context (for the groundswell); Part 2, Groundswell; and Part 3, Implications (of the groundswell). It offers many examples of Collaborative Consumption organized into three systems (product service systems, redistribution markets, and collaborative lifestyles) that share similar underlying principles (critical mass, idling capacity, belief in the commons, and trust between strangers).

After much consideration on how best to introduce what the book is really all about, I decided to share a few impactful points.

  • Introduction: What’s Mine is Yours

Collaborative Consumption fosters a “healthy” system between individuals and collectives that does not prescribe rigid dogma, but it blends aspects of the socialist ideology and capitalist ideology without itself being an ideology.

  • From Generation Me to Generation We

Collaborative Consumption reminds us that self-interest is not necessarily greed and emphasizes socioeconomic aspects faithful to Adam Smith’s intent and the natural synergy between self-interest and the collective good. This interdependence between self-interest and the collective good is fostering a shift in mind-set from Generation Me (“what’s in it for me”) to Generation We (“what’s in it for us”).

  • The Rise of Collaborative Consumption

Over the past few years, collaboration has become a driving force in our cultural, political, and economic systems. Collaborative Consumption highlights the “revolution of collaboration” and emphasizes the sociocultural aspects of collaboration among peers. In particular, people participate in Collaborative Consumption as “peer providers” who provide assets (products or services) or “peer users” who consume assets.

  • The Evolution of Collaborative Consumption

Consumption is now much more dynamic and involves giving and collaborating to get what you want, which is fostering the emergence of a more sustainable system focused on “basic human needs — in particular, the needs for community, individual identity, recognition, and meaningful activity”. Thus, Collaborative Consumption offers a world view that unifies the socioeconomic and sociocultural aspects of community, individual identity, recognition, and meaningful activity through a collaborative and sharing culture."

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