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Introductory Citation

= Sharing is a way of maximizing the utilization of idle productive goods owned by individuals. Just about any tool or appliance you need for a current project, but lack, is probably gathering dust on the shelf of someone within a few blocks of where you live. If the pooling of such idle resources doesn’t seem like much of a deal for the person with the unused appliances, keep in mind first that he isn’t getting anything at all out of them now, second that he may trade access to them for access to other people’s tools that he needs, and third that the arrangement may increase the variety of goods and services he has to choose from outside the wage system. - Kevin Carson [1]


"Sharing is the joint use of a resource or space. In its narrow sense, it refers to joint or alternating use of an inherently finite good, such as a common pasture or a timeshared residence. It is also the process of dividing and distributing. Apart from obvious instances, which we can observe in human activity, we can also find many examples of this happening naturally in nature. When an organism takes in nutrition or oxygen for instance, its internal organs are designed to divide and distribute the energy taken in, to supply parts of its body that need it. Flowers divide and distribute their seeds. In a broader sense, it can also include the free granting of use rights to a good that is capable of being treated as a nonrival good, such as information. Still more loosely, "sharing" can actually mean giving something as an outright gift: for example, to "share" one's food really means to give some of it as a gift. Sharing figures prominently in gift economies, but also can play a significant role in market economies, for example in car sharing." (

What is Sharing?

Chris Arkenberg:

"So what is sharing and why do we do it? At its simplest, sharing can be thought of as an exchange of information. Without diving into the wily esoterica of information theory it’s reasonable to say that information, for us humans, represents a collection of sensory inputs often imbued with some semantic meaning. So information is color, sound, words, data, etc...

Culture is an expression of such human-scale information. And, likewise, culture is an expression of the innate need to share. We share language to communicate. We share knowledge of crops and weather and medicine to support communities. We share our emotions, our fears and aspirations to express our inner lives and see ourselves reflected in others. We share art and aesthetics to convey the inexpressible. And we share the mechanics of manipulating matter to continually extrude the shell of technology that has enabled our populations to flourish and our lifespans to approach those of centenarians.

Sharing is an invaluable and valueless transaction fundamental to our daily lives. We are social animals all invested in a massive species-wide collaboration to survive and thrive. We share for mutual benefit, for altruism, for deferred returns, and, increasingly, because we are compelled to contribute to the global brain. Facebook & Twitter are perhaps the latest apotheosis of this shift towards the compulsive sharing of everything in our lives. And it is this condition that seems to represent something uniquely spiritual, or at least inchoate and just beyond rational apprehension, about our progression into the 21st century: the boundaries around the Other and shadows held within are falling to the illumination of the global consciousness.

And this isn’t some New Age hokum. We experience the lives of people in countries we’ve never been to. We see pictures of distant, foreign lands that look just like our own. We learn more and more about the similarities across cultures. We share who we are with those who were once considered foreign, barbaric, and alien. And with each new connection the fear of the Other dissolves into the familiarity of the Self. The twin engines of globalization and the internet are constructing a virtual commons in which we are all gathering to tell our stories and share our thoughts and emotions.

This radical shift has not been without consequence, of course, but it represents a deep, species-wide drive to get closer, to know each other, to share, and to better collaborate on the collective development of humanity and its place within the world." (


Janelle Orsi [2]:

  1. Shared Control
  2. Shared Responsibility for the Common Good
  3. Shared Earnings
  4. Shared Capitalization
  5. Shared Information, and
  6. Shared Efforts


Transactional vs Transformational Sharing

Sharon Ede:

"Neal Gorenflo of Shareable expressed a useful distinction between sharing that is transactional and sharing that is transformational.

While there are no absolutes, in general ‘transactional’ sharing is typically profit-driven, and more about the efficient operation of existing systems, resource efficiency and cost sharing.

More efficiently using existing assets (be they physical, virtual, skills or time), whether or not monetary exchange is involved, contributes to a more effective operation of the status quo. This can be a good thing, for example when people can access what they need, when they need it; and when it results in less resource consumption.

But it does not impact on existing power structures.

‘Transformational’ sharing can have some or all the characteristics of transactional sharing (more efficient use of resources, spreading costs), but there is an additional, critical element – it involves a shift in power and social relations. This means who owns and controls the processes by which sharing occurs, who benefits, and whether it is strengthening the commons or resulting in the commodification of our lives. Integral to transformational sharing is that it builds ‘social capital’, strengthening relationships and resilience of communities through sharing and co-operation.

Transformational sharing can be found in the gift economy, in the co-operative movement and in not for profit social enterprise. Examples include:

CoWheels Car Club, a car sharing platform in the UK that runs as a not for profit social enterprise, with all surplus reinvested back into the organisation’s social mission.

Vandebron, a Dutch peer-to-peer platform which enables residents to buy and sell energy directly from each other, bypassing utilities altogether. Could there be unintended consequences for other citizens as people effectively ‘opt out’ of the grid? Possibly, however again clues lie in looking at why and how a sharing platform was set up and whom it is intended to benefit.

It’s important to scratch the surface of anything calling itself ‘sharing economy’ and look at the legal and financial structures underpinning them as well as the mission of the organisation and how it empowers people, as platforms can be offering a similar service, but be based on very different operating systems." (

Christian Siefkes

  • "Copying: It’s possible to copy physical things, provided you have access to the complete design and to the required resources and means of production.
  • Shared usage: shared usage doesn’t necessarily degrade things, but may actually make them better—the more people “take the bus,” the higher the reasonable frequency
  • Pooling: Today I prefer to take the bus, hence you may have my bike. Things which aren’t needed constantly can be pooled (car pools, tool pools). This reduces the resource usage as well as the effort required for production and maintenance, while giving everyone the possibility to use these things when they need them.
  • Passing on: since things are produced in order to be used (not for selling), I can easily pass on what I no longer need for myself."


Emily Doskow on Four Degrees of Sharing

"Sharing to the First Degree:

Requires Cooperation + Minimal Planning

At the most basic level, sharing arrangements require little planning, time, or money. They can start or stop almost any time, sometimes quite spontaneously. Take carpooling to work, for example--that’s something you can start doing tomorrow with one other person. Many of us already do share at this level.

And as sharing increasingly becomes the societal norm, we will all probably share more in these ways:

  • Potlucks or meal exchanges with neighbors or co-workers
  • Borrowing and lending goods
  • Babysitting exchange
  • Dog walking exchange
  • Harvesting and sharing fruit from neighborhood trees
  • Sharing computer code or content

Sharing to the Second Degree:

Requires Cooperation + More Extensive Planning

Compared to sharing at the first degree, these sharing arrangements generally involve a larger number of people and/or sharing things with more value. They entail a higher degree of cooperation, more planning, a greater investment of time or money, a certain amount of administrative detail-work, and likely a written agreement among sharers. Sharing ownership of a car with a neighbor, for example, takes shared transportation to this second level.

Other examples:

  • Sharing an in-home care provider for children, elders, or people with disabilities
  • Sharing rental housing or ownership of a single family home
  • Sharing yard space for food cultivation
  • Babysitting co-op with multiple families
  • Neighborhood tool lending “library” (which could be a shared shed where neighbors store their tools, or a list of tools each neighbor owns and is willing to lend)
  • Food-buying club
  • Neighborhood home repair group

Sharing to the Third Degree:

Requires Cooperation + Extensive Planning + Infrastructure

What’s next after carpooling and co-owning a car? How about a carsharing club? At the third degree of sharing, you might have ten neighbors sharing three cars. These neighbors will probably adopt systems for communicating, making decisions, managing money, keeping records, and so on. They will likely create a small non-profit or limited liability company (LLC) that will hold title and insurance to the cars. They’d probably adopt some technologies, like an online calendar for scheduling and numerical keypads that open and start the cars. As a result of creating such infrastructure, third degree sharing arrangements often have an identity independent of their individual members. In other words, even as members come and go, and even when there is complete turnover, the sharing arrangement remains and becomes a lasting community institution.

Here are some examples:

  • Cohousing communities and housing cooperatives
  • Community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs
  • Cooperative groceries
  • Parent-run cooperative preschools
  • Offices, studios, commercial kitchens, and other workspaces shared among multiple entrepreneurs
  • Community-wide tool lending libraries
  • Cooperatives that facilitate sharing of resources and collective bargaining by businesses (such as an alpaca fiber cooperative that processes and sells fur from hundreds of small alpaca farms)

Sharing to the Fourth Degree:

Requires Cooperation + Extensive Planning + Infrastructure + Community-Wide Restructuring and Mobilization

Now we’re getting really ambitious: Picture a community where there are shared cars parked on every block. You reserve a car using your cell phone, punch in a code on the car door, get in, and go! Whether this is publicly or privately managed, launching such a program involves significant investment of time and resources and a rather complex system of administration. Taking sharing to the fourth degree can require getting government buy-in, mobilizing multiple players (legislators, investors, banks, developers, planners, etc.), or even restructuring our communities. While a shared car on every block is a dream yet to be realized, organizations like Zipcar (a business) and City Car Share (a nonprofit) are taking steps in the right direction.

Other examples of fourth degree sharing include:

  • Dedication of public land to community gardening plots
  • Expansion of public library systems to include lending of tools, equipment, and other goods
  • City-wide bikesharing programs
  • Official designation of casual carpooling parking lots and pick-up spots
  • Planning of neighborhoods and design of housing to facilitate extensive common areas and community interaction
  • City-wide wifi programs"



From simple to complex sharing

Janelle Orsi, with Emily Doskow:

From simple to complex sharing:

"Getting to the second, third, and fourth degrees takes work—but it’s work that people do every day. One part of this work is cultivating the personal and communication skills useful in sharing, such as the ability to say what we need and how we feel (not as easy as it sounds), and to hear the same from others. As we begin cooperating to higher degrees, we’ll develop skills to sort through diverse needs, feelings, beliefs, and communication styles and find sharing arrangements that work for everyone involved.

Beyond personal development, there’s the need to design our sharing arrangements in ways that balance everyone’s needs for personal space, solitude, predictability, security, spontaneity, and our old favorite, convenience. At first glance, sharing might seem to threaten each of these needs, but a well-designed sharing system could actually enhance them. Some cohousing communities have achieved this beautifully, through a careful balancing of personal living spaces and well-managed community areas.

Then, in addition to protecting our individual needs, there is the challenge of preserving and nurturing that which is shared. This means grappling with the “tragedy of the commons” --the theory that individuals, acting in self-interest, will make choices that result in the eventual depletion or degradation of shared resources. It’s a challenge, and our resource-depleted planet is the poster child for such a tragedy. Thus, as we design systems for sharing, we will incorporate values, standards, and management that ensure the sustainability of what we share. At the same time, in a more sharing world, the way individuals make choices will likely change. To the extent that we see our personal wellbeing enhanced by sharing and cooperation, we will look more often at the bigger picture, and make choices that help the commons to thrive.

Finally, there are technical, logistical, and structural tasks required in order to take sharing to new levels. Sharing is a growth industry because so many people will participate in these tasks: the software engineers who are creating the web platforms for sharing, the architects who design community-oriented housing, the city planners who design cities around sharing, and the lawyers who help community groups adopt legal structures and agreements for sharing. They will work alongside mediators, facilitators, educators, realtors, developers, accountants, entrepreneurs, scholars, and others who can contribute to the creation of a more sharing world." (

Mushin Schilling on the Cartesian fallacy of separation

Source: | spring.summer 2011

PDF at

"Sharing is natural and it does have direction. But before this becomes a naturally dominant part of our culture, we might first have to let go of the Cartesian myth. We might need to see through the erroneous belief that objects do exist as such, the misleading notion that reality is based on truth and that knowing it is sufficient. Here is the sum of our confusion, cogito ergo sum, “I cogitate therefore I am.” This, of course, robs any non-cogitating entity of being, and as long as we consciously or subconsciously subscribe to this view, we are absolutely sure that when we look at an object, it doesn’t sense our presence. This conviction also tells us that ‘silver’ hours and a sea-changing sharing at the beginning of our life are merely epiphenomena of neo-cortextualized flesh, a hallucination with a consequence at most, but not objectively real.

But we aren’t really blind. We haven’t lost our sight. We never really left the sharing-space. Even though we can lose our mind to empirical objectivity and cogitation as the only reality, our body always remains embedded in the subjective world. In the midst of this seemingly dead-matter world rushing through vast, dreadfully empty space, as soon as we look at something and allow this something or entity to presence itself to us we start a very different journey. We shift eventually from the imaginary objective world to natural inter-presence. Even if we’ve lived here only for a little while, it is groundingly obvious that all beings and even every thing is sharing its substance with all—that we are all substantially present to each other, not only in an abstract sense but in a very concrete, sensual way, as well.

From an ordinary perspective everything that seems to be an object really is a subject. It is the subjectivity of every so called object that is participating in the shared space that we usually call psychic or spiritual—the all-encompassing/all-pervading dimension of animate and inanimate matter,. When we allow the subjectivity (presence) of a thing to share itself with us we are being addressed by the spirit, the collective conscious or the individual psyche. When we share ourselves with a dimension intrinsic to the visible and tangible world, we address the very same ‘spirit.’ And the old dualism between subject and object, between spirit and matter, even between reality and imagination fades away. We may, as a metaphor, describe this presence-sharing subjectivity to a Cartesian as the bridge over the chasm that he senses connecting the spiritual, the psychic and matter. But from our trans-Cartesian perspective, sharing ourselves, or self-presencing, is a fundamental force of Kosmos, as is gravity to a Cartesian (to us gravity is the attraction between huge-bodied beings sharing themselves also with energetic tendrils of love).

For many of us, the Cartesian fallacy that is so deeply entrenched in our individual and the triumphant Western sub-conscious is falling away. And rather than ask for truth, knowledge, understanding and essential being with the perennial question, “What/who is this?”, we finally dare to ask the utterly subjective question, “How do we relate?” The first question puts us into separation- mode, as things and beings might relate in mathematical equations or conceptually, but never subject to subject, heart to heart, life-throb to life-throb, being to being, with feeling.

But once we experiment regularly with the question, “How do I relate right now?,” or ask, “Avoiding relationship with what is present?,” or demand, “Show me how you share yourself,” or do some similar exploration, World changes into a sharing-space that can exponentially thrive, and will thrive through the ministry of sharing ourselves with Her. Reflecting on what our interior practice reveals about our embeddedness and sharing that with friend seems to be required for the good life of the 21st Century.

Twelve years ago I was shaken to the core by an enlightenment that revealed being’s foundational truth to me. I was shattered for I could no longer avoid the obvious, “The universe doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. There is no given meaning at all.” Maybe this sounds depressing to you and looks like an ugly piece in the Existential Exhibition of Matter that our empirical scientists are priests to. And it is. But for me it has been key. I look back on that happening as an enlightenment in the true sense of the word. It took away an age-old burden, the search to discover the One and Only Truth, The Absolute and it set me free to just be with things and matters that do as they please; no longer did I require anything to make sense. I could finally relax. And as I relaxed more and more, all of a sudden my whole being opened to an even more fundamental reality, “Everything and every being celebrates their presence, no matter what.” Meaning is not required for the celebration of being here. Self-presence and celebration are one and the same.

All matter and every entity celebrates being here now, and continually shares this in self-disclosure. As humans, we’ve co-created countless cultural realms and intelligent images—by which I mean those appearances that look at us as much as we look at them—with which we relate in wholesome or lesser ways and which can cause wellbeing or malaise. To insist on objective reality— for beings, things and images and declare everything that doesn’t comply with this empirical order irrational, ignorant or obsolete —seems to be the modern disease. The medicine I recommend is to look with subjective rigor at everything that appears to us and see how it shares itself with us and how we share ourselves with it. This may, in time, upgrade the human operating system such that we can rediscover how much we actually love World and how much She loves us."

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