Saturday, 2 April 2016

The sharing economy >>> "What's yours is mine"

The idea of the sharing economy has been around for some time now:
Futures Forum: The 'sharing economy' in the news...

With a lot of ideas joining the mix, it's difficult to know what to think:
Futures Forum: The 'sharing economy', 'resilience' and 'nudging': Evgeny Morozov on "The rise of data and the death of politics"

A very critical look at the 'sharing economy' has just come out:

What's Yours Is Mine: Against the Sharing Economy by Tom Slee — Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists
Whimsley – …where Tom Slee writes about technology and politics

While some bloggers still treat the sharing economy as some kind of cause, Slee rightly analyses it as a business model masquerading as a movement:
The unforeseen dangers of Uber and Airbnb » The Spectator

It does indeed depend on what you mean by 'sharing':
‘Sharing” is one of the most rhetorically abused virtues of the age. First we had the euphemism “file-sharing”, for duplicating and uploading copies of albums or films to the internet. Well, you can’t share what isn’t yours in the first place. (If I pilfer money from a bank and give it to my friends, I might plead that I was just “money-sharing”, but I am more likely to be convicted of robbery.) And now we supposedly have a “sharing economy”, the most-often cited two examples of which – Uber and Airbnb – are giant corporations pursuing monopoly power and fighting governments the world over. What exactly is being shared here, and in whose interest?
The first “sharing economy” organisations allowed members to timeshare things such as cars or power tools, rather than owning one each and leaving it idle most of the time. In their purest form such groups were “peer-to-peer”: self-organising, with no central authority. Once a for-profit company is set up to handle the logistics – such as Zipcar – however, the notion of “sharing” is arguably already out of the window. Still, there remained the kernel of a communitarian idea in the origin of Airbnb, founded by two tech workers who rented out airbeds in their spare rooms for a conference, and thought there might be a market.
Airbnb’s marketing still plays on the feelings of virtuous and adventurous sociability in the idea of a “guest” staying in a spare room of the “host’s” home. Yet, as Tom Slee’s superbly argued book points out, the vast majority of Airbnb’s business is now “entire home” rentals: self-contained flats or villas. Long-term renters in cities such as San Francisco are being forced out by landlords who see more profit in short-term Airbnb stays. Slee performs some very clever data research and finds out that the most expensive Airbnb apartment in Rome is one of several European luxury pads rented out by an American tech entrepreneur, who bought them with the proceeds of the sale of his last software company. The idea of “sharing” is as meaningless here as it is in Uber’s made-up concept of “ride-sharing”, which sounds as ecologically minded as “car-sharing” but actually describes a taxi service. Nor is any “sharing” going on with companies such as TaskRabbit, in which people bid to perform other people’s odd jobs.

It should not be forgotten that Uber and Airbnb are private companies - and so their dealings remain very nontransparent:
The Sharing Economy’s Dirty Laundry | Jacobin

The growth of the tech sector has been heralded by Silicon Valley nouveau riche and the business press as a blessing for the U.S. economy. As with past booms in which some get rich while many more don’t, the cheerleaders for the tech surge argue that a rising tide will lift all boats. The message to those not on board a luxury yacht boils down to become your own entrepreneur if you want to avoid drowning. Anyone can become rich and powerful, unless they are losers, as the hero of the free-market libertarians Ayn Rand taught us all years ago.
Two new books take issue with that world view. In fact, thanks to old fashioned diligent research and number crunching, they eviscerate it. For anyone driven crazy by the faux warm and fuzzy PR of the so-called sharing economy, Tom Slee’s What’s Yours is Mine: Against the Sharing Economy and Steven Hill’s Raw Deal: How the “Uber Economy” and Runaway Capitalism Are Screwing American Workers should be required reading.
Both Slee and Hill look at a variety of online companies that avoid providing benefits or a minimum wage to independent contractors. A slew of such outfits exist, including TaskRabbit, which epmploys unfortunate part-timers to make small amounts of money doing mindless errands for lazy people with too much disposable income. But the two biggest of the app-based giants which Slee and Hill describe are Uber and Airbnb.

Uber isn't special because it has an app – it is special because it has billions in venture capital funding behind it. 
What’s Yours is Mine: Against the Sharing Economy is a painstaking examination of the latest set of companies claiming a chunk of our future. AirBnB, Uber and apps that send you anything from dinner to a cleaner all claim that they’re portals, upon which vendors and customers can “share” (or “buy and sell”, as we’ve called it for thousands of years) their products. At first glance, it’s a utopian vision, which bypasses all the nastiness of Big Business. Yet Slee’s book redraws the landscape in harsher terms, as a group of companies backed by enormously wealthy “old-school venture capitalists” which count themselves out of the rules and regulations that other companies are bound by.
“Intimacy scaled up is no longer intimacy”, Slee points out in the book, yet the companies rely on that word, “sharing” to bypass expensive laws and regulations. They’re bound by a Catch-22, in which they must seem small and intimate for their models to work and appeal, but they must be enormous and world-consuming to make the kind of money their investors require.

“The technology is just a shiny shopfront”: the case against the sharing economy

There are winners - and there are losers:

A protester outside an apartment building that allegedly evicted all of the tenants to convert the units to Airbnb rentals in San Francisco.
How the Sharing Economy Screws American Workers

Legislators, meanwhile, are beginning to fight back. Italy’s Sharing Economy Act sets out definitions of the sharing economy for the first time, thereby treating it as differnt from other businesses, but this endeavour is basically aimed at taxing the sharing economy properly. The days of loopholes, it seems, may be numbered.
As Boston lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan said of Uber while fighting their worker/contracter laws: “Just because your services are dispatched through a smartphone doesn’t make you a technology company. You’re a car service.”
“The technology is just a shiny shopfront”: the case against the sharing economy

Questions are being asked all over the place:
We’re so over Uber: Italy ponders slapping taxes on workers in the ‘sharing economy’ • The Register
La economía colaborativa y la erosión del poder del Estado - La Opinión de Málaga
Recension: What’s yours is mine. Against the sharing economy - Tom Slee | SvD
Hospitality ON - Jean-Samuel Beuscart, Orange Labs, décrypte l’économie collaborative

With lessons to be learnt from, of all places, Cuba:
However, the experience of our Southern neighbor underscores that it is naïve to think that we can extract the merits of the sharing economy without investing in the infrastructure and social welfare state that undergirds that economy.
What Cuba Reveals About the Gig Economy | William Fenton | PCMag.com

See also:
Futures Forum: The sharing economy "monetizes the desperation of people in the post-crisis economy while sounding generous—and evokes a fantasy of community in an atomized population."
Futures Forum: The sharing economy >>> “A lot of people want to do the right thing but they are struggling because the systems and culture aren’t right. Companies and governments have got a big role to play in doing that.”
Futures Forum: "It is only a matter of time before Uber arrives in Exeter."
Futures Forum: Is Uber really part of the 'sharing economy'? >>> "The whole point of a genuine p2p and sharing economy is empowerment for those directly participating in it."
Futures Forum: Uber and the sharing economy
Futures Forum: The sharing economy >>> “This on-demand, or so-called gig, economy is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation. But it is also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.
Futures Forum: Sharing economy or gift economy?
Futures Forum: Building a new economy through grassroots projects
Futures Forum: Sharing >>> the sharing economy >>> the sharing society >>> the sharing state >
Futures Forum: The four-hour working week, the sharing economy and going beyond the master-servant relationship
Futures Forum: SMEs, self employment and the sharing economy
Futures Forum: The sharing economy: the shareconomy: collaborative consumption >>> renting or borrowing rather than buying and owning
Futures Forum: The sharing economy: the good, the bad, and the real

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