The concept of collaborative consumption is used in the context of collective sharing of goods and services, exchanging and renting instead of owning. The basic idea of collaborative consumption is rethinking the process of ownership and understanding that sometimes temporary access to a product or service is much more profitable and more convenient (Botsman, R. & Rogers, R., 2011, p. 19). Therefore, collaborative consumption can provide various opportunities to the cities, where there are so many neighbors for mutual exchange and lease, and the spatial and financial resources are limited. In addition, collaborative consumption can increase social interaction, confidence, and a sense of solidarity, and have a significant impact on the participation of citizens in the life of cities and their involvement in the solution of urban problems. The environmental aspect is also important, due to the fact that exchange and lease of different items means a decrease in the production and waste that can significantly improve the ecological situation in the city. But the question is – why some cities adopt this new form of consumption and successfully develop it, whereas others face challenges? Which conditions in urban space can foster the development of collaborative consumption and vice versa – create barriers?
Historically cities were about shared space, collaborations, social interactions and encounters, exchange of goods and services through marketplaces, and money lending. A developed city requires effective governance and collective civic structures to facilitate and regulate the interface between the shared public realm and private interests and to enable effective and fair collaborative consumption of resources and opportunities. In their most recent interpretations, however, collaborative consumption is typically too narrowly conceived and perceived as primarily about economic transactions.
The research is based on anticonsumerism theories, as well as the reciprocity theory by K. Polanyi (Polanyi K. , 2001) and the theory of the gift exchange by famous anthropologist M. Moss (Moss, M. ,1950). Firstly, anticonsumerism theories of Ingelhart R., Gansky P., Etzioni A. (Inglehart R., 1995; Gansky, L., 1986) were examined to understand why and how Western society became the largest consumers in the world. Secondly, modern theoretical implications of Botsman R., Rogers R. and Elgin D. (Botsman, R. & Rogers, R., 2011; Elgin D. 1998) were implied in order to understand the reasons that caused people to change their buying habits, concentrating on the voluntary simplicity lifestyle concept and describe them as important factors in the development of a new form of consumer behavior – collaborative consumption. Thirdly, M. Moss gift exchange theory was used to give a comprehensive explanation of collaborative consumption mechanism in contemporary societies through analysis of an exchange of consumer goods, tools, and services free of charge as an alternative form of consumption when ownership is no longer a requirement for the use. Moreover, to provide a broader perspective and to explain some motivational implications of collaborative consumption, this phenomenon was also discussed in the framework of socio-psychological theories of P. Sorokin, J. Pagel (Sorokin, P., 1996; Pagel, M., 2012).
In the following research, I conducted two case studies of Amsterdam (the Netherlands) and Seoul (South Korea) to identify the determinants and objections to collaborative consumption in the urban space. I took these specific polar cases because at first, they can show us a broader perspective of the factors that influence collaborative consumption, and a second, because in these cities collaborative consumption was firstly in the world officially proclaimed as part of the urban policy and today has governmental support.
Given the data obtained in the empirical phase and collecting through the secondary data, I classified the depicted factors into the following sections:
Improving the image of the city, attracting tourists
Privacy violation, personal liberties, threat to identity
Legislation development (squatting laws, housing legislation)
High level of trust and security
Multicultural tolerance, social mixing – improved social interaction, sense of community
Open context for minority political participation
Smart City, openness to innovation
Collectivist culture, interdependency
Human competitive nature
Decrease economic growth
Improving the image of the city, attracting tourists
Open government, co-governance
Digital City, technological development
Positive aspects of collaborative consumption:
- Economic aspect: Within economics, I found two factors that pose the greatest advantages, such as the ability to save money and the ability to earn money by collaborative consumption.
- Availability: One of the advantages of this phenomenon, the widespread availability of goods and services that are accessible to all people through collaborative consumption platforms and websites.
- Communication: In my study, I identified factors such as meeting new people, cultures as one of the great advantages of collaborative consumption. Also in the case of some participants, it was one of the main motivations for participating in actions related to collaborative consumption.
- Ease of Use: Throughout the research, I saw how many participants identified as an advantage the ease of use and digital access of applications or websites of companies involved in this movement, and this is a reason to stand out.
- Comfort: Participants expressed comfort, that is understood as the ability to perform tasks related to collaborative consumption without having to go anywhere, just from home, using your computer or phone.
In contrast, in my study I found participants, exposing a number of factors which, in their view, pose barriers when participating in actions of collaborative consumption. Reaching these barriers even prevents participation in it.
- Trust: A lack of confidence is the main barrier to collaborative consumption, as most participants found it difficult to share something without first knowing the people.
- Reputation: Related to the appearance of distrust, I discovered the barrier posed by the online reputation, because depending on the ratings and reviews that the user has, this could be a barrier to collaborative consumption.
- Insecurity: People tend to be uncertain about how they receive the goods or services and whether their description corresponds with what they actually want to receive.
- Regulation: The lack of regulation is also a drawback since many people feel unprotected when claiming for poor service or goods in poor condition.
Social and cultural aspect
I have identified within drawbacks, some personal obstacles, such as shyness when interacting with strangers, and attachment to material goods aspects when people used to buy new things because of their consumeristic habits. All in all, fundamental to the arguments throughout the research has been that the current collaborative consumption trend must be understood and developed politically and culturally, not just technologically and behaviorally. Rebuilding social capital in the collaborative consumption could also help rebuild the public squire of collective politics. Without this, extending the development of collaborative consumption to the infrastructures and public realm of the city would be difficult.
As we have seen, collaborative consumption does not just offer the potential to the cities, but it also offers a new strategy and direction for them in the developing world. Collaborative consumption has broad application to urban challenges including infrastructure and development and social cohesion. And even more importantly, collaborative consumption offers the potential to build greater empathy and solidarity between reach and poor neighborhoods, rich and poor cities, and reach and poor worlds. In this way, collaborative consumption in our “urban living space” can be seen as a metaphor for and step toward collaborative consumption in our “global living space” injustice and sustainability.
Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go before a collaborative reflex gets in the mind of consumers; it is only the beginning of collaborative consumption behaviors. Trust is the main issue of this system, it can be broken easily, even with the systems developed a question of protection of personal life and limits between online and offline world and the use of data can be asked. The legal system is not yet ready to face those new behaviors and there is a long way before complete cooperation, a balance between traditional economy and collaborative.
The question around the signification of collaborative consumption and values limits is also to take into consideration. The idea might survive, but not in a completely collaborative way. The system is not even mature but already starting to get in a capitalist state of mind. There are positive and negatives facts concerning collaborative consumption’s future. It might not be only a trend; it is obviously changing already consumers’ behaviors and spreading into the Internet new ways to consume and exchange. To survive traditional institutions and hyper-consumption ways of thinking, it must be developed and supported. Like any new model changing habits, it will have to face and go beyond the critics and breaks that consumers, states, and organizations might intend.
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