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What is Meant by 'Sharing' in the Sharing Economy?

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This article looks closely at the notion of sharing as it is used in the context of the sharing economy. It is based on the qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews conducted in four countries with thirty-four participants who see themselves as operating within the sharing economy. Interviewees' definitions and understandings of sharing are presented, with particular focus on the question of whether the presence of money is a counterindication for sharing. While some interviewees unequivocally reject as sharing any transaction that involves money, and while some view the use of 'sharing' to describe such interactions as manipulative and deceptive, others see the two as potentially co-existing. One mechanism that enables this is seeing paying and sharing as referring to different aspects of the same transaction. Interestingly, it is not only representatives of for-profit companies who argue that even where there is money, there can also be sharing, but also social justice activists lobbying for their vision of a sharing economy. Adopting a pragmatic approach to language, but not forgoing critique, the article argues for a close analysis of how people actually talk about sharing rather than dismissing certain practices as 'not really sharing'.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2020

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  • Built Environment is published quarterly in March, June, September and December. With an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries and providing global perspective, each issue focuses on a single subject of contemporary interest to practitioners, academics and students working in a wide range of disciplines. Issues are guest-edited by established international experts who not only commission contributions, but also oversee the peer-reviewing process in collaboration with the Editors.

    Subject areas include: architecture; conservation; economic development; environmental planning; health; housing; regeneration; social issues; spatial planning; sustainability; urban design; and transport. All issues include reviews of recent publications.

    The journal is abstracted in Geo Abstracts, Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, and Journal of Planning Literature, and is indexed in the Avery Index to Architectural Publications.

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