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Collaborative Consumption
Guy Julier 9/02/11

I spent a couple of half days this week in the company of Rachel Botsman and others at NESTA. With Roo Rogers, Rachel is author of What’s Mine Is Yours:  The Rise of Collaborative Consumption (see their website). In it they make a case for sytems that allow swapping, sharing, bartering, trading and renting via peer-to-peer networks. Freecycle, Zopa, Ecomodo and WhipCar would all stand as examples of this.


The NESTA event was a symposium and follow-up workshop where examples of collaborative consumption were discussed and analysed. We learnt how such systems, particularly with internet support, could work at a variety of scales, from the very local, networking community practices together, to the wider distribution of creating alternatives to global hotel chains through home stays (eg. CrashPadder). Relationships in such systems can be individual-to-individual, individual-to-organisation or organisation-to-organisation.  At the end of day, this all falls neatly into John Thackara’s ‘less stuff, more people’ notion of designing more effective and efficient use of what is already here than producing more things or environments to satisfy needs and desires.


In The Philosophy of Money (1907), Georg Simmel made the case that money is an abstraction of value. And indeed! Money seems to have become progressively more abstract as, in the bigger picture, its exchange, and what it is exchanged for, seems to have become disconnected from (my) everyday life. The Stock Exchange and the corporate banking system appear to be dealing with finance in a pecularily disembedded way. Where are the labour hours and the material assets that their world relates to? No doubt they’re in there somewhere…


Collaborative consumption is much more visceral. I think this is because it relates not to sources of future value (which obsesses finance people) but what is needed or desired here and now. Products and services within this system are relatively unmediated by hyper-complicated financial calculations. Their materiality is mediated more through social relationships.


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