Accepted paper:

Frictions and fractions of the sharing economy: material-discursive enactments of lending and borrowing in a new (?) urban ecology


Karin Salomonsson (Lund University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the potential success of the so called sharing economy, focusing on power relations and social practices, emotions and cultural meanings of lending and borrowing as a way of stretching existing urban ecologies.

Paper long abstract:

"Why buy when you can borrow?" This slogan comes from a Swedish digital platform intended to facilitate loans between neighbours. Together with a number of similar initiatives it makes up the "third generation" of non-profit operations in the sharing economy. Hopes are high that sharing will promote social, environmental and economic sustainability and present innovative solutions to the problematic effects of an advanced consumer culture. If more and more people get involved in practices of sharing, some predict that social networks will be strengthened, and a feeling of community and mutual trust will grow. But it is not self-evident that everyday sharing, like for example borrowing, in itself should lead to transforming existing socio-material environments. At present I am conducting a research project on how social relations and power structures, morality and normativity, and networks of trust and dependence are affected by borrowing and lending - and vice versa. The ethnography illustrates that disputes and differences of opinion about the advantages and etiquette of borrowing are frequent, and poses the question of who will be included and who will have difficulties getting invited into these new urban ecologies of inter-personal schemes for sharing? In reality the sharing economy faces an uphill struggle. "Sharing" appears as an ideologically and politically contested practise, with no inherent meaning in itself. In this paper I hope to critically scrutinize its use and definitions through looking at material-discursive agency and different enactments, especially concerning the emotional turmoil of lending and borrowing.

panel Urba04
Sharing the city: economies and ecologies of urban dwelling