While sharing in itself is not new, online platforms enable sharing on a much larger scale. Since a sharing transaction is only completed when an unfamiliar consumer returns a shared good after a predefined period, sharing experiences are contingent on the good intent of users. The reliance on the behaviors of others for one’s own sharing experience makes sharing much riskier than buying outright. When we feel dependent on strangers, our behavior is very sensitive to our perceptions of what the situation is ‘about’, which shapes our expectations about others’ behavior. Therefore this dissertation contends that positive behavioral outcomes in the sharing economy are largely determined by the underlying relational norms, rules and values that are expected of other sharing consumers.
To capture how consumers perceive sharing relationships, the empirical studies build on Fiske’s relational models theory and the sharing economy’s trust typology. Chapter 2 examines the influence of two popular governance trends—monetizing sharing transactions and eliminating within-person interactions— on consumers’ self-selection choices and the role relational models herein. Chapter 3 analyses how consumers characterize their relationship with others and how these characterizations impact participation intent and sharing citizenship behaviors.
Chapter 4 investigates the impact of two key governance practices—platform intermediation and consociality—on relational frames, social norms and behavioral outcomes. Chapter 5 explores the role that platform and network trust play in consumer engagement, alongside governance mechanisms that build trust. The final chapter discusses the findings, implications and limitations of the dissertation, considering both research and practice.