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Nicole Stofberg

Towards a better understanding of the sharing economy: how platform characteristics matter


The sharing economy – in which we move from the ‘ownership’ of property to ‘accessing’ goods temporarily through sharing, renting or bartering – is often seen as the sustainable economic paradigm of the future. However, to date the ‘potential’ benefits of sharing remain just that, predictions on paper combined with hope. In the daily reality, managers of sharing platforms are appealing to ‘cost’ and ‘convenience’ benefits, operating on the assumption that participants are motivated by self-interest. I assert that this assumption is partly misconceived and stem from confusion about practices being actual ‘peer to peer’ sharing versus ‘smart rental’ solutions that have little to do with sharing.

My dissertation research compares the motivations, expectations and (mis)behaviors of participants in free P2P, monetized P2P and B2P sharing contexts. In doing so I aim to show that when so-called sharing practices closely resemble traditional market transactions (i.e. consumers renting goods from anonymous firms) they are not perceived as sharing ; this calls for an instrumental management approach. However, when intimate possessions are shared between peers, relationships are crucial, requiring a relational approach, even when monetary motivations also play a role. For example, when participants expect to fulfil their need to relate to others through sharing, this not only makes transactions more ‘attractive’, but also helps to solve fundamental issues of ‘trust’ and positively guides sharing citizenship behaviors, thus encouraging the long-term survival of P2P platforms.