My course Future of Media changes every year and the last theme we worked with (all autumn) was "The future of the digital commons and the sharing economy". Due to her research in the area, I met Airi Lampinen several times during the autumn (she was a gust lecturer as well as part of the jury that judged the students' finished project presentations). Our cooperation has now also resulted in a smaller research grant application called "Successor Systems for the Sharing Economy".
Airi is a post-doc at Stockholm University/Mobile Life research center and the co-applicants are me, Barry Brown (SU/Mobile Life) and Juho Makkonen from the Finnish company Sharetribe. The money we apply for is limited, the project is a relatively small and (if granted) should be finished by the end of the year. The application itself is but one page long. Airi have done most of the work and its fair to say that it is very much her project. I hope we get the grant as this project would be an excellent way of starting up a new collaboration on this topic ("the sharing economy", "collaborative consumption" etc.). My primary interest in this topic comes from sustainability angle; e.g. how can we collaborate and share physical and other resources (for example space) better in order to decrease our environmental footprint? Here is the initial paragraph of the application (i.e. the motivation for the research in question):
The growing “sharing economy” encompasses new peer-to-peer exchange systems (such as Uber and AirBnB) where users can share physical spaces, goods, and services, for social and financial benefit. Yet the end-users of these platforms, both consumers and service providers, are typically given only a limited view on the data behind these platforms, and little control over how these platforms work. Software that provides alternative knowledge and supports cooperation for change (successor systems) could foster sustainable sharing practices and help engaging the implications of the sharing economy in a critical and actionable way.
Here's two more sentences from the application that goes beyond the more general description above:
Our goal is to foster exchange and collaboration amongst participants, support more sustainable sharing activities and engage both providers and consumers more critically with the social, economic, and environmental implications of the sharing economy. This could inspire innovation in peer-to-peer behaviour, such as designs that encourage participation in local exchange through showing how engaging in similar exchanges has benefited other users.