Is it sharing? Is it commerce? No, it’s collaboration – and Idealog’s doing it too
I PROBABLY SPEND more time than I should mulling over the meaning of words. Might be a journalist thing. Like, when did “cute” stop being small (and probably furry) and start being something that looks good ( probably to a teenager). When did a bulldog become cute? Don’t get me started.
Recently I’ve been pondering the collaborative economy – sometimes called the sharing economy.
It is a much overused phrase these days. Some commuter paying to park in your inner city driveway while you are at work? Sharing. Getting a group of investors together to fund your start-up? Collaboration. Renting a bed from a guy you’ve never met in Kazakhstan? You get the message. Suddenly things aren’t transactions any more, normal business; they are collaboration, sharing.
Call me old fashioned, but when I was in kindergarten, sharing didn’t involve an exchange of money – that was called buying. Just because I use Uber to get to the airport, or Airbnb to find a place to stay when I get to my destination, doesn’t make it collaboration – just a technologically disrupted version of an age- old commercial model.
To me, Airbnb is a peer-to-peer marketplace, not a collaborative (or a shared) anything.
But I suspect all this is just a problem of semantics. The sharing or collaborative economy has come to mean a business system, probably involving clever use of technology, which allows us to make use of excess capacity in goods and services. My empty driveway, for example. Or that spare bed in Kazakhstan.
As far as I can see, “rental” becomes “sharing” when the goods are something an individual bought, probably for personal use, rather than what a corporation owns.
And PwC reckons the collaborative economy could be worth $US335 billion by 2025. So it’s worth looking into.
Our feature on the “c” word – collaboration – on page 37 is more prosaic, but no less interesting. There’s a reason why the expression “two heads are better than one” has been around for almost 500 years (it was first mentioned in John Heywood’s A dialogue conteinyng
the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, in 1546, although a version of the saying appears in the Bible). Collaboration in its positive sense (not the “sucking up to the enemy in a war” connotation) is a Good Thing, and we should do more of it.
We look at why New Zealanders have traditionally been bad at collaborating, whether that’s changing, and who’s doing it well.
In other parts of the magazine we ponder the economics of legalising marijuana ( page 52), profile five fab female foodies doing clever things around healthy food ( page 23), get frightened by the thought of our fridges talking to our bathroom scales ( page 75), and get inspired by a movie featuring a semi-naked Paul Henry ( page 79). Cute? Not.