Is it shar­ing? Is it com­merce? No, it’s col­lab­o­ra­tion – and Idea­log’s do­ing it too

Idealog - - CONTENTS -

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.

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