Performing the Sharing Economy
- • The sharing economy is framed as both part of and beyond the capitalist economy.
- • Therefore it is framed as a performance: both constructive and deconstructive.
- • Sharing is held to perform through community, access and collaboration.
- • Performance shows the contingent, complex articulation of the sharing economy.
- • Affirmative critique can enact its promise of alternatives to business-as-usual.
Abstract: The sharing economy converges around activities facilitated through digital platforms that enable peer-to-peer access to goods and services. It constitutes an apparent paradox, framed as both part of the capitalist economy and as an alternative. This duplicity necessitates focusing on the performances of the sharing economy: how it simultaneously constructs diverse economic activities whilst also inviting the deconstruction of ongoing practices of dominance. Such performances hold open the question of what the (sharing) economy is, suspending it as a space for both opportunity and critique. Drawing on participant observation at a sharing economy ‘festival’ and analysis of the vocabularies of online platforms, the paper outlines three performances of sharing through community, access and collaboration. It argues through these performances that the sharing economy is contingent and complexly articulated. It has the potential to both shake up and further entrench ‘business-as-usual’ through the ongoing reconfiguration of a divergent range of (economic) activities. Whilst offering an antidote to the narrative of economy as engendering isolation and separation, the sharing economy simultaneously masks new forms of inequality and polarisations of ownership. Nonetheless, the paper concludes in suggesting that by pointing to wider questions concerning participation in, access to and production of resources, the sharing economy should not be dismissed. Instead, it should serve as prompt to engage with ‘digital’ transformations of economy in the spirit of affirmative critique that might enact the promise of doing economy differently.
Keywords: Sharing economy; Performance; Community; Diverse economies; Work; Commons