The New Form Of Having

To share an appel.

More and more people are enjoying the benefits of collaborative consumption. Various platforms offer all sorts of things to be shared: tools, books, lofts, food or cars. On the one hand, the idea is socially oriented, but on the other it is big business.

Your car is parked in the garage most of the time unused, when you go on holiday your home is simply abandoned, half the time your desk at work is not occupied and since you screwed your bookshelves together your drill is just gathering dust in the cellar. Rather a shame, one might think. This, however, is exactly when this new sharing trend really comes into its own - its target is the lunacy of possession. Do we really have to buy everything, even things that we seldom use? “Sharing is the new form of having” is the new, catchy motto for the trend, which is above all really taking off in the urban environment. It is the younger generation that is particularly open to it. After all possession entails obligations. The possessions have to be looked after, stored and repaired. The new values which the sharing trend embraces are ideas like mobility, spontaneity and sustainability. From an economical point of view sharing means of course that fewer products have to be manufactured and that, consequently, fewer are thrown away.

Would you like to share my drill?

Harvard professor, Martin Weitzman, is considered to be one of the pioneers of the “Sharing Economy”. Back in the 1980s he showed that everybody could enjoy a higher level of affluence if they shared more. More recently, trend researcher, Rachel Botsman, appealed to people to get involved in collaborative consumption in her book, What's mine is yours (2010). Since the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and SoundCloud our society has internalised the culture of sharing. We share photos, information, news and music on social networks - sometimes even without thinking. Could this phenomenon be transferred to real objects? The time seems to right for it at the moment – even if the idea has been around for quite a while. For over 20 years people have been setting up car pools and swapping flats and houses. Only now, however, has it turned into a real trend.

Online communities like Frents or services like Leihdirwas lend out drills, special lenses and books on a temporary basis – either free of charge or for a fee. For journeys by car seats can be booked on BlaBlaCar. On Autonetzer or Tamyca you can rent out your own car or rent somebody else’s. Parking spaces are shared, as well as storage space, workplaces, gardens. Via Couchsurfing you can let people sleep on your sofa or spare bed for the night, or you can kip on other people’s sofas, free of charge, of course. Join My Meal enables people to invite other people to dinner or to join other people for a meal, on Kleiderkreisel you can sell, exchange or give away all those clothes that you never wear and are just taking up space in your wardrobe. Almost everyday on the Internet there are new platforms whose aim is to get people to share.

Food is handed out free of charge

Valentin Thurn, for example, set up a platform called Foodsharing on which private individuals and dealers can give food to others. He says, “It is also a social project. The people in the neighbourhood get to know each other.” Sharing culture can break through our anonymous coexistence. Thurn is the director of the documentary film, Taste the Waste, that focuses on the way we squander food. He set up Foodsharing in reaction to the many enquiries from people who wanted to change things. The groceries and food are handed out free of charge, not exchanged. This was important to the project’s initiator. The message – “Food has a value that goes way beyond money. The reward is seeing somebody smile.” In line with this, the platform is financed only by donations, membership fees and public funding. Almost all the members work on a voluntary basis. Even the platform’s start-up capital had its origins in the idea of sharing. The money came from a crowdfunding campaign. The costs of a good idea are shared.

Shared beds, shared seats, shared tables

Not everything, however, is as non-commercial as that example. Sharing can be big business, with a lot of potential. “The bartering has become more and professional and has spawned its own sector of the economy,” says Karin Frick, co-author of a study entitled Sharity: Die Zukunft des Teilens, (Sharity – The Future of Sharing, 2013). Car sharing and home sharing in the mea ntime have become the fastest growing, fee-based segments. A service called Airbnb that went online in USA in 2008, and the German platforms, 9flats and Wimdu, already represent a major competitive threat to hotels. Very often it is a case of small start-ups that pop up in the sharing economy. Nevertheless, there are now quite a few large companies getting involved. Car manufacturer, BMW, for example, has set up its own car-sharing company called DriveNow, Daimler has a subsidiary called Car2Go. The Car2Go project, however, was not developed behind corporate walls, but in what is known as a co-working office - an office in which the workplaces and infrastructure are shared.

The sharing trend is part of a general approach to life that embraces the idea of intelligently doing without things and more and more people are adopting it. They consider possession to be a burden, nothing more than confirmation of a person’s success. These days prestige is not gained by having a car, but by not having one. Amongst the younger generation of “digital natives” sharing is considered to be particularly smart and cool, according to the researchers from GDI (the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute) who worked on the Sharity study. According to the results of the survey there still seems to be a wide gap between those who think that sharing is theoretically a good thing and those who actually share. In contrast to shared photos, experiences and music a shared drill is, however, likely to wear out with time and not work anymore.