I wrote recently about the Gig Economy which is part of a shifting cultural and business environment in the world of work. A friend reading that post asked me what the difference is between that and the "sharing economy."
It is easy to get confused because besides gig and shared economies, you will see mention of the gift economy and the barter economy.
None of these are new things. A gift economy is one in which services or goods are given without an agreement as to a suitable payment or trade to be made in return. It almost does not sound like it should be an "economy" because instead of monetary gain, the rewards are more intangible things like a sense of contribution, community, honor or prestige.
The oldest of these is a barter economy which you probably learned about is some school history class. This is a cashless economic system in which services and goods are traded at negotiated rates. This very early economy predates monetary systems and even recorded history.
Aspects of the barter and gift economies are part of the newer term "sharing economy" and sharing certainly isn't new. You let a friend stay at your house while they are visiting nearby. You give someone a ride to work and it's not a carpool and you're not an Uber driver. It's a gift, like going to the supermarket for your elderly neighbor. Maybe it's barter because that neighbor gives you fresh vegetables from her backyard garden.
But in a "sharing economy" is that you are not helping out for free. You provide services to a stranger for money. A prime example is Airbnb.
In The Sharing Economy, Arun Sundararajan, says we are transitioning to what he describes as "crowd-based capitalism." He describes it as a new way of organizing economic activity beyond the traditional corporate-centered model.
In any peer-to-peer commercial exchange, the distiction between the personal and the professional. Do you ask the person , how will the economy, government regulation, what it means to have a job, and our social fabric be affected?
The Harvard Business Review argued that "sharing economy" is a misnomer and suggested that a better term is yet another kind of economy - the "access economy." The authors say that when "sharing" is market-mediated, such as when a company is an intermediary between consumers who don't know each other, it is no longer sharing and consumers are paying to access someone else's goods or services.
Unfortunately, the distictions betweeen all these supposed economies are very gray. Though I do feel the Gig Economy is having some impact on education, I am less convinced about the Sharing Economy's impact.
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