The theme of next print issue of Bitch, due out this summer, is money. The so-called “sharing economy”—which encompasses companies like Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and Taskrabbit—is a big part of the story of global economics today. Usually stories about economics quote CEOs and Wall Street bigwigs. We want to feature different perspectives: The thoughts of people who actually use these businesses or are affected by them. In Bitch’s money issue, we want to share readers’ personal experiences with the sharing economy.
Originally, the phrase “sharing economy” referred to platforms for peer-to-peer exchanges. Craigslist is part of the sharing economy. Crowdfunding sites are part of the sharing economy. Informal skillshare networks are part of the sharing economy. So are the myriad Facebook groups and listservs for specific interests—like new parents living in the same neighborhood—that help people give away and acquire goods. But in the past few years, these parts of the sharing economy have been eclipsed by major companies that see how those person-to-person exchanges can turn a profit. “Sharing” your car, your parking spot, your home, or your talents for cash is the business model of numerous start-ups and several corporate giants. Some of these companies have an unsavory track record of gentrifying neighborhoods, flouting city laws, not serving people with disabilities, and undermining labor laws. As journalist Susie Cagle points out, all this “sharing” has come at a cost, “Sharing businesses aren’t just creating new income streams from nothing. In ‘disrupting’ even troubled markets … the glory of the peer economy comes at the expense of other workers’ livelihoods.”
On the other hand, these companies are growing. People are apparently hungry for their services. They can provide people alternate funding streams, as people rent out their homes to Airbnb or rent out their car through GetAround. What do you make of the sharing economy?
Questions to consider:
Do you use Uber, Airbnb, Lyft or other companies like them? Do you feel conflicted about it or do you appreciate their convenience?
Have you seen the sharing economy change your neighborhood or job in any way?
Do you use not-for-profit sharing communities, like Craigslist’s Free section or “Buy Nothing” Facebook groups? What has it been like being involved in those?
How do you think the sharing economy is shaping our society? How is it impacting our culture now and how will that change in the future?
Leave a comment below with your thoughts and we’ll feature a selection of reader responses in the Money issue of Bitch. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Share image: A protest against Uber in Chicago in 2015. Photo by Scott L.