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Op-Ed: Sharing Cities We Can Trust

Duncan McLaren and Julian Agyeman launch a withering critique of the sharing economy as we know it, and envision "sharing cities" built around technologies that put community before commerce.
February 3, 2016, 7am PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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According to researcher Duncan McLaren and planning professor Julian Agyeman, "'Sharing' is often too narrowly conceived as being just about economic transactions. The poster children of the 'sharing economy' are being co-opted by the interests of venture capital and its insatiable demands for rapid growth and high-value exit strategies."

Sharing platforms, as they are currently conceived, may not be doing justice to the word. "Uber, rather than enabling ride-sharing to cut congestion, is now little more than a luxury taxi company serving the global footloose elite [...] And Airbnb, the couch-surfing website, turns a blind eye to the growing use of its platform by landlords buying up affordable rental property to convert to short-term lets, which is contributing to gentrification and housing shortages."

The authors cite humanity's natural tendency to share resources, lauding "true" sharing techniques like interest-free loans, co-working spaces, and shared BRT. "Sharing organizations that put community before commerce, and culture before economics, are flourishing in the shadows of the sharing-economy unicorns [...] More generally, city leaders need to support communal models of sharing that build solidarity and spread trust. Sharing systems designed around equity and justice can help shift cultural values and norms toward trust and collaboration."

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Published on Friday, January 15, 2016 in The Boston Globe
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