Juliet Schor - Connected Learning and Consumption: A New Sharing Economy

Why are we increasingly embracing a consumption model that values re-circulation of goods over private ownership? How is peer-to-peer technology helping enable this shift?

About The Speaker(s)

Juliet Schor is Professor of Sociology at Boston College. She is also a member of the Connected Learning Research Network. Before joining Boston College, she taught at Harvard University for 17 years, in the Department of Economics and the Committee on Degrees in Women's Studies. Juliet is currently working on issues of environmental sustainability and their relation to Americans’ lifestyles and the economy and the emergence of a conscious consumption movement.

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Questions Asked/Key Comments Made

  • (08:54) If we think back, historically, most of the world operated according to principles of sharing for a very long time.
  • (12:34) It's easy and not time-consuming to make these kinds of trades or participate in these kinds of sharing activities. And the digital dimension also means that it is especially appealing for young people who tend to be much more oriented to a digital environment.
  • (21:50) It would seem to me that...anthropology would want to insist on a fairly big difference between somebody who has surplus goods...and who effectively gives that away...versus lending, in which case I'm giving it away but with the expectation that I will retain ownership and it will come back to me. And thirdly, between someone who says "I'm only prepared to engage in facilitating the flow of these goods if you give me some money."
  • (26:20) What I'm curious about are the differences and similarities in terms of systems that are based on the exchange of goods or time, and those that are based on a sharing economy around knowledge and learning (the scarcity equation works differently in that space).
  • (30:19) I'm looking at open learning for teachers in a very political space, and how to provide online learning for them that is open and allows for them to learn. Yet when they are translating that knowledge and sharing that knowledge, often, it is in very closed or very politicized spaces like public schools.
  • (34:38) With time banking, it's more of a personal production where people are trading services with one another. And the idea of reviewing someone who has done something "for free," and reviewing them badly has a lot more negative connotation than, say, reviewing a car badly. Reputation-building, when you're talking about goods versus services--it's very different.
  • (39:49) The mechanisms by which these platforms allow critique is extraordinarily immature and there's a lot of work to be done to work out how people can engage in critical activities that are going to sustain the social norms that make the sharing sustainable.
  • (43:34) I wonder, across the different cases, what the ideology of those entering these shared consumptive arrangements has to do with the expectations for how the exchanges within them will go?
  • (51:15) One thing were talking about in the Hangout before we went live was the scaling issue: whether these economies or platforms that are in the shadow or the alternate sector are really going to push into the mainstream, and reach a tipping point with acquiring some sort of dominance or, at least, a larger presence.
  • (52:28) I see the biggest threat to [sharing services]--their ability to transform our economy, and society, and culture--is that they become profit-driven organizations that mostly operate just like the profit-driven corporations we've had today, but they've cut out middlemen or they've done one other thing that allowed them to gain a market advantage. But that they don't transform either the distributions of power, access, opportunity, income, wealth, etc.

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The 5 Things Driving the Sharing Economy Forward

  1. Culture: backlash against hyper-consumption, shifting attitudes toward luxuries and necessities, saving, and debt
  2. Economic: deteriorating economic status, especially for young people , anti-corporate sentiments
  3. Ecological: climate crisis, rising green consciousness
  4. Technological: growing digitalization of everyday life, pull towards digital practices
  5. Social: critique of social isolation, desire for more social connection

List of Hangout Participants

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