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Rent or own? The new sharing economy values access over ownership

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Gansky is one of the movement's biggest evangelists. She is author of "The Mesh," a book about the sharing economy. The movement's mantras are "access over ownership" and "value unused is waste," and this rapidly growing economy-within-an-economy represents a shift in cultural consciousness, toward valuing experiences rather than goods.

Gansky and other sharing-economy gurus like Neal Gorenflo, publisher of the website Shareable.net and coeditor of the anthology "Share or Die," say the rise of the sharing economy is partly a reaction to the gluttonous overconsumption of the late 1990s and early 2000s, which led to a bad McMansion hangover in the United States and one of the worst global recessions in modern history. But it wouldn't have been possible without recent advances in mobile technology and the spread of tablets and smart phones.

Gansky also credits its acceleration to demographics – more Americans are moving to urban areas, where sharing becomes easier because there are more people in one place. Sharing-economy companies began appearing about four years ago, and since then they have been spreading through various parts of the economy and among a variety of demographic sectors.

In fact, Gansky says, the collaborative economy has hit an inflection point where sharing is more convenient and less costly than ownership: "That means accessing goods, services, and talent is – and will continue to be – very compelling for businesses and individuals. Last century, ownership was thriving. I believe that is on the wane. We are seeing evidence of that in how quickly these services are being created, funded, supported, and copied – all over the world."

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