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The Rise of the Sharing City



The Rise of the Sharing City
Examining Origins and Futures of Urban Sharing
Patrycja Maria Długosz


With more than half the world’s population living in ever more economically productive cities, and urbanisation continuing apace, large-scale environmental problems resulting from unsustainable, excessively consumption-focussed life styles are doomed to happen. Meanwhile large amounts of equipment and infrastructure are barely used. The recently emerged Sharing City concept combines the benefits of Sharing Economy and Collaborative Consumption with urban development and community building, and promises to address at least some of those issues. This study seeks to gain a better understanding of the concept, and to offer an insight into its (partial) implementation. A literature analysis, qualitative interviews, and three case studies allow identifying major reasons for and enablers of the Sharing City’s emergence, driving forces, obstacles to implementation, and its potential. Structurally, the underlying changes in the global economy enabled it, as well as the recent economic crisis, changes in attitudes towards consumption and ownership, and the development and improvement of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Driving forces behind the emergence of the Sharing City are identified in good access to ICT infrastructure, the presence of an energetic civil society and an accommodating city administration. Other drivers include a vibrant sharing business scene (as in San Francisco), an active municipality (like Seoul’s), and a sharing-enthusiastic population (as Berlin’s). Obstacles to the implementation and its dissemination are largely found in the legal frameworks governing four priority sectors for cities: food, transportation, housing, and jobs. Deficits are in both regulation that inhibits sharing but also a lack of regulation specifically for sharing. Sharing Cities can benefit the economic, environmental, social, and democratic dimensions of an urban community. One major criticism is levelled against the commercial expansion of sharing, which may be seen as an excessive marketisation of previously ‘private’ life spheres, subjecting ever-greater areas of life to the logic of commercial exchange.

Keywords: Sharing City, Sharing Economy, Collaborative Consumption & Production, Sustainable Urban Development


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