Handbook of the Sharing Economy
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Handbook of the Sharing Economy

Edited by Russell W. Belk, Giana M. Eckhardt and Fleura Bardhi

With the radical growth in the ubiquity of digital platforms, the sharing economy is here to stay. This Handbook explores the nature and direction of the sharing economy, interrogating its key dynamics and evolution over the past decade and critiquing its effect on society.
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Chapter 26: Constructing the collaborative consumer: the role of digital platforms

Annmarie Ryan and Gabriela Avram

Abstract

The focus of this chapter is to develop a deeper understanding of the sharing economy phenomenon by examining the socio-technical systems and human practices involved in the construction of the “collaborative consumer.” The collaborative consumer is a requirement of the sharing economy, and therefore a collaborative consumer agencement is required for its enactment. The authors discuss and critique elements of the current discourse on the sharing economy in order to reveal the constructed nature of the collaborative consumer, who they consider as neither self-evident nor naturally occurring. With Airbnb as a focal case, they follow Cochoy, Trompette, and Araujo and others to say that digital platforms are not static backdrops to action, but partake in action; specifically, those actions directed at bringing about the collaborative consumer. They concur with Eckhardt and Bardhi that in market-mediated exchanges in the sharing economy, consumers do not act purely from pro-social perspective. They point, however, to the importance for platform owners that users (for example, guests and hosts in peer-to-peer renting) perform as social actors while carrying out market exchanges. This perspective contributes to existing literature from consumer culture theory on the sharing economy, by describing the active role played by digital platforms, their creators, and others acting in the network (including consumers) in inscribing the character of the collaborative consumer.

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