• John
  • Felde
  • University of Maryland
  • USA

Latest Posts

  • USLHC
  • USLHC
  • USA

  • James
  • Doherty
  • Open University
  • United Kingdom

Latest Posts

  • Andrea
  • Signori
  • Nikhef
  • Netherlands

Latest Posts

  • CERN
  • Geneva
  • Switzerland

Latest Posts

  • Aidan
  • Randle-Conde
  • Université Libre de Bruxelles
  • Belgium

Latest Posts

  • TRIUMF
  • Vancouver, BC
  • Canada

Latest Posts

  • Laura
  • Gladstone
  • MIT
  • USA

Latest Posts

  • Steven
  • Goldfarb
  • University of Michigan

Latest Posts

  • Fermilab
  • Batavia, IL
  • USA

Latest Posts

  • Seth
  • Zenz
  • Imperial College London
  • UK

Latest Posts

  • Nhan
  • Tran
  • Fermilab
  • USA

Latest Posts

  • Alex
  • Millar
  • University of Melbourne
  • Australia

Latest Posts

  • Ken
  • Bloom
  • USLHC
  • USA

Latest Posts

Susanne Reffert | IPMU | Japan

View Blog | Read Bio

Collaborative Consumption or Can the Internet Save the World?

Recently, I got my hands on a book entitled What’s Mine is Yours – the Rise of Collaborative Consumption by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers. I was intrigued by the concept.

After first taking a stab at the reigning consumer culture, the book discusses product service systems (say car-sharing or Netflix), redistribution networks (say e-bay or freecycle) and collaborative lifestyles.
Its main statement can be summarized as follows: the internet, thanks to its huge scale, can serve to match just about any offer to someone needing the offered item or service. Exchanging and sharing goes from being cumbersome to being convenient for everyone. So less resources need to be wasted.
If you have an odd item you’d like to get rid of, you don’t have to throw it away anymore. You can now easily find someone who wanted just that. One person’s thrash is another person’s treasure.

This book is not one of those pessimist “we are destroying the planet” kind of books, it actually has a quite uplifting tone.
I think to a scientist, the ideas described in the book are rather appealing. It talks a lot about collaborating and sharing, which is our daily bread. As a theorist, my work is based on collaboration and shared information. And it is facilitated immensely by the internet. Not only do I make extensive use of (free!) preprint archives to browse the existing literature (if I need them, my employer luckily also has the subscriptions to the electronic versions of the paid journals), also Wikipedia is often a great help. If I had to go to a library and leaf through hardcopies of old journals, hunting down information would take so much more time. I guess some of my projects would be delayed by weeks if not months! So I am very sympathetic to the idea of sharing information with everyone on the internet.

The book discusses many successful examples of collaborative consumption that many of us already use and love, such as e-bay, craigslist and freecycle (I managed to effortlessly sell all of my furniture via an internet market place prior to moving to Japan), but also less known services like car- and bicycle sharing, ride-sharing, even garden sharing and couch-surfing networks, time banks and bartering sites.
Young scientists who have to stay light since they have to move country every few years, are likely not to be adverse to the idea of paying to use something instead of paying to own it, let alone to buying and selling used items online prior to and after a move. Most of us have grown up in an interconnected world and are much more willing than our parents’ generation to buy and sell used goods online or take advantage of the zillions of other possibilities to get what we want via the internet. Maybe we’re also a little less materialistic.

What’s Mine is Yours was for me an interesting and fun read. I learned about the background of many internet services I already knew, but also about services I had not yet heard about which seem useful and worth giving a try. I guess it wasn’t hard to convince me since the book is largely in synch with the mindset I already had.
If taking advantage of the amazing possibilities provided by the internet is a way to save the planet, I’m all for it!

Share