Vassar Quarterly - Spring/Summer 2017 - 17
VQ talks to six members of the Vassar community about their
experiences in the sharing economy and explores some of the
toughest challenges facing the economic model overall.
by Cari Shane '87
© Keith Negley-theispot.com
2015, WHEN I TURNED MY "ENGLISH
basement" into a short-term rental
near Washington, DC's Capitol Hill
neighborhood, I joined the sharing economy. This economic model of collaborative consumption is also known
as the "access economy," the "gig economy," or the "ondemand economy"-and because it is based so heavily on
trusting a stranger to fulfill a promise, it has also been
most appropriately tagged the "trust economy."
When it comes to staying in strangers' homes or allowing them to drive you around, trust is important. And
technology has made it easier by acting as a kind of referral service, enabling consumers and purveyors alike
to rate and review services and customers.
"Before the Internet, renting a surfboard, a power
tool, or a parking space from someone else was feasible,
but was usually more trouble than it was worth," a 2013
article in the Economist stated. "Social networks provide
a way to check up on people and build trust; and online
payment systems handle the billing."
A study by Pew Research released in May 2016 shows
that 72 percent of American adults have used at least one
of 11 different shared or on-demand services, including
ride-hailing apps such as Uber or Lyft and home-sharing
services like Airbnb, or have shared a "co-working" office space. About 20 percent of Americans have used four
or more of these services. And seven percent have used
six or more.
What's in it for the user? According to researchers at
Finland's Aalto University, "People are motivated to participate in the sharing economy because of its ecological
sustainability, the enjoyment derived from the activity,
the sense of community, and saving money and time."
Many of us participate as consumers, but quite a few
also have created new businesses based on the model.
Here's my story, along with stories from others in the
I had taken 15-years off from a 401K-providing, fulltime career as a radio and television reporter to raise my
three children, and worked as a freelancer during that
time. At age 49, I returned to full-time work, accepting
a job as a public relations/social media consultant. I had
officially been divorced for four years, and even with the
new job, I was concerned about my underfunded retirement account-I knew I wouldn't be able to make up what
I'd lost neglecting it for almost two decades.
I sold my suburban Maryland home (and my suburban car), and in 2013 bought and renovated a 1910 row
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