WHY NOT SHARE RATHER THAN OWN? Russell Belk University of Utah USA
Consider Daily Commuting • Lone drivers in private autos & SUV • Air pollution, global warming • Dwindling fossil fuels, global competition • Increased stress triples heart attack risk • Sharing alternatives (e.g., AutoShare, car pools, public transit, bike sharing) • So why don’t we share? • Can we share more?
Alternative Forms of Distribution • Marketplace Exchange • Gift-Giving • Sharing On the whole, you find wealth much more in use than in ownership (Aristotle)
Commodity Exchange • Strangers barter or purchase with money • Balanced transactions incur no debt nor create/maintain social relations • Simultaneous exchange ideal • Establishes equivalence between objects • Simmel’s society of strangers (not friends or enemies) • Sahlins’ balanced or negative reciprocity • Egoistic • In Derrida’s & Economists’ views, the only form of human transaction
Gift Exchange • In Mauss’s view, still based on reciprocity (obligations to give, receive, & reciprocate) • In Gregory’s view, the opposite of commodity exchange • Establishes relationships between people • Ideally staggered • Money taboos • May involve Sahlins’ generalized reciprocity • Social exchange and ritual prestation • Altruism and agapic love possible, but not “ours” • In Granovetter’s terms, even business transactions can be embedded in this way (also Carrier, Silver)
Sharing • A third alternative not fully considered • Prototype—income pooling and resource sharing within the family; predecessor: the mother • A Marxian ideal: from each according to his or her abilities and to each according to his or her needs • An Internet reality? File sharing, P2P, open source, BBs, Wikipedia, free democratized information • The open science/academic model since the Scientific Revolution vs. closed technology/business • But even the prototype of the family may pool & share less • IPR may trump biodiversity, human life, blood & organs
Key Questions • What don’t we share more? • Incentives to share intangibles? • Incentives to share tangibles? • Are these incentives changing? • How does this change our understandings of gift and commodity exchange?
Sharing: An Alternative to Private Ownership • Includes • Voluntary lending, giving away • Pooling & allocation of resources • Authorized use of public property • NOT contractual renting or leasing • NOT Unauthorized use by theft or trespass • We can share things, places, people, pets, ideas, values, time, affection, animosity • Excludes non-volitional coincidence • “Sharing” a common place of birth • “Sharing” a language • “Sharing” a set of experiences
Example: Car sharing • Car Sharing, launched in 1987 in Switzerland and later in 1988 in Germany, came to North America via Quebec City in 1993. As of December 2005 - 17 U.S. car sharing programs claimed 91,995 members sharing 1,737 vehicles, and 11 Canadian car sharing programs claimed 13,576 members sharing 672 vehicles. • Toronto AutoShare 4 hours cost $33.81 • membership $100+GST; deposit $250 • 60 locations • Book online; some plans include insurance & gas
Sharing Defined • The act and process of distributing what is ours to others for their use (can also share in production) • The act and process of receiving something from others for our use • We may share what we feel is ours so that others come to feel it is at least partly theirs to use (ours) • Use may be for an indefinite or prescribed period & for our exclusive use or for use by us as well as others • Givers and receivers can be individuals or groups • Distribution may or may not make the access to things more equal
Cultural Influences • Sharing, possession, & ownership are all culturally learned behaviors • In the West, possession & ownership learned first; sharing, fairness, justice later • Australian aborigines learn sharing first • Vestigial affect from nomadic past • Led to difficulties with private cars & land • Chinese Zhanguang; Japanese hole-in-one • African hospitality • Culture also prescribes what is selfish vs. altruistic, generous vs. stingy, & fair vs. unfair
Mixed Effects of Sharing • Recipient can feel grateful or hostile • May feel we get our fair share, more, or less • Can reduce envy & foster feelings of community or create dependency & feelings of inferiority • We may see sharing as a sincere effort to please or a sop • Can take place within excess or insufficiency • We may share broadly or narrowly
Impediments to Sharing • Feelings of object attachment • Cathecting objects as part of extended self (e.g., body organs) • Materialism • The importance attached to possessions • Components: envy, possessiveness, non-generosity • Fear of loss/damage, tragedy of the Commons • Materialism accounts in 4 cultures • E.g., Christmas giving • From broad charitable giving • To narrow giving with the family
Sharing & the Museum Without Walls • Fine art is Finite • But it can be broadly distributed • Art Museums • Inexpensive copies • What is the problem here? • Benjamin’s loss of “aura” • Denigrating reproduction, fraud, fake, forgery • Status hierarchies – e.g, Visiting Luxor in Egypt vs. Las Vegas, vs. books, Internet & postcards
Incentives to Share Intangibles • Some of “our” intangibles are not legally ours – a view, classroom seat, “our” song • Other intangibles may be our property – ideas, designs, & various creations (open science) • Academic ideas – ours vs. plagiarized • Presenting & publishing = sharing • It also = the way to make them ours • We should give them rather than sell them • We are more apt to share with doctoral students • But sharing raw data = less likely • Others may admire our garden, but may not borrow our tools, seeds, & potting soil • Alternate model exists (e.g., Human Genome Project)
Sharing without Losing • A song, joke, story, body, digital files • Even books, journals, videos can be copied • The online gift economy • Linux, Napster, freeware • BBSs, chat rooms, web sites • Why join these virtual communities? • Keeping while giving (Weiner) • Cheap altruism (Coyne) • Utilitarianism • True hi-tech gift economy • Other motivations: “Paying back,” cornucopia, & movement • E.g., Reviewing
Intangible Sharing Communities • Marker goods • Sharing Secrets • Extended Self • Sports fans, music fans, brand cults • Proselytizing & recruiting members • Feeling of minority status, persecution, & uniqueness • iPod?
Case in Point:The Grateful Dead • Long known for “tapers” freely trading & trading (not profiting from) concert tapes • Evolved into digital downloading • But in late November, 2005, GD did an about face & told Live Music Archive to stop making it available • Fan uproar caused a partial reversal • But GD already suggested shift • From Internet as cornucopia • To Internet as pay-per-play jukebox
The Grateful Dead Brand • “The Dead had created an anarchy of trust, going not by statute but by instinct and turning fans into co-conspirators, spreading their music and buying tickets, T-shirts and official CD’s to show their loyalty. The new approach…changes that relationship….The change also downgrades fans into the customers they were all along. It removes…brand value from the Dead’s legacy by reducing them to one more band with products to sell” (Jon Pareles, “The Dead’s Gamble: Free Music for Sale” NYT, December 3, 2005).
Incentives to Share Tangibles • School boys/girls sharing clothing • Leveraged lifestyles—e.g., AutoShare • Virtual Sharing • Bag, Borrow, or Steal • Borrow rip CDs • Share music, films on-line • Greek hospitality & Odysseus
Other Tangible Sharing Incentives • Family heirlooms & extended self • Sharing within the family • Group sharing (e.g., time-share homes) • Institutional sharing—e.g., • Museums • National Parks • But, tragedy of the commons? • Limited good vs. Unlimited good (e.g., shells; Bible; the commons; Halloween) • Communally extended self & humanity
John Donne (1623) No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manner of thy friend’s or thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. [Meditation XVII]
Individual Reasons to Share(Summary) • Self-interest (e.g., leveraged lifestyle) • Extended sense of self (e.g. brand cults) • Altruism (e.g., sharing within the family) • Social justice (e.g., paying back for successes in life) • Unlimited good (e.g., shell on the beach) • Common humanity (e.g., Donne)
POSITIVE Internet sharing (e.g., Napster) Limited goods (e.g., environmental resources) The greater good (e.g., open science) Rise of virtual communities online (e.g., MUG) NEGATIVE Intellectual property rights (e.g., TRIPS) Decline of sharing within the family (e.g., privatization) Decline of family (e.g., divorce rates) Decline of neighborhood community (e.g. Bowling Alone) Social Factors in Sharing(Summary)
Conclusions • Social desirability of sharing • Why? Community, civil obedience, environment • Why not? ID through things vs. people, financial security vs. social security, economic capital vs. social capital • Compared to private ownership through marketplace exchange or gift-giving, sharing is more casual, less reciprocal, and potentially more altruistic • Santa replaces sharing with gift-giving • Luxury & surprise also make sharing gift-giving
Conclusions • Negative social desirability of sharing: spouse, womb, soldiers, children • Battle: Online sharing vs. intellectual property laws vs. public access (e.g., eBooks) • Sharing through post-materialism, VS, downshifting, dematerializing, experience economy? • One boom U.S. market: storage • Business leads with the virtual corporation • Is the virtual consumer next? “Why rent when you can buy” vs. “Why own when you can rent by the hour?” (AutoShare)