Our research tidbits this week shines a light on some characteristics of the sharing economy.
Value propositions and business model features in the sharing economy
The sharing economy as an emerging field is characterised by unsettled debates about its shared purpose and defining characteristics of the organisations within this field.
This study draws on neo-institutional theory to explore how sharing organisations position themselves vis-à-vis such debates with regard to (1) the values these organisations publicly promote to present themselves as “good” sharing organisations and (2) the business model features they make visible to appear as having the “right” organisational model. This study examines the online self-representations of 62 prototypical sharing organisations in Germany with regard to value propositions and business model features.
A semantic network analysis of the features reveals two distinct categories of sharing organisations: grassroots initiatives and platform-based organisations. By showing how value propositions and business model features are linked in the sharing economy, the findings indicate the different legitimation strategies of grassroots initiatives and platform-based organisations, which the authors term “sustainability by model” and “sustainability by feature.”
These findings broaden the understanding of the strategies that organisations apply to cope with societal expectations in the emerging sharing economy.
Dominika Wruk, Achim Oberg, Jennifer Klutt & Indre Maurer. 2019. The Presentation of Self as Good and Right: How Value Propositions and Business Model Features are Linked in the Sharing Economy.
Journal of Business Ethics, 159(4), 997–1021.
Distributing rather than sharing in the “sharing” economy: Uber case
The sharing economy has been examined from many angles, including the engagement of customers, the capabilities of the technological platforms, and the experiences of those who sell products or services. The Authors focus on labour in the sharing economy.
Labour has been regarded as one type of asset exchanged in the sharing economy, as part of the customer interface when services are sold, or as a party vulnerable to exploitation. The Authors focus on labour as a position in relationship to owners of capital. While new typologies to characterise the sharing economy are emerging, the authors argue that a well-established framework that has been applied across historic types of work arrangements can offer a robust analysis of enduring and new labour issues.
The Authors draw upon labour process theory (LPT) from early formulations to recent applications to guide an analysis appropriate to the sharing economy. The Authors use both central and less explored concepts from LPT (obscuring and securing surplus value, technology as control, invisibility of owners and managers, and possessive individualism) and use Uber as a case to illustrate application of the framework.
By considering labour, capital, and the power dynamics between them, the authors draw attention to unequal exchange and distributive justice, fundamental for taking a business ethics approach to labour in the sharing economy.
Sunyu Chai & Maureen A. Scully. 2019. It’s About Distributing Rather than Sharing: Using Labor Process Theory to Probe the “Sharing” Economy.
Journal of Business Ethics, 159(4), 943–960.
Moral struggles behind a sharing economy Uber app
In recent years, the sharing economy (SE) has attracted considerable attention, both scholarly and popular, relating to its capacity to enforce or undermine extant economic conventions. However, the process through which technological developments can effectively have this outcome of altering extant conventions on what is morally acceptable or desirable is still unclear.
In this paper, the authors draw on the work of Boltanski and Thévenot (On justification: economies of worth. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2006) and the notion of agencement to investigate the moral and performative dimension of controversies related to the SE.
The research stems from a qualitative case-based study of the controversy following Uber’s implementation in Montréal’s taxi market. The Authors contribute to the literature on the SE through an empirical study of the moral debates entailed in the unfolding in situ of a SE device. The Authors also add to the literature using the ‘Orders of Worth’ framework (2006) by showing how a compromise is solidified.
The Authors find that beyond discursive strategies, it is the concrete recomposition of laws, conventions, devices, persons, etc. that harmonised different definitions of the common good. Finally, the authors contribute to the literature on the relationship between technology, ethics, and social change by capturing the specific values that legitimise Uber, and by following their unfolding throughout a controversy.
Mireille Mercier-Roy & Chantale Mailhot. 2019. What’s in an App? Investigating the Moral Struggles Behind a Sharing Economy Device.
Journal of Business Ethics, 159(4), 977–996.
Mapping the sharing economy for sustainability research
In order to guide sustainability research on the sharing economy, the purpose of this paper is to develop a comprehensive framework that captures the wide range of activities and business models that are considered to be part of the sharing economy. Based on a systematic literature review and a content analysis, existing typologies are identified and analysed for their conceptual intersections. Finally, categorisations from 43 documents are integrated into one framework.
Four main dimensions are identified as being used in different contexts to characterise sharing systems and were combined to form one comprehensive typology: shared good or service, market structure, market orientation, and industry sector. The proposed typology is able to distinguish sharing activities based on their similarities and differences. Social, economic, and communicational avenues for the term “sharing” are merged into a conceptual foundation of the sharing economy.
This enables researchers, practitioners, and policy makers to position their projects in the broad field of sharing. By discussing inherent tensions with regard to sustainability of the sharing economy, the offered categorisations can help to guide future research and policy intervention. Last but not least, professional managers should find valuable ideas for new business models.
Plewnia, Frederik and Guenther, Edeltraud. 2018. Mapping the sharing economy for sustainability research.
Management Decision, 56(3), 570-583.
(Self-)Regulation of sharing economy platforms
Can platforms close the governance gap in the sharing economy, and if so, how? Through an in-depth qualitative case study, the authors analyse the process by which new regulation and self-regulation emerge in one sector of the sharing economy, crowdfunding, through the actions of a meta-organisation.
The Authors focus on the principal French sectoral meta-organisation, Financement Participatif France (FPF—Crowdfunding France). The Authors show that this multi-stakeholder meta-organisation not only closed the governance gap through collective legal, ethical, and utilitarian work but also preceded and shaped the new market.
The Authors present a hybrid governance approach combining (a) soft multi-agency regulation, (b) self-regulation through a process of “partial meta-organising”, and (c) direct civil society participation. The Authors expand the literature by highlighting features of platforms’ partial meta-organising and by identifying conditions for successful joint regulation and self-regulation of the sector.
Heloise Berkowitz & Antoine Souchaud. 2019. (Self-)Regulation of Sharing Economy Platforms Through Partial Meta-organizing.
Journal of Business Ethics, 159(4), 961–976.
Governance strategies for the sharing city
Recent developments around the sharing economy bring to the fore questions of governability and broader societal benefit—and subsequently the need to explore effective means of public governance, from nurturing, on the one hand, to restriction, on the other.
As sharing is a predominately urban phenomenon in modern societies, cities around the globe have become both locus of action and central actor in the debates over the nature and organisation of the sharing economy. However, cities vary substantially in the interpretation of potential opportunities and challenges, as well as in their governance responses.
Building on a qualitative comparative analysis of 16 leading global cities, the findings reveal four framings of the sharing economy: ‘societal endangerment,’ ‘societal enhancement,’ ‘market disruption,’ and ‘ecological transition.’ Such framings go hand in hand with patterned governance responses: although there is considerable heterogeneity in the combination of public governance strategies, the authors find specific configurations of framings and public governance strategies.
The work reflects the political and ethical debates on various economic, social, and moral issues related to the sharing economy, and contributes to a better understanding of the field-level institutional arrangements—a prerequisite for examining moral behaviour of sharing economy organisations.
Sebastian Vith, Achim Oberg, Markus A. Höllerer & Renate E. Meyer. 2019. Envisioning the ‘Sharing City’: Governance Strategies for the Sharing Economy.
Journal of Business Ethics, 159(4), 1023–1046.