Sharing Economy as an Urban Phenomenon: Examining Policies for Sharing Cities

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The Sharing Economy is a growing model in the overall economy. Based on accessing resources rather than owning them and on peer-to-peer relations mediated through online digital platforms, it has recently gained a great deal of media and scientific attention. Although the literature identifies a vast scope of sharing within and beyond cities, recent studies on the emergence of the sharing economy tend to focus on the interplay between peer-to-peer services and urban areas depicting an increasing number of cities across the globe that make use of sharing services (see, among others, Agyeman, Mclaren and Schaefer-Borrego, 2013; Mclaren and Agyeman, 2015). However, theoretical reflections on the sharing economy as an urban phenomenon are still limited. The Internet is where sharing happens the most, but local and community initiatives in an urban context are another locus of sharing: car-sharing, bike-sharing, house-sharing, swapping etc. happen in place-based contexts and are relevant to a wide range of urban actors. These practices seem to break new ground in the study of the relationship between online and offline: they are not only the result of effective interaction between the online and offline, but give shape to new territories, which are already inherently virtual and real at the same time. The Internet, therefore, not only takes up and innovates existing activities but creates new practices to the extent that it radically changes the access, the confidence and feedback mechanisms, the number of persons potentially involved, the meeting between needs and resources also in the case of dated activities as bartering, renting or fundraising. Such services are changing either the urban landscape and the social experience of living in cities: individuals, businesses or public administrations can engage in sharing practices, include some of them in their activities, or suffer from their effects. That accounts for how deeply entwined the sharing economy is with urban space and city life (Infranca and Davidson, 2016). This study seeks to gain a better understanding of Sharing Economy as an urban phenomenon. The primary aim is to discuss the concept of the Sharing City analysing from a theoretical point of view why sharing cities emerge and to propose a model of analysis of the different roles institutions could play in the implementation of sharing initiatives in the urban context. The secondary aim is to present case studies from across the globe, and offer an insight into the (partial) implementation of the Sharing City concept. Finally, the third aim is to shed a light on the effects of the sharing economy as an instituted process of interaction between individuals and their environment. The first section introduces the phenomenon of the sharing economy, acknowledging contested definitions and alternative crosscurrents and proposes to shift from a singular definition of the phenomenon to a plural interpretation of the sharing economies. The second section is dedicated to the interplay between urban areas and sharing economies: sharing services are transforming transportation, accommodations, personal services etc. and, as local governments produce innovative regulatory responses, new forms of integration between economy and society are instituted. In this line, the third section proposes an elaboration of Polanyi’s taxonomy aimed at developing a new analytical model to be used in the comparative analysis of cases of sharing economy cities. Following four case studies we outline how the implementation of the Sharing City plays out empirically. More specifically, the fourth section explores the cases of San Francisco, Amsterdam and Seoul and is based on secondary sources (scientific literature, think tanks and policy reports, and media accounts), while the fifth looks more closely at the case of Milan and is based on a field research (observant participation, interview,
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospitePolicy Implications of Virtual Work
Numero di pagine30
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2017


  • sharing cities
  • sharing economy


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