On your next vacation you could sleep in a stranger’s house, ride in a different stranger’s car, and do it all while a person you’ve never met watches your dog.
Critics of the social web often condemn the Internet as a poor substitute for genuine social interaction, but a slew of businesses, such as AirBnB, the ride-sharing website Lyft and the pet-sitting network Dogvacay, allow individuals to exchange goods and services directly, without the federally regulated corporate middlemen that have been in place since the Industrial Revolution. The “peer-to-peer,” or “sharing economy” has led to a new, more intimate form of commerce. Participants place trust in their neighbors, as the economic downturn has shaken trust in traditional companies.
The sharing economy has the potential to put an end to over consumption and usher in a return to the faith-based system of commerce that prevailed prior to the Industrial Era. It also poses a possible threat to the recovery of the traditional economy, and presents participants with a variety of inherent risks.
We asked about your experience with the peer economy in our weekly Twitter chat. Guest Denise Cheng (@hiDenise), an independent researcher affiliated with the MIT Center for Civic Media who specializes in the peer economy, provided an academic perspective. Read a full transcript of the conversation below.