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This content is taken from the RMIT University's online course, Business Futures: the Sharing Economy. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds There has been a lot of discussion that sharing has been commercialised. But the nature of exchange in the sharing economy is not really only sharing as we know it. In the sharing economy, different types of relationships occur, including commercial relationships, gift-giving, barter, and sharing. But one key difference now is that sharing’s more socially appealing. Everyone wants to be part of a sharing economy, despite it not always being true sharing. However, we have always shared with strangers and friends alike. We have shared our toys, books, and clothes. The internet made it easy to share files, for example, via cloud sharing technology. Sharing is just something we do. But now, there is an economy around sharing and access.

Skip to 1 minute and 2 seconds Some may ask, why now? There are two factors that have significantly contributed to the rapid growth of the sharing economy, the internet and the global financial crisis. The internet has enabled people to connect in ways never seen before. It is now easy to engage and exchange with people anywhere and any time. The younger generation who grew up with the internet mostly transact online. So the sharing economy has been enabled via supportive technology and a receptive generation. But the main driver is a shift in mentality which took shape after the global financial crisis. The GFC has made sharing not only viable, but also socially desirable.

Skip to 1 minute and 52 seconds The GFC caused people to question the sense in owning things that they used only a few times. It became useful to value access instead of ownership. This shift in mentality was commercialised through the internet, and it went viral. Sharing or participating in the sharing economy is now cool. Think of Uber or Airbnb. Cynics argue that business took advantage of this shift in mentality to create platform capitalism. Capitalism creeps in and thrives in human relationships. People previously made money mostly from owning capital and things. They now can make money by connecting people who want to share. It is for the future to decide whether we are better off with or without the sharing economy.

Towards the idea of a sharing economy

What drives people to get involved in the sharing economy? Why would someone decide to take an Uber instead of drive their own car or rent a traditional taxi?

In short, why is there a growing trend towards access over ownership. Many factors have been identified by experts, such as the impact of the global financial crisis, the growing connectivity through the internet making it easy to transact with many people at once in different locations, and a young demographic called millennials who are very comfortable transacting with strangers through the internet.

We will consider these factors in the next steps, but here we continue our examination of why “sharing” became the resulting moniker of this growing marketing trend, and not something else.


Some have argued that the name ‘sharing economy’ does not correctly capture the essence of this marketing trend. Alternative names include access-based consumption, peer-to-peer consumption and collaborative consumption. What would you propose as an appropriate name for Sharing Economy?

Share your idea of a new name via Twitter, or alternatively in the comments area below, using the hashtag #RMITnotsharing

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This video is from the free online course:

Business Futures: the Sharing Economy

RMIT University