Fidest – Agenzia giornalistica/press agency

Quotidiano di informazione – Anno 34 n° 316

The sharing economy: a question of trust

Posted by fidest press agency su venerdì, 29 luglio 2022

Digitalisation and its networking opportunities have given the sharing economy an unprecedented boost. When many users share homes, gardens, tools and many other goods, this offers not only economic advantages for the individual user, but also ecological advantages by reducing overall consumption. The expensive car, for instance, will no longer be parked in a garage 90 per cent of the time. However, the new world of sharing also requires individual participants to respect the rules of the game. The companies, platforms and communities that organise access to the shared amenities have a variety of measures at their disposal to promote the necessary cooperative behaviour among their users. In the FWF-funded project “Collaborative Consumption & Sharing Economy”, researchers at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration (WU) have developed a theoretical framework for these measures and examined their effectiveness using various methods. The central issue in this context: what rules and communication strategies are particularly conducive to increasing cooperation in the shared use of goods? Hofmann distinguishes between two types of regulation that have an impact on cooperative behaviour: hard regulation uses punishment and rewards to achieve the desired behaviour. “A car-sharing company may for instance impose fines in the form of additional charges if the car is returned with an empty tank or uncleaned. If the user always complies with every requirement, the company may grant bonus points which can be converted into benefits.” But then, there is also a soft regulation. Hofmann: “It may use information being passed on in a targeted way or it may come in the shape of special expertise or a role model function.” The researchers tried to get to the bottom of how these types of regulation work by using several methodological approaches. These include focus groups, in which they initiated debates on the use of sharing services, as well as a series of surveys of relevant groups or laboratory experiments in which test subjects choose a certain behaviour in simulations. The team also conducted field research, in which, for example, time spent with a sharing community was monitored over a certain period of time.When the team investigated the communication strategies on the websites of relevant sharing providers they found that these work very strictly with hard regulation including sanctions for misconduct. “This was surprising for us. We had expected that more soft regulation would be used, relying on information and role models,” explains Hofmann. “For, in the laboratory experiments, in which sharing situations with different combinations of regulations were played out, we found that soft regulation produces better results in promoting cooperative behaviour – and this is true regardless of what organisational form the sharing takes.” Experiments with community gardens, in which two gardens were subject to different regulations revealed another phenomenon: “Both hard and soft regulation quickly lost relevance. Nonetheless we saw a trend emerging that people do actually want clear structures and responsibilities, as they exist in an association, for instance. In the laboratory experiments, the test persons adhered very closely to the rules. In practice, however, it is also important to live the cooperation in a communicative way and to exchange ideas on an ongoing basis,” Hofmann notes in conclusion.

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