Posted by: Barrak Al-Babtain | January 18, 2011

Collaborative Consumption

A beautiful presentation by Rachel Botsman about the rise of collaborative consumption and how technology is bringing us back to the ideas of sharing and trust. She covers the same ground as Clay Shirky and others but the presentation is too good to pass up. I can see this working in Kuwait. Maybe it exists already, but I can see it working, trading DVDs, fashion accessories, old phones, etc. The bigger point is that these transactions are happening purely based on trust, even though you don’t know the other person at all. It’s really impressive how we create a communal credit score when people review your actions and through that you can get a feel of a persons reputation and reliability and have all this just emerge naturally.


Responses

  1. Lovely, I bet smartphones/tablets will rotate really fast in Kuwait!

    I do think that Kuwaitis will be more likely to swap their digital media, be it CDs, DVDs, Blu-Rays, whether movies, audio or even Video games.

    Someone needs to orchestrate a website for that soon, a site that maybe serving the whole middle-east, not Kuwait alone.

  2. The idea put forward by Rachel is obviously great for consumers and probably bankrupting for companies. Though I am finding it difficult to poke holes in her ideas’ I can only offer a precautionary tip.

    This idea of peer-to-peer sharing is great because obviously it rids the consumer’s habit of any redundant purchases. However, if we are to naively expect that companies’ will sit idly by and do nothing would be a mistake. The whole idea of companies is to maximize profits within some legal framework. The idea of a wasteful customer means big profits for companies. Hence companies will do what they can to squash this idea of Collaborative Consumption.

    Consider this example. To this very day, any car you buy, you will expect to find an ashtray. Even though mainstream consumers’ know that smoking is a deep health hazard, we are still finding ashtrays’ in our cars. Why is that? One word, Lobbying. Even with all the warning signs and the high death rate due to smoking, we are indirectly given the means to start smoking.

    What does this example tell us? Simple, that companies, just like any living creature, will fight for its survival, and fight hard. I therefore think we should start talking about how to implement this idea rather than if it is a good idea, as it so obviously is.

  3. Well, I think it’s a lot more complex than that. With revolutionary new technology you get a wave of new winners and the people/companies that don’t adapt or can’t find a reason to exist ultimately fade away and die. Globalisation and the internet are earth shaking concepts that basically destroyed and reassembled major industries (Music, News, Software, Media, Finance, and so on). Old giants died and younger, nimbler, smarter and more creative companies rose from their ashes.

    To say that companies will fight it isn’t the right way to think about it, I think. It’s good that they fight it (as long as they do so fairly and in a transparent way). Good ideas eventually win and tired ones die. In the end, the market decides and the consumer always wins. By breaking down the system the way this does, by removing the need for a middle man, we can reassemble the market in an entirely new way.

    All we need to make this work is the website and a cheap home delivery system. That’s not what this is about, though. The challenge is how can you develop the community and the sense of trust that is such an integral part of collaborative consumption. Beyond that, how can you develop this trust while still maintaining a strong degree of privacy (no phone numbers or addresses shared, etc). We can’t copy the model that they have, because we don’t share the same traditions.


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