Designing for sharing

A new “sharing society” is emerging.

Part of: Values

Sharing is becoming one of the key “principles’ for doing business and social interaction. The last years have seen a formidable growth of initiatives that are designed around sharing – sharing information, sharing markets, sharing social networks. Sharing is a quality that informs new models and consumer attitudes. The “open source” movement and the emerging “open design” practices reflect the same mentality.

“Sharing based businesses generally offer a greater feeling of connection and community”.
—Lisa Gansky (in The Mesh-Why the future of business is sharing)

How might we design for sharing?

What would it mean if “shareability” would be taken as a design criterion? How might we bring shareable assets into the design process for products, services, environments and situations? What might we (re-)design to encourage more sharing and open exchange?

Background sharing

The culture of sustainism is also the culture of sharing and open exchange. A new “sharing society” is emerging with new business models. Sharing is becoming the new social and economic fabric of society Lisa Gansky calls this “The Mesh.” She believes the sharing society will trump the ownership society because it’s able to use the capabilities of mobile-based communications, the web and social networks, whilst it is responsive to changing consumer attitudes.

The new culture and economy of sharing is rising rapidly in many fields. Witness the growth of car sharing companies like Zipcar and Greenwheels or local initiatives for renting a car from your neighbour. Or see the success of a phenomenon such as CouchSurfing, which has now more than 3 million users, covering 80,000 cities worldwide. Or Airbnb, which is causing a revolution in the tourist business (on current trends it will surpass the number of overnight stays of an established hotel chain such as Hilton Hotels).

And of course the “open source” movement reflects a similar sharing mentality. Social media networks such as Flickr, Facebook, YouTube. Twitter Blogger, Google, are all founded on openness and publicness. They are build on a mindset and a practice of sharing and open exchange. They are (as Jeff Jarvis has said) “the new platforms that fuel sharing.”