Monday, November 15, 2010

You Say Collaborate, I Say Participate

The Participation Economy has been motoring along for some time. People no longer want to be passive recipients of product and services, they want to engage with them as experiences, put their personality and passions into things, and pass on the fun to friends and family.

In their new book What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers bring this idea to life. They focus specifically on the “explosion in sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping” that is going on in our economy.

Their examples are spot on. Just look at the car sharing service Zipcar. Instead of each person buying a car, the service enables an entire community to share a fleet of autos, save a little money, and help the environment in the process. The same principle is at work with the bike sharing service Velib as well as the giants of the Participation Economy, Ebay and Craigslist. More than ever, consuming is a collaborative, participatory activity. As they rightly point out, these new ways of consuming not only reduce costs and environmental impact, but they are also a way for people to live more engaged, stimulating lives.

The authors do a good job of identifying some of the causes of this shift as the “convergence of peer-to-peer social networks, a renewed belief in the importance of community, pressing unresolved global environmental concerns, and cost consciousness.”

I’ve described the main undercurrent as a shift from an Attention Economy to a Participation Economy.

Botsman and Rogers see the big shift as:


I like their observation that advertising is dead, and community has taken its place. It’s now about building movements around ideas that people want to participate in, ideas loaded with Mystery, Intimacy, and Sensuality, ideas online, on-screen and in store that answer the question: “How will you improve my life?”