The Sharing Economy


IRISS faculty member Paolo Parigi and IRiSS Director, Karen Cook, along with Sociology PhD students Jessica Santana and Scott Westenberger, conducted research on the social consequences of sharing goods and services with strangers.

What is the sharing economy?

The "sharing economy" is a relatively new phenomenon appearing in the mid-2000s, partially in response to growing salience of natural resource constraints. At the helm of this economy are technological companies using the Internet with the goal of increasing the efficiency with which people connect to each other. A key byproduct of these companies is the generation of communities that attract people from different backgrounds. Facilitating contact and the emergence of trust among strangers is a common experience in the sharing economy.

Research approach

In order to study the social consequences of the sharing economy, the research team has developed an experimental approach that is akin to a field experiment. In the study, which is currently underway, participants play a traditional "investment game" that has been modified for the online, sharing economy context. By selecting participants through a host of companies, the researchers will have access to the behavior of the participants in their online communities. The results of this study will contribute to a broader understanding of the dynamic interplay between communities that emerge online and social interaction that occurs offline.