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7 responses to “Radical Utility, Anti-Expertise and ‘Collaborative Consumption’”

  1. moz

    Just last night a friend was talking about the CC book and thinks it’s great. I wasn’t quite sure what the premise was and having read your review I’m now very keen to read the book. Not optimistic that it’ll be the game changer she’s hoping for, but it should be worth while.
    I admit that I never really saw FreeCycle or eBay as community building, but there are a lot of online forums around with marketplaces. Those seem to work quite well and do encourage the circulation of unwanted stuff. If I know I can buy another reasonably priced second hand item if I need to, I’m more likely to sell my unused one.
    To me the community transformation is that now it’s much easier to find a group of like-minded people in your area. In the olden days community notice boards, BBS’s and so on kind of did that but search was very slow if it worked at all. With more groups having an internet presence and search engines now working fairly well it’s quite practical to find the other 20 people in Melbourne who enjoy carving dragons out of ice-cream. Adult fans of Lego was one of the early ones I was aware of – in the past it was just adults skulking round in toy shops but these days it’s a huge online community (search for AFOL).

  2. JulieG

    I feel like this post could have done with a bit of editing before going live – I’ve read the book but am a bit out of my depth on the academic stuff, so the incomplete sentences and typos were making it harder for me to understand. Although I did have a giggle at Botsman being an ‘articulated’ speaker, and at BCycle including design failures of previous systems rather than addressing them.

    But I’m interested in this review, because although Botsman and Rogers’ enthusiasm is infectious, I did feel that there were some gaps in their ideas that I wasn’t able to put my finger on.

    I’ve used a lot of these ‘collaborative’ businesses like Freecycle and online book sharing and so on. Technology does make it easier to find someone who wants your old stuff, or track your bike use, etc. Instead of sharing being restricted to a village/town as it was prior to the late 20th-century consumer explosion, it can be done worldwide if you want to. And it can help you reconnect with neighbours by taking tentative first steps online rather than by borrowing a cup of sugar. So it’s interesting in that regard.

  3. calyptorhynchus

    I think that we will be forced into this by the upcoming ecological/global warming crisis, rather than it being yet another choice.

  4. dk.au

    yes thanks for the corrections, Julia.
    needless to say the piece was written under multiple deadlines and is about half as clear and twice as long as it should be.

    nevertheless, the points I wanted to make are in there.

  5. Rob

    This is why I love the internet, you have an idea and then find other people talking about the same thing. This is the first post of yours I’ve read bu Im going to read some more in a minute. Just wanted to share a post of my own with you on Mad Men, Smoking and ‘selling’ climate change: http://www.10waystosavetheworld.net/mad-men-smoking-climate-change

    Thank you!

  6. Ravi Prasad

    Dear DK

    I actually heard Rachel Botsman at TedX in Sydney when, she had a statistic: the average electric drill was used for only 13 minutes over its entire life time.

    People didn’t want the drill, they wanted the hole.

    I wondered how many other things people own that they seldom used.

    I wondered about the environmental cost of manufacturing, transporting and selling all of these things; it must be huge. How much could we help the environment just by sharing what we have?

    It made me wonder about how much we consume, about how sustainable our lives are, and wanted to do something about it.

    So I decided to start Friends with Things- http://www.friendswiththings.com – it’s a place where you can share things with, or borrow things from your neighbours for free – from bicycles to power tools, from cameras to sewing machines.

    It’s about collaborative consumption and sustainability – but there’s more to it than just helping the environment. At Friends with Things you’re also welcome to share your time, skills and expertise with people – you can even share your local knowledge or connect with local people who share common interests.

    In doing this, you make connections with your neighbours – and those connections can help bring back a sense of community and neighbourhood that’s often missing from apartment complexes, city living and suburban sprawl – so it’s a nice way to make friends with your neighbours.

    It’s part neighbourhood notice board, part local market and part ‘town square’ – it’s a community based initiative, it’s free and always will be.

    Sorry about what must sound like a sales pitch.


    Ravi Prasad
    Project coordinator, Friends with Things
    Finalist, 2011 Earth Hour Awards
    Email: [email protected]
    Twitter: @ihavethings

  7. Glen

    Hey, nice work dk!

    Regading qustions of ‘expertise’: I’m currently working on an article that explores ‘know-how’ as an experience-based practical knowledge and which is most commonly born of enthusiast-type practices. (In part I am extracting parts of my PhD research and adapting it to diferent contexts.)

    What I’ve come to realise is how we’ve become burdened with entire regimes which require us to acquire such knowledge so as to participate in a democratic and enfranchised way.

    A classic example is the knowledge produced by someone looking at buying their first home. There is a huge amount of material that needs to be worked through so as to become competent in the primarily capitalist socio-technical systems that are designed to produce the illusion of convenience and ‘affordance’ (in the design sense) while at the same time extracting a rent from a FHBer’s incompetence if they do not acquire enough ‘know-how’ about the home buying process.

    Politics and policy is another classic example. Who knows what the various policies are for the various parties except for ‘political junkies’ (i.e. enthusiasts)? Politicians seem intent on trying to sell ideas, rather than working on producing comprehension of policy in their electorates.

    I posit that if any socio-technical system is designed in such a way that to competently navigate/engage/use it requires ‘know-how’ approaching levels of quasi-expertise, then it is inherently undemocratic as they disenfranchise citizens and practically force citizens to become ‘enthusiasts’ if they want to fully engage. This barriers are put in place under the aegis of celebrating the quasi-expertise of the amateur, but I see it as another way controls are installed to reproduce socially unjust distributions of opportunity.