Theorizing the Sharing Economy: Variety and Trajectories of New Forms of Organizing: Volume 66

Cover of Theorizing the Sharing Economy: Variety and Trajectories of New Forms of Organizing
Subject:

Table of contents

(11 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xii
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Abstract

The rise of the sharing economy has brought with it a huge variety of new organizational forms and innovative business models. An integral part of these forms and models is the communities and members of sharing-economy organizations, since they significantly contribute to value creation for these organizations. Relying on community member contributions, though, is a challenge for these organizations because fluid community boundaries and voluntary membership makes it difficult to coordinate their activities. This chapter investigates the under-researched question of how sharing-economy organizations govern the actions of their community members. Following an abductive approach that included site visits, participant observations, and 67 interviews, we develop a framework that illustrates four different types of governance: pure market, pure clan, market-hierarchy hybrid, and clan-hierarchy hybrid. The framework explains differences among these types depending on the main activity (providing resources or producing jointly) and the primary aim of the community (business orientation or social orientation). This study thus contributes to research on both governance in general and to sharing-economy organizations in particular by capturing the variety and diversity of community forms, governance practices, and business-model configurations.

Abstract

Independent actors operating through peer-to-peer sharing economy platforms co-create service experiences, such as shared car-rides or home-stays. Emotional labor among both parties, manifested in the mutual enactment of socially desirable behavior, is essential in ensuring that these experiences are successful. However, little is known about emotional labor practices and about how sharing economy platforms enforce emotional labor practices among independent actors, such as guests, hosts, drivers, or passengers. To address this research gap, we follow a mixed methods approach. We combine survey research among Airbnb and Uber users with content analysis of seven leading sharing economy platforms. The findings show that (1) users perform emotional labor despite not seeing is as necessarily desirable and (2) platforms actively encourage the performance of emotional labor practices even in the absence of direct formal control. Emotional labor practices are encouraged through (hard) design features such as mutual ratings, reward systems, and gamification, as well as through more subtle (soft) normative framing of desirable practices via platform and app guidelines, tips, community sites, or blogs. Taken together, these findings expand our understanding of the limitations of peer-to-peer sharing platforms, where control over the service experience and quality can only be enforced indirectly.

Abstract

We witness rising tensions between online gig-economy platforms, incumbent firms, regulators, and labor unions. In this chapter, we use the framework of institutional logics as an analytical lens and scheme to understand the fundamental institutional challenges prompted by the advent of the online gig economy. We view gig-economy platforms as corporations that organize and self-regulate markets. In doing so, they span two parallel markets: the market for platforms competing to provide intermediation services and the market for the self-employed competing on platforms to provide peer-to-peer services. Self-regulation by platforms also weakens the traditional roles of the state. While the corporation and market logics empower the platform, they weaken self-employed suppliers as platforms’ design constrain suppliers to grow into a full-fledged business by limiting their entrepreneurial freedom. At the same time, current labor law generally does not classify suppliers as employees of the platform company, which limits the possibility to unionize. The current resolutions to this institutional misalignment are sought in “band aid solutions” at the level of sectors. Instead, as we argue, macro-institutional reform may be needed to re-institutionalize gig work into established institutional logics.

Abstract

This chapter explores how classic and institutional entrepreneurs in the sharing economy (SE) frame and make sense of the emergent, plural, and contested SE concept. The authors address this question through an investigation of an attempt to institutionalize the SE as a separate field in France, through data collected among SE entrepreneurs gravitating around OuiShare, a leading institutional entrepreneur for the SE. To analyze the plurality of discursive framings within the SE field, we explored how classic entrepreneurs affiliated with the SE and institutional entrepreneurs made sense of the concept and its related practices by referring to different theories and narratives. The results reveal that classic entrepreneurs used and combined four distinct theoretical currents (access economy, commons, gift, and libertarianism) to frame their projects. This framing diversity was further reinforced at the meso level by specific forms of institutional entrepreneurship which reflected and actively built on such framing diversity. However, over time, such heterogeneity negatively affects the internal coherence of the field. Based on these results, the authors discuss the impact of enduring framing diversity on the SE organizational field emergence and development.

Abstract

Is the sharing economy a field? Answering this question is crucial to understanding how sharing organizations look and behave, as well as how the sharing economy might develop. In this chapter, the authors applied two different field conceptions – organizational field and issue field – as a starting point for an explorative empirical analysis. To capture both field concepts, the authors collected relational data and data on organizations’ self-representations to see how organizations engaged in the debate on the sharing economy relate to each other. The observed network of organizations suggests that the sharing economy is an issue field. In addition, the core of this network shows the relational structure of an organizational field. Surprisingly, it is not an organizational field of the sharing economy. Instead, it is a field of organizations heavily engaged in proselytizing new organizational forms that will change other fields. What the authors observed is a new field configuration – the authors call it a disruptive field – that is, less inward-oriented than other fields but much more engaged in changing other fields’ structures and dynamics. With these insights, the authors contribute to institutional research on field configuration and shed light on the phenomenon of the sharing economy and its potential development.

Abstract

This chapter focuses on the largely unexplored within- and cross-category spillovers between category kings and commoners within the field of the sharing economy. Going beyond the reputational spill-overs that are the main focus of extant literature, the authors also consider spill-overs in awareness, regulation, and customer usage between category kings and commoners, providing a holistic view of what it means to be a commoner in the same or adjacent category as a king. On the basis of a mixed-method study based on semi-structured interviews with UK sharing platforms and a consumer survey, the authors show that category commoners are affected by kings differently depending whether they are in the exact same sub-category or in an adjacent one within the same larger category. This chapter expands extant work on within and cross-category dynamics by taking the less popular perspective of the less visible category members. Studying these dynamics in the setting of the sharing economy also contributes to the authors’ knowledge of what enables/hinders the growth of a new field as a whole. Finally, the findings have important policy implications.

Abstract

Over the last years, and under the umbrella of the “sharing economy,” various new social practices and novel business models have been established worldwide. Such practices and models are perceived both as opportunity and challenge for existing (urban) public governance regimes. It is in this sense that the sharing economy has become a contested issue and regularly provokes bold governance responses. However, local governing authorities first need to interpret, negotiate, and establish what exactly is “at issue” in order to (re-)act adequately. While such “politics of signification” are well-studied, for instance, in social movements and public media discourse, research on the concerted framing activities of public administrations as well as on the strategic work that sets the stage for public policy-making is relatively sparse – and entirely lacking for the context of the sharing economy. In this chapter, the authors look behind the scenes of the policy-making in the City of Vienna, Austria. The empirical findings unearth six distinct mechanisms –“delimiting,” “negotiating,” “detailing,” “linking,” “justifying,” and “situating” – that are strategically applied to shape the “Viennese way” of governing the sharing economy. This research develops an in-depth understanding of what the authors conceptually dub “strategic issue work”: the manifold efforts that lead to, and underlie, in this case, the policy-making of a local government when it tries to come to terms with the governance challenges of the sharing economy.

Abstract

Critics increasingly highlight the dark sides of the sharing economy resulting from the insufficient regulation of competition, labor, or taxes in its for-profit sector. In this chapter, the authors argue that regulatory solutions for the sharing economy hinge on the understanding of the ways in which the sharing economy is organized. Here, digitalization undermines established regulation through underlying organizational shifts pertaining to places, labor inputs and output responsibilities. Mapping out the field of actors that are or could be involved in regulating the sharing economy, the authors highlight a particular role played not only by digital platforms as market organizers, but also of a variety of other public and private actors such as standard setting organizations, social movements, trade unions, organized buyers and sellers, incumbents, or policy makers. The authors suggest that an understanding of sharing economy markets as fields can not only capture the highly organized nature of the sharing economy, but also serve to untangle the contestations and power dynamics unfolding among various actors engaged in different regulatory issues associated with the sharing economy. Seeing “Uberization” as a next development stage away from the modern corporation after global supply chains, the authors highlight regulatory challenges associated with the even more individualized and dispersed way in which sharing economy markets are organized and also discuss new opportunities for regulation provided by digital technology.

Index

Pages 237-244
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Cover of Theorizing the Sharing Economy: Variety and Trajectories of New Forms of Organizing
DOI
10.1108/S0733-558X202066
Publication date
2020-04-10
Book series
Research in the Sociology of Organizations
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78756-180-9
eISBN
978-1-78756-179-3
Book series ISSN
0733-558X