Mapping the Melbourne Sharing Economy

The new services that form the sharing economy are becoming widespread and are used regularly by members of the public, both in Victoria and internationally, with many of the commercial companies that form part of this economy having a market value in the billions. A critical understanding of how sharing occurs through digital technologies; how sharing itself is conceptualised by individual, community, and corporate actors; and the wider implications of these networks for our social and economic relations is urgently needed.

Sharing has recently become a topic of interest to consumer regulators; local councils; the popular press; and urban planning policy makers. This research project aims to make a significant evidence-based contribution to these important debates through documentation and analysis of these networks. The findings will be of wide public relevance, of interest to regulators, professionals and institutions involved in the sharing economy, and to scholars concerned with sharing practices, sociotechnical relations, and digital media.

This project is conducting a survey exercise, mapping the services, networks and discourses around the sharing economy across Melbourne – a recognised 'sharing city'. The sharing economy is an emerging mode of exchange facilitated by mobile and digital media, which includes well-known commercial services such as Uber and AirBnB, along with non-commercial forms of peer-to-peer exchange, such as Freecycle, which allow people to share household possessions and services with their neighbours.

The project maps the services, geographies and technologies entwined with the local sharing economy. The project also synthesises the local sharing economy through the analysis of publicly available documents, data analytic tools such as web scraping and discursive analyses of sharing platform interfaces. This data can be used to map the diversity and scale of the local sharing economy in terms of services, technologies and geographies, and to trace the histories, discourses and debates around the emergence of the sharing economy.

Research Team