Built Commons: Reclaiming the Sharing Economy

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The advance of distributed computing research in the U.S. during the 1990s led to the conception of novel channels for subletting surplus space right after the burst of the U.S. housing bubble. The coincidence of the new technologies with the biggest increase in house prices (1990-2008) resulted in a new sharing culture which we know today as the “sharing economy”. This paper suggests that even if sharing platforms today are failing by exacerbating the housing crises around the globe, they could provoke other alter-sharing practices. The paper aims to reevaluate the sharing economy in relation to housing and in particular, its spatial implications. It looks into historical nondigital stranger-shared housing precedents and their architectures by deploying the theoretical framework of the commons as autonomous, resilient grassroots sharing networks. Finally, it explores contemporary online listing accounts looking for spatial evidence for both the effects of the sharing economy today and the potential emergence of alter-sharing practices. While regarding housing as a resource, it speculates if the pressures of its ever-growing scarcity and unaffordability could lead to the emergence of a collective political action.
sharing economy, commons, housing, architecture