hiDenise's blog

[Peer economy] Recap: Transportation licensing hearing in Cambridge

This last Tuesday, the Cambridge Licensing Commission held a hearing to discuss regulations concerning unregistered cabs, including transportation network companies (think Uber, Lyft, SideCar—peer-to-peer platforms that offer private point-to-point car service) and rogue cabs (not registered with the city and not participants with a TNC). A proposal—Regulations for Smartphone Technology for Taxicabs and Limousines—served as grounding for the discussion around how to regulate private transportation and/or update the definition of private transportation. An alert went out over email to the Media Lab community, and I attended the hearing. As the only ML community member who attended the hearing in full, I sent back a report. I've been encouraged to share it here. It has been slightly altered to provide links and to make it coherent outside of the Media Lab community.

[Peer Economy] Keep it real to catalyze the sharing economy

Last week, I was in San Francisco as a panelist and plenary speaker at the inaugural SHARE conference. The event was organized by Peers (a research partner in January) and SOCAP, and I spoke about the future of work. I also gave a lightning talk at the closing plenary. All of the plenary speakers had to bookend their lightning talk with "--- catalyze the sharing economy." I took advantage of this five-minute window to urge thoughtful discussion. This is the script that I more or less adhered to: 

I’ve been at MIT for the last few years researching peer-to-peer marketplaces. When I got the prompt for this talk, “BLANK will catalyze the sharing economy,” I had lots of different reactions. But in the five minutes I have, I want to say that straight talk is what will catalyze the sharing economy.

Will it happen? A makerspace for the homeless

During my last trip to San Francisco, I heard about Marc Roth’s unconventional but sensible use of assistance money when he was homeless: He bought a membership to an SF makerspace. Marc learned the ins and outs of digital fabrication, started a successful laser cutting business, and now he’s ready to pilot The Learning Shelter, a 90-day residency program for SF homeless to build marketable making skills.

I’m enthralled. I’ve been exploring the future of work at MIT. This has looked mostly like peer economy research, but I have also been thinking about how other workforce development models may not fit today’s circumstances. Cities have traditionally approached workforce development from one of two perspectives:

[Peer economy] Media's place as herald and tastemaker

People are often boggled when I follow up my research interest in the future of work with the name of my M.S. program: Comparative Media Studies at MIT. While I could go on about how economic security is the cornerstone for meaningful pursuits—including civic participation—here's a direct media tie in. The following is an excerpt from my thesis draft. 

The Fordist framework1 is fraying quickly. Economic decline, technological displacement and globalization have resulted in a shortage of jobs that will not rebound. A powerful social contract is broken, leading Americans to question if investing in human capital—apprenticeships, internships, education, experience and technical know-how—is a smart use of time and personal resources.

These conditions account only partially for why attention is shifting to other work models. Another powerful influence is former and current media portrayal.

Scaling the unicorns: Diverse perspectives that serve the public good

In a room of urban planners, architects, engineers, data viz experts, designers, programmers, and media professionals, we asked, “how do we scale the unicorns?”

Unicorns are those perspectives we need, the ones we easily demand but are hard to find. Women coders, technologists in local government, architects in humanitarian aid, geographers in newsrooms.


Unicorns, by rahuldlucca on Flickr

[Peer economy] Why the peer economy comes off as "share-washing"

Pay attention to Tom Slee; he's snide, but he's spot-on. In a recent blog post, he neatly sums up how peer economy proponents appear to advocate selectively for its place in the formal economy.

[Peer economy] Is collaborative consumption an excuse to own more?

Since Rachel Botsman coined the term "collaborative consumption," independent analysts, corporate consultants, startups and thought leaders have all translated the idea for diverse audiences. The Mesh author Lisa Gansky* has said it's about access, not ownership. Resulting questions ask whether certain generations are more amenable to sharing. Are urban areas predisposed to sharing? Is Europe an intrinsically more sharing culture than America? Can this ethic be rolled into environmental benchmarks? Co-living, coworking, lending and borrowing… some venture that this is a market disruption driven by disgust with excess. The potential reduction in consumerism is a sign that people are returning to to what really matters.

[Peer economy] Calling out companies on socioeconomic inequality

Recently, a reporter from Marketplace called me for a radio piece. Two Harvard profs just released a study that examined the correlation between pricing and race on Airbnb. Airbnb’s racist! Well that’s not actually how the professors said it, but that’s what many headlines have looked like.


Image by Effie Yang

[Peer economy] The home stretch!

The radio silence is over; the last time I posted specifically for the Civic blog was fall 2013. I'm not continuing onto a Ph.D. after June, so before I leave my post as an academic who researches the peer economy, I'm going to report what I'm seeing and sensing as I see and sense it.


20-20! Get it?! This will also be the last semester of bad puns.

To keep myself accountable, here's a smattering of what I'll dive into this semester:

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