[Book Review] What’s Mine is Yours: the Rise of Collaborative Consumption

In college I read a few things about culture, collaboration and communication, including Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone, as well as work by and work critiquing sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. These works helped influence a lot of scholarship as they shine a light on human interaction and communication among groups.

Collaborative Consumption What's Mine is Yours Book Cover

Lately, I’ve been thumbing through a book by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers – a book earnest in it’s thoughts about collaboration and equally interested in uncovering new and useful links for what makes these groups work. The book is titled What’s Mine is Yours – The Rise of Collaborative Consumption.

I’ve found it to be an interesting book with much to say about both the history and the future of consumerist culture. I think it is a well-written book with useful information for anyone interested in …

Sustainability blog Treehugger has reviewed the book and highlights the change in consumption patterns showcased and promoted in the book. As the authors throw out facts, figures and case studies related to consumer culture, evidence that people are more responsive to and interested in new methods of consumption add up. The idea that people have found increased interest (if not need) to freecycle, AirBNB and consume more intelligently and together is an intriguing one to say the least.

When you consider the works of people like Benjamin Barber, author of Consumed and Jihad vs. McWorld (a scholar who writes about consumer culture and it’s by-products – notably the infantilization of adults) it’s not very much of a stretch to think we need a change our values, attitudes and behaviors.toward consumer goods.

Moving on…

Many of the current studies and speculations about Generation Y, or the Millennials suggest a continued up-tick of the type of attributes that make them reasonable purveyors of collaborative consumption. And, as the book suggests (smartly) many of the characteristics attributed to Mellinials are in fact not limited to those of that age group.

Albeit, Millennials (not unlike other generations) on paper are paradoxical. They are more interested in autonomy and at the same time very earnestly into volunteering. They are not interested in money for money’s sake but are readily acceptive and responsive to consumerist culture including advertisements. While these attributes characterize a generation they also point to shifted expectations within and throughout (emerging) consumer culture.

Below is a video with Rachel Botsman discussing the global movement of collaborative consumption.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/14414732 w=400&h=225]
“I think for the last 50 years we’ve been treated as passive, stupid consumers. The idea of being consumer first citizen second is a really new idea. I mean it only kicked in post-war around 1950s. And what I think is interesting is that the objects being produced are really dumb as well. I mean they’re full of obsolescence. Actually what’s happening with technology is the objects are becoming smart and social. And we’re becoming smart and social again.”

The Rub

I have more to read and consider with this book. I’m also trying to read Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody and David Brooks’ The Social Animal. Without a doubt though, Mr. Rogers and Mrs. Botsman have a compelling book in What’s Mine is Yours.

Marketers should be put on notice: the visions outlined in this book present valuable insight as to how these new markets are forming. This book also gives evidence – if not game plans – for how these markets will be fueled by generations to come.

Chris Drinkut