Rethinking Sustainable Design: Question 7 – Scaling

The scaling up of local sharing systems often results in sort of monopolies (one large bike share per city) and de-individualization (sharing same bikes = loss of personalization and self-expression) because they are nested within capital economies in which cost-effectiveness and efficiency are the primary objectives?

Because many sharing systems involve the transfer of physical things between people, there is a localism to them that often resists scaling-up. At best, one is in a situation of ‘glocalism,’ where a transnational corporation is forced to tailor its otherwise standardized global offerings to the particularities of a local culture.

On the other hand, public transport systems tend to be monopolies. I do not expect individualization opportunities to be afforded by my subway carriage or my bus or taxi. Part of the issue here is why people feel the need to individuate themselves through the things they use (being personalized), if they do.

Sharing systems are not an utopian end of history – meaning, once they are in place, everything will be alright, without any need for further development or struggle. Sharing systems afford less materials intense lifestyles, and different kind of economies, ones that are more participatory and less alienatingly monied. But there will be plenty wrong with sharing systems in the future, both because they will be monopolistically profiteering or have inequitable access or just be badly designed.


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