peer-to-peer-iconSharing is good, right?

What about when you charge for it? A New York Times piece on the new “sharing economy” looks at the way services like Uber, Lyft, and AirBNB characterize themselves as being all about “sharing” while at the same time charging you money for using them (and sometimes trading on the good will of their contracted workers, too).

Words like “sharing” and “partner” are basically marketing-speak, and a lot of people seem to be falling for it.

“Framing it as ‘sharing’ or ‘peers’ is a way of trying to keep the focus on the people who provide the services — and off the platforms, which may be very rigid and deterministic as to when, where and how the services are delivered,” says Erin McKean, a lexicographer who is the founder of Wordnik, an online dictionary.

Altruistic words may also lend an aura of incontestability to app-enabled transactions. After all, who wants to challenge services that invoke generous concepts like sharing?

The funny thing to me is that, even though this article didn’t venture outside of the service industry typified by Uber, you could say the same thing about applications devised to let people download copyrighted material illicitly. After all, what should they be called but “file sharing” or “peer-to-peer”? Of course, they didn’t charge money for those services—but they didn’t pay the creators of the original material, either.


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