From Global to Local Sharing Initiatives: Devising an Ethnographic Research Toolkit for the Collaborative Economy
As a part of its activities, Working Group 1 has created a methodological toolkit. With this report, we wish to share it with others who might find it useful!
What is the aim of the toolkit?
The ethnographic toolkit aims to provide a descriptive mapping of the research space within the context of the collaborative economy. It also offers a broad set of research directions and thematic categories that could inform future empirical research. Note that the themes included in the toolkit are not meant to be exhaustive, they merely outline prospective research opportunities related to the collaborative economy and describe a snapshot of the COST Action members’ research interests at the outset of the Action.
Who is the target audience?
The main target audience for the toolkit are researchers from various disciplines (e.g., sociology, anthropology, business studies, computing, information systems) who are looking into examining the collaborative economy further or who wish to explore new research directions for their work, e.g., to start a new ethnographic(ally-inspired) research case study. The toolkit was initially created by SharingAndCaring members for SharingAndCaring members but we hope it might be of use for others, too.
What does the toolkit consist of?
The toolkit consists of (a) two detailed tables that overview main thematic categories of the research scholarship within the collaborative economy, and (b) a reference table with the detailed “metadata” to allow systematic documentation of these scholarly efforts (e.g., empirical case studies) and their subsequent comparison (across members’ cases & countries).
The first table (see Annex A) draws upon scholarly efforts on the short-term rental service Airbnb, as well as its (non-profit) alternatives. Specifically, it describes three overarching research spheres: (1) interpersonal interactions and social-technical practices; (2) implications of the Airbnb platform on local communities and their economies; and (3) alternatives to Airbnb and platform capitalism.
The second - a “local initiatives” - table (see Annex B) outlines the research on local social and collaborative economies building upon the 2016 EU agenda for the collaborative economy. In particular, the table identifies seven main themes, namely: (1) motivations and expectations; (2) regulatory framework; (3) supporting digital platforms; (4) business ventures; (5) relationships with stakeholders; (6) impacts; and (7) trust.
Both, Airbnb and alternatives as well as “local initiatives”, tables offer an interpretation of the themes and provide examples of the research directions within them.
Ultimately, the ethnographic toolkit includes a reference table (see Annex C) that proposes a set of instruments to facilitate the comprehensive organization of the ongoing and future ethnographic case studies (within and beyond the Action’s members) in order to facilitate cross-case comparison.
How was the toolkit developed?
The ethnographic toolkit was devised from the empirical data we gathered from the recurring meetings of the members of the Working Group 1 (WG1) within the Action. We conducted several guided brainstorming sessions during three face-to-face meetings with the members of the WG1 in June 2017, November 2017, and March 2018. In addition to that, the core members of the toolkit taskforce compiled a synthesis of the notes from those meetings and collected feedback and additional contributions from further members of the Action (e.g., collaborators from other working groups).
We adopted a “bottom-up” approach and analyzed the materials thematically, using the affinity diagramming technique. To arrive at the present representation of the toolkit, we organized (bi-)weekly taskforce online meetings from February until May 2018 to challenge the emergent structure of our empirical categories and to corroborate our assumptions about the final composition of the toolkit. We have presented the final revision of the ethnographic toolkit at the COST Action Management Committee Meeting in May 2018.
How can I use the toolkit for my fieldwork?
You are welcome to use the toolkit in any way that you deem beneficial! If you have used or considered using the toolkit, we’d love to hear about your experiences and reflections via this form. Is the toolkit useful for you? What for? Where did it fail/succeed for your purposes?
A: Table “Airbnb and alternatives” https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.11108615
B: Table “Local initiatives” https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.11108714
C: Metadata sheet https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.11108747
D: Suggested reading materials: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B-ef5xzQZE7qSzNtVVJSZF9RVWs
Authors of this article
Anton Fedosov, University of Zurich (CH)
Airi Lampinen, Stockholm University (SE)
Penny Travlou, University of Edinburgh (UK)
Contributors to the toolkit
Penny Travlou, Airi Lampinen, Anton Fedosov, Filip Majetic, Cary Hendrickson, Gabriela Avram, Venere Sanna, Ann Light, Anna Farmaki, Cristina Miguel, Maria del Mar