Usage of Facebook for Inter-city Ride Sharing in North Macedonia
Authors: Mijalche Santa & Anita Ciunova Shuleska, Ss Cyril and Methodius University, Faculty of Economics in Skopje
Country: North Macedonia
Case study type: Local initiatives
Keywords: Ride Sharing, Facebook, Affordances, Non-dedicated platforms
The key idea behind this initiative is by using Facebook features to enable ride-sharing for individuals that commute between the cities Veles and Skopje in Republic of Macedonia. In a closed Facebook group individuals can post offers of free seats in their vehicle available for sharing or they can post requests for free seats available for sharing. Based on the published post, interested parties make arrangements through Facebook messenger and/or mobile phones.
Facebook is not a digital platform dedicated to facilitating ride-sharing like Uber, Blabla car and others are. The use of Facebook as a ride-sharing platform can be a result of several factors:
- lack of presence of dedicated ride-sharing platforms through which individuals can organise ride-sharing. This requires people to identify other ways how to organise ride sharing.
- strong presence of individuals on Facebook as social media. This provides sufficient number of individuals that can act as a driver or passenger.
- large number of individuals from Veles need to commute on daily basis to Skopje and to return back to Veles. This ensures that there is a continuous need for facilitation of the ride-sharing practices.
The use of Facebook for organising inter-city ride-sharing is interesting for two reasons:
- First, it shows how in a context where there is no dedicated platforms for ride-sharing people can use other non-dedicated platforms to organise ride-sharing as one of the most complex sharing economy activities
- Second, it shows that technology might not be the most important aspect of the sharing economy, but the affordances that are result of the relations established between the people and the available technology. This provides different perspective for research of sharing economy and opportunities to identify how sharing economy can evolve in contexts where is a lack of dedicated platforms.
The lack of dedicated centralised provider enables the value of the business model to be distributed among the members of the group. Group members gain monetary value i.e. saving on travel costs, or other values like speed, convenience etc. 5000 members and more than 60 post per day demonstrate the value of this group for its members.
The possible positive impacts of this initiative are: sharing transportation minimises the number of cars travelling from one city to another city, lowers the traffic congestion in the city of Skopje and consequently reduces the air pollution having in mind that recently Skopje has been listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) amongst the most poluted cities in Europe. Ridesharing also lowers the expenses of people traveling between the cities which is very important in a country where the average salary is low. On the other hand, ride-sharing decreases the need of people to use public transportation (buses and trains) resulting in lower demand for the services provided by public transporting companies and subsequently problems of sustaining their business.
The key themes covered in this research-in-progress are:
- Using Facebook for inter-city ride-sharing in a developing country
- Justification of affordance theory as a lens for theorising the empirical findings
- Identify socio-technological mechanisms that enable ride-sharing through non-dedicated digital platforms
The purpose of exploring these practices is to answer:
- How ride-sharing is organised through non-dedicated platforms and
- What are the socio-technological mechanisms that enable it?
To explore Facebook as non-dedicated ride sharing platform, we used a case study research. The distinctive need for the case study comes from the need to understand complex phenomena and to retain the holistic and meaningful characteristics of this phenomena. More specifically, the case study has a distinctive advantage when questions of why or how are asked for contemporary set of events over which the investigator has little or no control. We have used interviews as a main method to collect data. We aim through in-depth interviews to understand the experience of the individuals and the meaning they make from using Facebook as platform for organising ride sharing. Because this is an exploratory research, we have used half-structured interviews. We had a list of predetermined questions that leaded the interview, but during the interview and based on the answers from the interviewees we asked additional questions to the interviewees.
By reflecting of what we observed in the Facebook groups and based on interview information we preliminary found that key dimensions for effective use of affordances are: sufficient, trust and multiple exit points. Sufficient means that the information provided are adequate in quality and quantity for the actors’ needs. The participant can have different extend to which they provide information in the post for car offer/ car request. Furthermore, Facebook post features do not constrain the number of words or type of information people add, but again participants publish information that is sufficient for the other participants to make a decision to bid or not to bid for the ride-sharing. Trust is the strong believe in the reliability of the group. We could see a community trust that what is published in the posts or shared through the messenger will be realised. During the interviews, interviewees had hard time to identify when something which was agreed was not delivered. Finally, multiple exit points mean that members of ridesharing Facebook group can leave Facebook at different points and continue the organisation of the ride- sharing through mobile conversations. For example, first exit point could be if the post contains the mobile phone, the second is if the person interested in ridesharing is not satisfied with the profile of the person behind the offer/request and third when the mobile phone's number is exchanged through messenger.
This research-in-progress explores the practice of ride-sharing that is realised through Facebook although Facebook is general social media platform lacking features for organising ride-sharing. We think that this is a non-usual case and as such it can help us to better understand the mechanisms behind the sharing economy where there are non-dedicated platforms. On a theoretical aspect we make contribution by demonstrating the usability of the affordance theory for developing context-based theories of effective use and the benefits of using affordance- actualisation lens.
Since large part of the communication and organisation of the ride-sharing is done online within the Facebook group and in order to get insight in these communications we will use Netnography. Netnography is participant—observational research based in online fieldwork. It uses computer-mediated communications as a source of data to arrive at the ethnographic understanding and representation of a cultural or communal phenomenon. So, to improve and validate the results we will continue the interviews and will further engage in nethnographic research.