Professional Sharing aims to encourage audiences to look at the true nature of a Sharing Economy and discuss the possible future of this hype. At the centre of the project is a Professional Sharer, a person who lives by the means of sharing. He inhabits the hypothetical world of a perfect Sharing Economy. The accompanying documentary film depicts, at least by the norms of our present age, his unusual occupational lifestyle and his interaction and sometimes conflict with the larger society, a society which can, and occasionally can’t, accept the demands of his profession.
In a world where the so called Sharing Economy prevails everywhere and at all levels, any not fully used assets of an individual can be sold to others under the name of ‘sharing’. From traditional assets such as a room or a car, to more abstract ones such as time, skills and knowledge, or from ‘sleeping’ computer processors in wearable devices to data produced from within the human body, any resource that can be harvested is constantly monitored by the algorithm and is either shared to others or used to harvest a more valuable return. Sub-penny transactions backed up by virtual currency also add value to this act of sharing.
In Japan, more and more techno-geeks rave in crowd-funding campaigns. They loudly trumpet, “This is an innovative device to share ______ with others!”. They invest in these new practices and devices, using and wearing them as they bustle around the city attempting to harvest as many resources as possible, trying to eke out a meagre living by sharing. Their value and saving projections soar and crash by the second, reliant on the market, the environment, and their own physical condition. Dreaming to live off sharing, Professional Sharers can only sacrifice their meagre resources to earn just enough to sustain their daily lives.
Fictional Sharing Platforms
Electronic energy, which has traditionally been supplied to every home, became a sharable resources in town since the users of smartphones with a larger-sized battery started to bring this energy to town. Furthermore, technology which enables us to “mine” the electricity in town from sunlight, ambient radiation, and thermoelectric effect has been developed. Now we even see the Energy Sharer’s Jacket with which mined electricity is shared with the sharee’s smartphone through the wireless charging pad on its back. The sharing rate can be either agreed between the two or based on the monthly contract with the platform provider.
Now that everyone has a smartphone or a tablet device, the screen of these devices, when not in use, should be shared with individuals and companies as a “Walking Ad Space”. Most of the adverts are so highly targeted that its sharing rate varies dependent on the area you would walk in and the demography of people who you would pass by.
The ‘sleeping’ processors in a smartphone and a tablet can be shared as well as screens. Even though their processing power is not high when they run individually, they can be a gigantic and distributed computer when they operate collectively. The most typical application has been so called co-mining virtual coins in which you would receive a dividend according to how crucial the fragments of the process you enrolled was in achieving the collective goal.
Obsessed with the mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, internet giants are always desiring for new data and tags. Sharing images taken in town with them, Image Sharers are contributors to this pursuit. They don’t care what’s in the image taken with their 360° camera, they simply capture everything surrounding them to maximise the possibility of higher sharing rate. Newly built houses, accident scenes, newborn babies, people who avoid tags on their faces…, if the image contains these highly-rated objects, that’s a windfall.
Health Data Sharing
Some of the extreme sharers go even further – they embed a sensor under the skin to share their bio data which can then be turned into their health data. Health data can be shared not only with the sharer’s family and friends, but also with medical institutes and insurance companies. As Health Data Sharers tend to think of their act as a contribution to society and a health-conscious style, they show it off by having a tattoo.
Time/Skill Sharing is a platform for the shared-working which opened up various tasks to individuals. Tasks you can assign yourself to range from rather trivial tasks like “queue for a restaurant” and “deliver a package”, to more skillful ones like “repairing smartphones”. Whenever a task which is both location-based and urgent is raised near you, you might have a chance to see a couple of people start running.
The so called Sharing Economy is booming. It’s the term used to describe services such as Uber, Airbnb, Zipcar, Task Rabbit, etc, all service providers which enable individuals to lend or sell to others their under used assets. In Uber the asset is empty car seats, in Airbnb it’s unoccupied rooms in the house, in ZipCar it’s the under used car itself that is traded, in Task Rabbit it’s one’s time and skill. As of December 2014 Uber was valued at $40bn, an amount which is more or less the same as the worth of Twitter. Sharing is the future of Buying.
While these types of services are extremely useful in reaping rewards from sharing assets (you philanthropically give some part of what you own with an expectation of minimal reward), problems have been arising in the way the operations and promotions of these practices have developed. Take Airbnb as an example. There are now more and more individuals and companies that buy properties solely to let via Airbnb. They are able to market their properties for a better price, and by exploiting the inherent nature of Airbnb are able to circumvent costly regulations and insurances which traditional property agencies would have had to pay. Consumers of course welcome a new cheaper option no matter what is entailed in the price. But the original users of the service – amateur sharers who only, from their own good will, intended to let out an empty room and who only expected a minimal reward – are suddenly forced to compete with these professional sharers, and they struggle. Their operations can’t match the scale of the professionals’. Issues like these effecting the Sharing Economy are well documented in Scott’s presentation in LIFT and in this articles by Andrew Leonard.
When I was asked to take part in the “Fab Mind” exhibition in early 2014, Mt. Gox, a BitCoin exchange in Tokyo, had just gone bankrupt with an 850,000 BTC deficit and Uber had been valued at $18bn. These events made me to seriously start thinking about the life of a “perfect sharing economy’, an economy enhanced by a virtual currency and typified by wearable technology and the like.
Aim and objective
The project’s aim is to demonstrate that the true nature of Sharing Economy is the trade of under used assets between individuals, and encourage audiences to discuss the future of these practices.
In a world of the perfect Sharing Economy, each Sharer is an investor, dealing with the value of their own assets, assets which are constantly fluctuating, driven by the forces of the economy. Decisions are made as to who to share with, what to share, when to share, where to share, and how much to share…, the worth of belongings, and of the human body itself, all constantly changing with every millisecond that passes. What matters most is the expectation of a slightly higher value today as opposed to that of yesterday or even the hour before.
Virtual currency, wearable technology, and artificial intelligence would allow this lifestyle to become a reality. While this vision is presented to us as the future of consumption, it also reminds us of the past, from 19th century rag-pickers, people who made a living by scavenging through street refuse to collect useable material for salvage, to modern day waste pickers, from prostitutes to human guinea pigs who look for saleable resources within their own bodies. They are the ones who have, or have not been, surviving by turning the economical and material disparity into resources. Would the future of a Sharing Economy be an exploitive resource-recycling platform in town?
Created for Exhibition “THE FAB MIND: Hints of the Future in a Shifting World” at 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT, 2014-2015