Connected Consumption and Connected Economy

Macarthur Foundation Connected Learning Research Network

The 2008 economic downturn has undermined economic security for many, bringing in its wake increased levels of unemployment and under-employment—especially for youth—along with reductions in wealth and heightened economic fear and insecurity. Almost simultaneously, public attention to the looming environmental crisis of climate change has accelerated, inspiring everything from “green consumption” to government-led initiatives to combat environmental degradation. A “new economy” conversation has emerged that focuses on visions of resilience and sustainability, in which stronger, more connected communities become the social fabric for an ecologically balanced economy of extra-market and new-market enterprises. The new economy initiatives are oriented to high satisfaction, egalitarian outcomes, low eco-footprints, and enhanced levels of learning. Connected consumption is one part of these visions of resilience and sustainability.

Connected consumption, characterized by other names such as “collaborative consumption” (Botsman and Rogers, 20101) and the “new sharing economy”, is based on a culture of access, use, and re-circulation of used goods as alternatives to traditional private ownership. With the potential to foster peer-to-peer learning and social connection, ecological sustainability and economic opportunity, connected consumption has the potential to transform mobility, shopping, travel, work practices, living arrangements, service provision, household production and learning. Examples of connected consumption initiatives include Yerdle, Freecycle, Airbnb, Couchsurfing, HubCulture, Citizen Space, co-housing, Toolshare, Time banking, the maker movement, P2PU, and Skillshare. Over the course of this project, we are studying practices of connected consumption and the connected economy. In 2011 and 2012, we focused on three cases. The first is time banking, which is a non-profit exchange practice in which services are exchanged for units of time. The second is open learning, which is a sector of post-secondary education that consists of organizations that facilitate free or low-cost, peer-oriented, accessible learning experiences. The third is a local food swap. In 2013 and 2014 we added a case study of a makerspace, and case studies on Airbnb, RelayRides and TaskRabbit. Our intent is to explore the sociological significance of connected consumption, specifically focusing engagement, expertise, and efficacy, as well as how existing structures of inequality are reproduced or broken down in these initiatives.

Papers to date

After the Gig: how the sharing economy got hijacked and how to win it back (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press), 2020.

Dependence and Precarity in the Platform Economy,” 2020, Theory and Society (William Attwood-Charles, Mehmet Cansoy, Isak Ladegaard, Juliet B. Schor and Robert Wengronowitz).

The Sharing Economy: Rhetoric and Reality,” 2021, Annual Review of Sociology forthcoming v. 47. (Juliet B. Schor and Steven P. Vallas).

What Do Platforms Do?: Understanding the Gig Economy” 2020, Annual Review of Sociology, v. 46. (Steven P. Vallas and Juliet B. Schor).

Homo varians: diverse earner behaviors in the platform economy,” 2020, (Mehmet Cansoy, Samantha Eddy Isak Ladegaard and Juliet B. Schor).

Platform Possibilities: can cooperatives redeem the “sharing economy”?, 2021, in Political Economy and Justice, eds., Danielle Allen, Yochai Benkler, Leah Downey, Rebecca Henderson, and Joshua Simons, forthcoming (Juliet B. Schor and Samantha Eddy).

“The Platform Economy: consequences for labour, inequality and the environment,” 2018, The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Opportunities and Threats to Work and Welfare, eds. Jacqueline O’Reilly, Max Neufeind, and Florian Ranft (London: Roman and Littlefield International). (Juliet B. Schor)

The Sharing Economy,” The Oxford Handbook of Consumption, eds, Frederick F. Wherry and Ian Woodward, (New York: Oxford University Press), forthcoming 2020, (Juliet B. Schor and Mehmet Cansoy)

"Hosting the comfortably exotic: Cosmopolitan aspirations in the sharing economy," The Sociological Review Monographs vol. 66(2) 381–400, 2018. (Isak Ladegaard)

Putting the Sharing Economy into Perspective, Environmental Innovation and Societal Transformations (Koen Frenken and Juliet B. Schor),

Homemade Matters: Logics of Exclusion in a Failed Food Swap”, 2018, Social Problems, spx046, (Connor Fitzmaurice and Juliet B. Schor)

The ‘sharing economy’: labor, inequality and sociability on for-profit platforms,” 2018, Sociology Compass (Juliet B. Schor and William Attwood-Charles).

Domesticating the market: moral exchange and the sharing economy,” 2018, Socio-Economic Review (Connor J. Fitzmaurice, Isak Ladegaard, William Attwood-Charles, Mehmet Cansoy, Lindsey B. Carfagna, Juliet B. Schor and Robert Wengronowitz).

"Who Gets to Share in the 'Sharing Economy': Understanding the Patterns of Participation and Exchange in Airbnb," 2018, (Mehmet Cansoy and Juliet B. Schor), unpublished.

"Complicating Conventionalization,” 2017, Journal of Marketing Management, 33(7-8): 644-651 (Juliet B. Schor and Connor Fitzmaurice).

"Dependence and Precarity in the Sharing Economy," 2017, (Juliet B. Schor, Will Attwood-Charles, Mehmet Cansoy, Isak Ladegaard, Robert Wengronowitz).

"Does the Sharing Economy Increase Inequality Within the Eighty Percent?: Findings from a Qualitative Study of Platform Providers," Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, (Juliet B. Schor), 2017. Also available at:

“Old Exclusion in Emergent Spaces” 2016, Ours to Hack and to Own: The Rise of Platform Cooperativism, eds, Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider, (OR Books).

“Paradoxes of Openness and Distinction in the Sharing Economy,” Poetics, 2016, 54:66-81. (Juliet B. Schor, Connor Fitzmaurice, William Attwood-Charles, Lindsey B. Carfagna).

“Getting Sharing Right,” Contexts, (Juliet B. Schor), forthcoming 2015.

“Distinction at Work: Dynamics of Inequality in a Makerspace,” (Will Attwood-Charles and Juliet B. Schor), in process.

“An emerging eco-habitus: the reconfiguration of high cultural capital practices among ethical consumers,” Journal of Consumer Culture, 14(2):1-21, 2014, (Lindsey B. Carfagna, Emilie A. Dubois, Connor Fitzmaurice, Thomas Laidley, Monique Ouimette, Juliet B. Schor and Margaret Willis).

“Collaborating and Connecting: The Emergence of a Sharing Economy,” Handbook on Research on Sustainable Consumption, eds., Lucia Reisch and John Thogersen, (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar), (Juliet B. Schor and Connor Fitzmaurice), forthcoming 2015.

“New Cultures of Consumption in a Boston Time Bank,” Sustainable Lifestyles and the Quest for Plenitude: Case Studies of the New Economy, Juliet B. Schor and Craig J. Thompson, (New Haven: Yale University Press), (Emilie Dubois, Juliet B. Schor and Lindsey B. Carfagna), 2014, pp. 95-124. (excerpted in Rotman Magazine, available as case write-up: Connected Consumption: A Sharing Economy Emerges, case write-up, Harvard Business Review. Available at

“From Fast Fashion to Connected Consumption: Slowing Down the Spending Treadmill,” in Culture of the Slow: Social Deceleration in an Accelerated World, ed., Nick Osbaldiston (Basingstoke,UK: Palgrave Macmillan), 2013, (Juliet B. Schor).

“Debating the Sharing Economy,” Essay published by the Great Transition Initiative, Tellus Institute, available at, October 2014, (Juliet B. Schor).

Beyond Learning-as-Usual: Connected Learning Among Open Learners, DML case study, (Lindsey “Luka” Carfagna), September 2014, available at:

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