Workshop “Studying Technical Mechanisms for Supporting Sharing Communities” @ ECSCW 2020


Technology is a key component in the emergence of the commercial sharing economy and community-oriented collaborative economy initiatives. Housing cooperatives, community gardens, food coops, tool libraries, skill swapping arrangements and other citizen initiatives use digital technologies for collaboration, communication and coordination purposes, and are included under the same umbrella of the collaborative economy. In the latter cases, reuse, recycling, mobilisation of existing resources and initiatives have a real impact on the local economy.

The workshop will examine and explore the relationship between these enabling technologies and the emerging initiatives and communities. The aim is to identify research themes and gaps in the related work, and work towards a better understanding of core technical mechanisms and trade-offs in the design of future and inclusive platforms for the sharing economy. By ‘mechanisms’, we mean technological mechanisms that play a role in enabling, ordering, structuring, hindering, shaping and have various other impact or effects on practice within sharing communities. This invites open questions and speculations such as:

  • What is the link between specific technical features and how the community and sharing practices develop?
  • How do technical features and platforms affect the social and governance processes of a sharing community?
  • What are the key technical enablers in growing or successful collaborative economy initiatives?
  • How can we conceptualise the relationships and inform both technical CSCW research, design practices and support local community intiatives in appropriating technologies in a sustainable manner?

We recognise that there is no causal effect between how a community uses a platform or how activities unfold and then technical mechanisms, however, we believe that it is possible to identify and discuss common use patterns, effects and probable relations between one or more technological mechanisms and sharing and caring practices. Hence, our workshop is intended to focus on the technical features and infrastructures that support the collaborative practices and community aggregation, in relation to their effects on collaboration and economic relations.

Themes and topics

  • Platform taxonomies: How can we analyse and categorise technical mechanisms from a socio-technical perspective?
  • Ideals and Conflict: What happens when community values and ideals conflict with those embedded in the tools they use?
  • (Un)intended dark designs: What happens when a community appropriate commercial technologies in terms of uintended effects and emerging dark designs?
  • Organising on and around platforms: How can communities deal with various organisation and governmance models imposed by technical platforms?

See workshop website for more background and details on the themes.