The lack of normative guidance in the sharing economy

This extract from loc 335 of Anna Weinar’s Uncanny Valley captures something I find fascinating about the so-called ‘sharing economy’: the challenge of creating normative guidelines for novel forms of interaction which these platforms have facilitated.

It was my first time paying to stay with strangers. The apartment was clean and welcoming, full of overstuffed furniture and bowls of fruit, but I didn’t know whether relaxing with a book on the sofa or borrowing kitchen implements to slice a ripe peach would be considered a breach of the home-sharing platform’s terms of service—I’d only booked a room, after all. The policy had extensively covered the company’s liability but didn’t offer any specifics on how to behave. To play it safe, I walked carefully between my bedroom and the bathroom, as if the hallway were a grooved track—as if I were trespassing, intruding on a family and a life that did not belong to me.

Reflections on governance often focus on rules, regulations and verification but normativity, as a micro-social question about how people comport themselves in situated interaction facilitated through the platform, should be seen as equally important.

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