The research of this initiative mainly focuses on the spatial dimension of sharing. It aims to understandwhy, and in particular, howsharing activities and practices occur in the built environment.
The city is quintessentially a shared spatial environment. However, in spite of this foundational reality, the spatial dimension of sharing, especially many new emerging sharing practices, has yet to be recognised as an integral variable of the urban environment. Our understanding of space sharing practices in urban settings and the various dedicated typologies of shared spaces is only nascent. This knowledge gap is especially salient when increasingly, the information and communication technologies (ICT) today intersect with the physical urban environment, which in turn create unprecedented possibilities and opportunities for many new sharing activities—for instance, car sharing, bike sharing, shared work space, community garden and many more. Not only do the spatial attributes condition the possibilities and processes of sharing, but these sharing activities are also anticipated to affect the urban environment.
Neglecting the spatial dimension of sharing presumably hinders a fuller understanding of sharing practices, especially their processes and impacts on the built environment. On the one hand, physical space is both integral and constitutive to many sharing practices, and it can lead to the formation of new shared spaces that facilitate sharing. For instance, as a new concept of work culture, coworking creates a new spatial typology, namely the coworking space, which in return moderates on the proximity effect—rendering it more likely rather than less that convivial relationships and serendipities occur. On the other hand, the impacts, especially the environmental impacts, associated with sharing practices, which are generally thought to be less resource intensive and eco-friendly, are usually more complex and nuanced—but systemic. For example, it is well known that the prevalence of Airbnb in many cities around the world is associated with dramatic growth in the demand for, and subsequently, development of new properties—all that can result in the rapid consumption of valuable urban spaces and an increased carbon-footprint from tourism and construction. From these perspectives, the manifold impacts of sharing practices can hardly be accurately understood independent of the different variables associated with physical space. Without acknowledging and understanding the spatial dimension of sharing, one may risk narrowly conceiving, and perceiving, sharing as primarily about economic transactions, especially provided the booming Sharing Economy today. In this view, space is solely seen as the resource of economic production and consumption, rather than the foundational reality where our societies and cultures unfold, develop and evolve. In fact, central to recent discussions on the Sharing Economy is a tension between valuing sharing as an emancipatory force against the strangleholds of the neoliberal regime, and the potential economic valuation of sharing enterprises as new avenues for capital accumulation. As a basic and old social practice, sharing presumes trust and bonding, reduces aggregate consumption and overall ecological footprints, and also prompts face-to-face encounters that can lead to further openness and convivial neighbourly relations. Because many new sharing practices today are essentially place-based, space is not only a kind of ‘shareable goods’, but more importantly a generative reality, engendering many sharing behaviours that bring people together in solidarity and trust, reconnect social network and empower communities, and even lead to creation of new spatial typologies, which in turn can facilitate and foster new sharing formations. Therefore, recognising the spatial dimension of sharing activities can shape a more robust understanding of sharing, with a greater recognition of its economic, social, cultural, and political promise, while avoiding the drawbacks of a reductive econometric approach.
The research also places an emphasis, however not limitedly, on emerging sharing practices in the Asian cities. This is because, on the one hand, existing literature tends to investigate sharing activities that occur in Europe or in North America, and relatively fewer studies have been conducted on sharing practices in Asia—an emerging context for many new sharing practices amid rapid urbanisation. On the other hand, the rapid urbanisation and the rise of megacities in Asia, coupled with the rapid adoption of Smart City technologies, offer a fertile ground for studying many new forms of sharing practices that are emerging at an unprecedented scale. In turn, these new sharing practices are likely to pose novel challenges to the city, which may exert corresponding changes to the physical urban environment. Therefore, gaining a proper understanding of new sharing practices and their spatial dimension is not only an important but also a pressing need—especially given the rapid and unprecedented growth of (mega)cities in Asia.
Initiated and presented by:
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