Beyond the black mirror

A lot more than messages and to-dos is happening right now beyond the shiny surface of our devices.

Paolo Tripodi


The tech sphere of an interconnected world evolves so fast that we often tend to assume as given things that were absolutely unconceivable just a few years back — or often even less — like letting a complete stranger sleep on your couch or caring to someone’s dog while he is on vacation.
Fostered by a new wave of digital businesses most of us know about
by now -Airbnb, Uber, Taskrabbit, Dogvacay, you name it- what has been labeled by analysts as sharing economy is now going mainstream, pushing society towards new paradigms, whose understanding is becoming crucial both for makers and clients of the digital industry.

Access over ownership

We haven’t always been into sharing as we are used to today: it was only year 2000 when Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich printed out and hand-delivered right at Napster’s offices in California a list of more then 300.000 users who were downloading songs by the band through the platform.

File sharing has been for us the first significant experience in which we saw the access to a resource such as music to be uncoupled from its ownership; while it’s still possible for you to buy a record at your favorite shop, it’s more often the case today you are paying a subscription fee to enjoy a whole library of tunes. Even if those records are not “yours” –how can they ever be actually?– it’s yours the right to listen to them freely as many times as you want. While you’re listening, that same library can be accessed at the same time by millions of others.

With social media playing a crucial role, what we had largely experienced with files is now being extended to the real world: from underused assets such as houses and cars to the spare time we have from our main occupation, we make use of new digital marketplaces to enable us and other people directly access each other’s resources. It’s more about transport rather than cars, more about accommodation rather than hotels.

Relationships over transactions

An interesting article published some time ago on Forbes reports to us the story of Gavin Escolar, who’s possibly be the first Uberpreneur in history, as his interviewer defines him. While driving people around San Francisco trough Uber and other similar applications, this guy is using his car as a showroom for his jewelry business, pushing its yearly revenue up to some hundred thousands.

What he is doing is just letting passengers show up interest without putting any pressure, only then he tries to establish a conversation.
What would have otherwise been just another transaction between a jeweler and his customer, is here put in the set of something closer to the beginning of a new friendship, other than a good business opportunity.

Behind stories like these you can spot a massive value shift towards humanness that relies on our most inherent behaviors and the constant need we have for creating meaning out of experience.

Trust as a new currency

If you were in San Francisco and had to choose who to take your Uber ride from, chances are you could stumble into Gavin’s treasures because of his full star rating on the platform. If you are trying to stand out in a network of complete strangers, you must consider reputation to be one of your most valuable assets. The same goes for every other digital platform connecting people all over the world: restaurants on Trip Advisor, hosts on Airbnb, sellers on Ebay.

As trust we build online is now contextual to a specific platform, services like TrustCloud or Traity are working to bridge the gap between our several reputational records, that will end up being accessibile from a unique dashboard.

As dreamy as this may sound right now, our digital trust is going to be a substantial part of our CVs, as it’s already true for programmers and other tech professionals: whether or not they have a full marks degree from the best university is today far less significant to an employer than their ranking on platforms like Github or Stack Overflow.

Next future is contextual data

The huge amount of quality data about our behavior as customers and sharing-peers is going to be the connecting tissue of every different moment in our daily routines.

Whether from our phone, our car, or our wearable device of choice, data will guide us towards actions throughout the day in a seamless, context-awaremanner: realtime information about traffic matched with your usual paths will result in a notification about the best track to choose to get to point B on time. As it’s true for digital reputation, integration between different services and datasets is now the challenge to embrace to make this happen.

A shared understanding

Those outlined above are some of the new scenarios enabled by an economy based on sharing resources directly between peers; regardless which end of the thread we happen to be, it is important for the future of this conversation that every player is involved with awareness.
I think designers, developers and other people creating the foundations of these new roads will make a difference by sharing their understanding with clients and other actors, so we can make informed choices and be together in exploring new directions.

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