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Hitch-hiking on social media Ridesharing groups on social media are an example of the sharing economy. However, the downsides of the sharing economy warrant more attention, says researcher Juhana Venäläinen. TEXT SARI ESKELINEN ILLUSTRATION RAIJA TÖRRÖNEN PHOTO VARPU HEISKANEN

FINLAND IS A COUNTRY OF LONG DISTANCES.

“What kinds of services can be produced by

In areas affected by downsized public trans-

communities, and to what extent? That’s a ques-

portation, a message to a ridesharing group can

tion we need to ask. Ridesharing is not a public

secure a ride from one’s home to the desired

service, nor can it become one. People need to

destination at the price of split fuel costs. Easy

have real possibilities to live outside metropoli-

and convenient!

tan areas,” Venäläinen says.

Traditional hitch-hiking is increasingly being

In addition to the sharing economy,

replaced by ridesharing groups on social media.

ridesharing could also be described as a form

Finnish ridesharing groups have nearly 250,000

of the solidarity economy. According to Venäläi-

members in them, with big cities and university

nen, various social and cultural trends inspire

towns boasting the largest numbers of groups.

sharing among people. For instance, many are

“To some extent, ridesharing groups focus on

concerned about the environment, trying to

routes in eastern and northern parts of Finland,

find increasingly effective solutions and cutting

where public transportation is limited,” says Juha-

down on consumption.

na Venäläinen, who studies ridesharing groups.

“Cars parked on roadsides inspired the founder of Blablacar to create a ridesharing service.”

RIDESHARING, if anything, is a good example

Ridesharing is also strongly motivated by

of the sharing economy. According to Venäläin-

the desire to cut down on fuel costs. Other forms

en, the discussion around the sharing economy

of the sharing economy can also help earn some

is linked to a wider discourse on the role and

extra money.

future of the welfare state. There is a global ten-

“This, in turn, is linked to the wider issue

dency to move in the direction of a new model

of how work is changing. It’s worth considering

where people take greater responsibility for the

whether the accepted reality in the future is

production of services.

that our livelihood comes from several smaller sources of income, such as renting out a room or driving a ‘peer-to-peer taxi’.”

NEW DIGITAL TOOLS also motivate the creation of economic communities, as they facilitate collaboration between people who do not necessarily even know one another. According to Venäläinen, the role of sharing platforms warrants increasing attention. He feels that marketisation, for example, is not discussed as much as it should be.

“Does the sharing economy really democratise economic structures, or does it consolidate economic power via digital tools? That’s a good question.” JUHANA VENÄLÄINEN Researcher

32 UEF BULLETIN 2018

“The excitement around the sharing economy is sometimes naive and lacks critical assessment. Does the sharing economy really democratise economic structures or does it consolidate economic power via digital platforms? That’s also a good question.” The sharing economy’s various side-effects also raise concern. A concrete example can be

UEF Bulletin 2018  
UEF Bulletin 2018