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-
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
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