- 11:39 am - Sun, Jul 22, 2012
- 26 notes
So here’s a topic to mull over this weekend: new research on Zipcar drivers that questions whether users of that much-praised service are really motivated by the collaborative/sharing spirit … or something else.
“We really thought this would be very pro-social, pro-collaboration, pro-environment. We were starting with this theoretical baggage,” Bardhi says. And then she and Eckhardt conducted in-depth interviews with 40 Zipcar drivers in Boston. “And when we looked at the data, we were not finding any community,” she says. “People were very utilitarian, very individualistic.”
Some of these people were kind of jerks (our word, not Bardhi’s).
This Zipcar research suggests that what holds the whole thing together is self-interest, not community — and certainly not ideals about the environment, consumerism or sharing.
Granted, Bardhi and Eckhardt gathered their findings among young, urban professionals and students in Boston. And so maybe Zipcar drivers in Minnesota feel and behave differently (as might members of other “collaborative consumption” models like AirBnB). But by studying Zipcar’s target demographic, Bardhi and Eckhardt’s research offers a curious glimpse into the minds (and cars) of Millennials we may be misunderstanding.
Well! I guess my reaction to this is twofold. First, it sounds less than definitive.
But second: Maybe it’s valuable to bring this interpretation to the fore. Possibly it’s the case that beneficial/sharing/etc. services and alternatives need to appeal to self-interest in order to succeed.
I mean let’s be honest, self interest is a pretty major factor in human behavior. If a service figures out a way to channel it into a more good-for-society form, is that so bad?