Sometimes called the sharing economy, we continue to see the rise of collaborative consumption (carshares, airbnb/couchsurfing, etc.), collaborative production (community gardens/urban farms/homesteading, open source software, hackerspaces, distributed open knowledge projects, cooperatives, etc.), and meanwhile/temporary/informal uses of resources (pop-up shops, co-working spaces, airbnb again, etc.).

While there are many for-profit efforts in this space, there are a huge number of people working on projects that are primarily not profit-driven with the goal of meeting the needs of people in their communities in sustainable and participatory ways, sharing resources (often out of necessity) in ways that are enabled by network technologies. (Chris Carlsson's Nowtopia is a good intro to this whole thing.)

While many groups working on these kinds of projects are working independently of one another (most are spending all their time just trying to keep their projects alive), there are increasing efforts at collaboration and organization. You can start to see it emerge in efforts like the Sharing Cities Network, the Institute for the Future's Maker City concept, and in efforts like the 15-M-related Cooperativa Integral Catalana (a cooperative of cooperatives). It's possible to now see the outlines of what a "maker city" or a "sharing city" would look like - a number of collaborative projects oriented around peer to peer collaborative activity to meet community needs.

These projects are often grassroots, place-based, and working outside of "official" larger networks (a good example of a project that would fall into this category is a community garden). While these projects often have huge impacts for the people who benefit from them and the people who create them (frequently overlapping categories), they remain marginalized without a way to effectively help the wider local community find and tap into the shared/collaborative resources that these folks are creating.

The most basic hurdle is a lack of information - it's hard to figure out what's out there in your community and how you can get "plugged in." Mapping the landscape of the emerging open/p2p/diy/maker/free/sharing/collaborative movement is an unsolved problem.

There are many active efforts to solve this problem, from Shareable's Map Jams to individual efforts by non-profits and volunteers (example, example, example, example, example). Many of these efforts use proprietary software or Google services (meaning that data remains locked up and unavailable for people to use in different contexts and unavailable for civic hackers to use in building new projects and performing new analyses). For example, Shareable recommended that participants in their Map Jams use customized Google Maps, while other efforts (see examples above) use custom-developed software, which is an expensive solution that limits the ability of other communities to replicate successful solutions (especially when the developed software isn't open source). These are understandable decisions given the lack of better options in many instances, but it's not ideal.

Additionally, many of these efforts are siloed and difficult to discover. Basically someone would have to know what they were looking for to find the content, when one of the key ways that the open sharing movement (ie, not the commercial sharing economy, which has plenty of resources to devote to marketing and creating appealing UX) can get more people tapped in is by helping them discover the collaborative resources available to them that they might not have otherwise even known existed.

We see LocalWiki as one of the ways that the open sharing movement can help people discover and learn more about the shared/collaborative resources available to them in their communities. You don't necessarily have to be looking for information about your friendly neighborhood hackerspace to stumble upon it while browsing your LocalWiki. People have a natural curiosity to learn about the places where they live and a huge need for local information. But siloed efforts to map collaborative resources will inevitably have a hard time reaching audiences beyond those who are already interested.

Additionally, participatory mapping efforts that only include geographic data (with very basic metadata like "type of space" or "website url") provide limited use because it only allows someone to discover things based on what's near them (and in some instances, by the type of thing it is, ie, "community garden" or "library"). But key contextual information about the resource (hours, who's involved, what the history of the project is, how to get involved, how this project is related to other projects, and other community-determined "key information" - who knows what it might be!) gets omitted, and basic facts can quickly fall out of date. Additionally, these kinds of efforts have no way to help residents come to decisions about what resource might be most appropriate for their needs. Anyone who's come across a huge database of social services on a government website can tell you how important it is to have additional information to help you make a decision about a service provider, and community resources are just another type of local service (even if they are also an empowerment engine! :D). And finally, they don't allow people to create their own links between resources to facilitate discovery by browsing. If you've been down a wiki-hole, you understand how links (that are often creative and unexpected) between separate pieces of information can lead you down a serendipitous rabbit hole of learning and discovery.

Yelp will have a hard time providing a web interface that will help people find information about a community bookcase or an informal food distribution point because their development efforts will always be oriented towards improving access to commercial information (because this is where their funding comes from). If we want to help people get "plugged in" to the huge wealth available to them in the shared resources of their community, we can't rely on these commercial sources. We have to document the spaces ourselves on open source & open content platforms and help people discover these spaces by tapping into their natural interest in learning more about the things around them.

There are currently (as of early 2014) only very few examples of people using LocalWiki to map the open sharing landscape in their communities. For example, in Oakland, volunteers used the Oakland LocalWiki to map these spaces as part of Shareable's Map Jam in Oct. 2013. But we're working on giving every community around the world the opportunity to have a local, collaborative information source so that everyone can map the sharing landscape in their region.

We don't have to cede this ground to the companies that want to use our data to better sell us things. We can create and own the means by which people connect with each other to create true sharing cities.

Further Reading