You may have noticed the terms “sharing economy,” “peer economy,” “collaborative economy,” and “collaborative consumption” being used synonymously. Ideas like “crowdsourcing,” the “maker movement,” and “co-creation” are being thrown into the mix. The space is getting muddy and the definitions are being bent out of shape to suit different purposes. So, do I think these terms have different meanings? Yes. Are their common core ideas that explain the overlap? Absolutely.
People have asked me why I have not publicly clarified this earlier. To be honest, it is hard to do so without being accused of trying to “defend” a term. The words used concern me less than how they are being defined, and the core meaning of the space being misunderstood. Definitions are hard, especially when they are trying to capture new ideas never expressed before. As Bertrand Russell famously once said: “Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize until you have tried to make it precise.” When I first began writing about this space nobody knew how big it might get. Its growth and expanding nature are, for the most part, a good thing but we need clear definitions that will enable us to move forward with a common understanding.