Ownership vs. Access

It’s getting serious. It’s time for THESIS. It might change radically, but right now I think I want to investigate the idea of ownership. I will explore our urge to own, and which factors need to be present to enable sharing. So. Here is my thesis proposal v.1.0:

To achieve full freedom in life, you must never own more than seven things – or else, they will own you.

I remember this opening line from a TV-commercial from my childhood (see video). A Hindu takes a break from his meditation to tell us this, and he seems at total peace with his life and his seven possessions. Then the scene shifts from serenity to his busy everyday, and he can tell us that everything else in his life, like his flat-screen TV, his fancy fridge, washing machine etcetera, they were all leased from a leasing company called THORN.

With a humorous approach, the commercial told us that we all actually really need these items – even a Hindu with a holy cow as a treasured possession can’t really get by in life without a flat-screen TV. So the commercial sold the dream of luxury and the freedom to choose the latest models. But I remember that this Hindu’s first sentence really resonated more with me than the craving for a fancy flat-screen TV. I don’t think I ever will have only seven possessions, but I dream of a future where we all can get closer to it through using services for sharing, swapping, streaming etc.

For my thesis I want to explore the idea of ownership. What makes us feel like we need to own something, rather than just having access to it? Which factors need to be present for us to be willing to give up our ownership? What characterizes a successful collaborative consumption service, and what is the cultural and business context it lives in? How is the community around the service organized and moderated? How might collaborative consumption, like the use of CouchSurfing or ZipCar, change the people involved? What does a world of products based around access rather than ownership look like?

I believe that the right kind of services can make people think differently about their own life, their neighbors, and the world we live in. They can make us feel more connected to one another, which again can inspire trust, optimism and positive actions. Providing well-designed frameworks for sharing and collaboration could very well lead to behavioral change not only within the frames of the service, but beyond the focus of the service itself.

I would like to research different services that enable sharing and collaborative consumption, explore and compare their models, their communities, and their users. I will choose at least six services from the “Snapshot of examples”-list on the Collaborative Consumption website, and make sure they represent the different categories defined (product service systems, redistribution markets, collaborative lifestyles). Based on the research, I hope to come up with an idea of my own for a service in this area, where I can apply the insights I get from my research.

And when it comes to research, there’s a lot to get through this summer. This list is a start:


  • What’s mine is yours by Rachel Botsman, Roo Rogers
  • The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing by Lisa Gansky
  • Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky

Examples of services for renting, sharing, swapping, or trading of physical goods, time, skills etc:


2 tanker om “Ownership vs. Access”

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