Sharing stories

January 12, 2017


Sharing economy is a phenomenon that has increasingly gained attention during the 21st century. It has been claimed to be a functional and effective way of using goods and decreasing the environmental impact of consumption and creating long craved social interactions and community into people’s lives. But as we have noticed through our Informed Consumer studies, not everybody are as excited about it as the experts. It seems that some people are even slightly afraid of sharing.

We just wonder why.

Because, to be honest, owning is a burden. Goods need to be purchased, maintained and taken care of. And storing all the owned goods require a lot of space and cause stress. Not to mention the stress the recycling causes.

Of course, there are many rational and practical reasons for owning. Sharing is very impractical if the good is in daily use or if it is personally modified. And all goods are not shareable for hygienic reasons.

But why do we want to own objects even if they would be totally suitable for sharing? People might say that they do not trust the platforms or the regulatory uncertainty worries but really one of the main concerns seems to be:

What happens to the stories?

Objects have a huge storytelling power. They tell stories to others and to us. They might take you back to the foreign city where you lived in your early twenties during your gap year. They might remind you of the love and care your grandmother gave you when you were a child. They might be symbols of the life you once left behind.

During our visits into people’s homes we have heard a few of these stories and they never stop surprising and fascinating us. It is truly exciting to learn how people build relationships with material goods. Some objects are meaningful and special, right from the start. Like the salad spin that matches the one Kaisa had in her childhood home. Some objects people become attached to slowly with time. Like the football t-shirts that Jonas wore when he met his wife.

Material goods have not only functional duties but also symbolic meanings. No matter how trivial or dysfunctional the good might seem, it still can have a huge value to the owner. People seem to have a habit of creating personal relationships and attaching various meanings to objects which they come in contact with. Objects are tangible memories which can bring comfort and joy to the owner.

It might be that people are not afraid of sharing. They are afraid of forgetting.

The reasons behind how and why people really attach to material goods might be out of our control, but as designers we can create opportunities for it. Our challenge is to design strong services and brands that inspire storytelling – not despite, but because – they are shared.

Because in the end it is the people who create memories and meanings. Like Kalle who isn’t attached to his country house because the building is beautiful. He is attached to it because it is a place which he has shared with his family and created beautiful and meaningful memories with. The country house is just a way of conveying these memories.

Roosa Luukkanen, Junior Insight Specialist, Kuudes Helsinki