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Title: Sharing Economy Platforms: A study of Social Exchange, Reciprocity and Commitment
Authors: Davlembayeva, Dinara
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: A sharing economy is a socio-economic ecosystem enabling collaborative use of resources through online platforms. It is different from other economic forms of relations in that the exchange of resource may be free or for any other form of compensation. Growing transactions through sharing economy platforms reflects a change in individuals’ values and preferences in the consumption of resources. The use of platforms has implications in terms of redefining the behaviour of people and their interactions with each other. Also, it brings a social impact through providing people with access to resources that otherwise would not be affordable and redistributing underused ones. Given the assumed importance of the sharing economy in contributing to collective benefits, it is imperative to examine the drivers motivating the use of sharing economy platforms, the perceived outcomes of use behaviour and users’ commitment to platforms. This will make it possible to understand how to fuel the interest of users and will contribute to the development of the crowd-based economy. The literature on the sharing economy provides a limited view of the drivers which make people participate in sharing economy transactions. It lacks an overarching approach in examining the psychological and social factors that may facilitate or inhibit social exchange through platforms. When it comes to the impacts of the sharing economy on individuals, the literature has a speculative nature, lacking empirical evidence about the users' perspective on the outcomes of relations in terms of their social benefits and wellbeing. In addition, reciprocity in relations between the members of platforms has remained untouched by empirical scrutiny. While the literature has debated the importance of reciprocity norms in sharing economy relations, the determinants and outcomes of perceived reciprocity in the sharing economy have been left unexplored. Given the above, this thesis used a Social Exchange Theory framework for examining the drivers of participation in the sharing economy by exploring the effects of social capital factors and social values. Also, the research aimed to examine the contribution of the sharing economy to the perceived wellbeing of and social inclusion by users. To shed light on the determinants of perceived reciprocity, the thesis adopted the Equity Theory perceptive. That enabled us to examine the effect of social factors (social identity and social comparison), justice perception and individual personality traits on the formation of reciprocity perception. As far as the outcomes of perceived reciprocity are concerned, the research hypothesised the effect of perceived reciprocity on relationship commitment and coping mechanisms that people employ after comparing the outcomes against the contributions that they have made to exchange relations. To enrich the understanding of the potential variance in the relationships between the determinants of perceived reciprocity, perceived reciprocity and behavioural outcomes, the thesis aimed to test the moderating role of situational and personal factors (i.e. the value of exchange, social influence, response efficacy and self-efficacy). The research adopted a cross-sectional research design to collect data. To examine the proposed relationships, two surveys were conducted. The data were collected from the users of sharing economy platforms in the United States, who had access to the surveys through a URL. The questionnaires were designed in such a way as to provide detailed guidelines on completing the survey. It collected the demographic profile of the respondents and measured the constructs of the proposed research model, by preserving the anonymity of respondents. As a result of the first survey, 487 responses were collected. The final sample for the second survey consisted of 398 responses. A structural equation modelling approach was used to test the research model. The findings indicated that the use of the sharing economy was conditioned by the positive effect of egoistic belief, reciprocity norm, social value, and the negative effect of identification. The results made it possible to conclude that participation in the sharing economy is motivated by the need to create an image that would help people perform particular roles in the community. It was important for users that the exchange would be reciprocated either immediately or in future transactions and that the exchange satisfied personal selfish needs. The strong relationships between use behaviour, social inclusion and wellbeing, moderated by age, use frequency and use intensity, were confirmed. The analysis of the effects of the determinants on perceived reciprocity confirmed the importance of social identity, ingroup comparison, procedural justice and predisposition towards outcome maximisation. The effect of perceived reciprocity on relationship commitment and coping mechanisms (i.e. emotion-focused and problem-focused) moderated by individual and situational factors (the value of exchange, social influence, response efficacy and self-efficacy) was also supported. The results of the research contribute to the literature on the sharing economy. This research broadens the understanding of the social and psychological underpinnings of sharing economy practices. The results provide evidence about the role of community-oriented motives, which have long been debated in the literature. The adoption of the overarching social capital framework provided new insight into the nature of collaborative relations, which goes against the common and established representation of the sharing economy. In addition, the thesis provides empirical evidence about the effect of the sharing economy on social inclusion and subjective well-being, which had been speculated about before. The results contribute to the literature by explaining the determinants of perceived reciprocity in the sharing economy context, which have been under-researched previously. The examination of social factors and justice perception reconciles social and rational perspectives, while the effect of reciprocity on relationship commitment through coping behaviour sheds new light on the application of equity theory. From a practice perspective, the results provide insight into the psychological patterns of the sharing economy users, which might help regulate relations and increase collaborations. The strong relationship between use behaviour, social inclusion and subjective well-being equip policy-makers with evidence that can be set against the discussions on potential socio-economic disruptions incurred by the sharing economy. The thesis also offers implications for practice by informing practitioners about ways to ensure the loyalty of the users of sharing economy platforms.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:Newcastle University Business School

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