Use community

Like many people, I want less clutter and hassle in my life. I already have too much stuff I have to store, too many things I have to maintain and keep track of; I even have, I’ve decided, too much space… All of these things take up much of the time, energy and money I might otherwise apply to having the experiences I want in my life. I want an institutional tool for owning less and doing more.

Let’s call it a use community. Imagine a member-owned facility located in the heart of a dense urban neighborhood where I could not only access a tool library, a laundry room, a gym and a shared car, or what-have-you, but access a whole suite of services designed to outsource my responsibility for owning or buying things.

To an extent, Alex Steffen’s idea in 2007 for a use community has become the sharing economy in 2014. But the sharing economy is a misnomer. It’s largely about more efficient rental and not really about sharing at all. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it replaces community with an economy, which is a very different thing.

There do seem to be genuine use communities out there. Hackspaces, makerspaces and FabLabs are opening up all over the world. I’m curious to see if they provide more than just a service. I’m curious to find out if they provide a community, as well.

Interestingly, that tension between community and economy is very similar to—if not the same as—the tension that exists between civic republicanism and commercial republicanism.