“Commercial Friendships”: Exploring Models of Sociality in the Sharing Economy

Maxine Dakin

Student thesis: Master thesis


The sharing economy has emerged as a dominant, or even disruptive, business model by enabling private people to rent, lease, share or borrow a variety of different product and services through an online platform. However, literature on the dynamics of the relationship between stakeholders is scarce. The objective of this research is to explore how different models of sociality develop, and is reconciled between stakeholders in the sharing economy. Further, the objective is to determine how the presence of money influences the social interaction between stakeholders. Using Airbnb as the case company, the research follows an embedded case study strategy to explore the topic qualitatively. Nine semi-structured interviews were conducted on the sample consisting of participants – both hosts and guests – of Airbnb. The research identified three models of sociality - market price, equality matching and communal sharing - either in participants’ actions or in their rhetoric. Further, the role of money became essential in explaining how models of sociality develop, as it enables host to 1) regulate demand and 2) generates a ground zero between hosts and guests, were other less contractual and formal models of sociality had room to develop. Further, the research argues that the role of the platform provider extends beyond their function as an intermediary between the two customer groups as they provide hosts and guests with the market price model of sociality, as an assurance, in case hosts and guests fail to implement other models. The research coined the term commercial friendships to describe the relationships between hosts and guests, as it captures the essence of a relationship in which has some profound commercial features, but which also seek a more intimate form of interaction. The research presents implications and directions for further research.

EducationsMSc in Business Administration and Information Systems, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages189
SupervisorsMatthias Trier