Peer-to-peer exchange is transforming economic activity, through unprecedented integration of social and practical action. This project will produce a full-scale implementation of a more efficient model of it that can be emulated across many social and economic domains. Peer-to-peer exchange is the direct exchange of goods and services by citizens, mediated by a brokering entity, typically embodied as an information system. It is an emerging paradigm that integrates economic and social interaction, creating many possibilities for innovation. It encompasses diverse services such as ride sharing, everyday tasks, textbook sharing, accommodation sharing , car sharing , sharing parking, local food exchange, sharing household items, exchanging home-cooked meals, sharing workspace and expertise, timebanking, and municipal development . Many of these applications make use of otherwise wasted resources such as parked cars, empty bedrooms, and idle time, increasing the efficiency and sustainability of economic activity. Their number and size have mushroomed; they are now referred to collectively as the "collaborative economy."
Many peer-to-peer exchanges involve sharing goods and services "just in time," that is, sharing precisely when someone needs something and someone else is prepared to provide it. Thus, one key to the success of peer-to-peer exchanges is close coordination of providers/offerers and recipients/requesters. In a recent NSF project, members of the current research team investigated mobile timebanking using smartphone clients, a system in which members of a community can volunteer specific hours of labor they are well prepared to perform, in exchange for hours of labor from other community members, counting each hour equally. A key challenge was a lack of coordination in arranging "just in time" service exchanges.
This new research will investigate computational approaches to coordinating collaborative interactions mediated by contextual intelligence. Also studied will be what sorts of user, task, and interaction information facilitate effective "just in time" service exchanges, and how users appropriate and experience these exchanges. A large field trial will investigate the adoption, usability, and utilization of context-aware peer-to-peer transaction brokering and will provide early reports of results and help a variety of organizations implement techniques that have been shown to work.
The research will extend current understanding of motivations for engaging in helpful economic transactions, the formation of social connections through such transactions, and of how to enhance subjective wellbeing by fostering practical helping behaviors through context-aware technology. A prime objective is to identify strategies for contextually facilitated peer-to-peer exchange that can energize economic exchange activity, and support new kinds of exchange, while enhancing social consequences and concomitants of exchange interactions.