Ownership in the Sharing Economy

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The decisions on a methodology to convey a study are more complex than a mere choice of methods. This is due to the philosophical assumptions which researchers rely on when defining a phenomenon to investigate and decide on the methods and processes of investigation (Gill & Johnson, 2010). Hence, research philosophy is the underlying frame of research, which aims to develop knowledge. A researcher’s values possibly impact the outcome of knowledge formed through the research process. The relation between knowledge and the knowledge-developing process has to be plausible and transparent (Saunders, Lewis, Thornhill, 2016). Thus, it is necessary to address and describe the underlying ideas and motivations and values which guide this thesis.
Two main examples of philosophical approaches in research are defined as Ontology and Epistemology. Ontology refers to the nature of reality. Reality can be perceived in two ways, objectively or subjectively. Objectivism is based on explicit observations and the definition of the way things are while considering whole social entities. However, objectivism leaves aside the role of the individual within social entities. The subjective reality that is perceived by each individual is a factor which cannot be neglected when a deep understanding of individuals is desired. Subjectivism consists of interpretations and meanings that are projected towards things form the perceived reality of each individual within a social entity (Saunders et al., 2016). Extant sharing economy literature has stressed the importance of framing in regard to motivations to partake in sharing economy. Hence, this thesis is conducted on the basis of subjectivity, by analyzing the content provided by the research subjects in an interpretative and contextual manner.
Epistemology provides criteria, in what ways knowledge creation can be justified (Johnson & Duberley, 2000). It distinguishes between three approaches: positivism, realism, and interpretivism. Positivism relates to facts and measurables, which are value free and cannot be interpreted in different ways. Realism can be subdivided into direct realism and critical realism. Direct realism assumes that senses reflect things exactly as they are, while critical realism argues that senses influence perception leading to a gap between things and cognitive processing. Realism, as well as positivism, strive to observe things the way they are perceived. Interpretivism differs from the other two approaches by considering individuals as ‘social actors’. It aims to reveal how a society is formed by differing individuals. Interpretivism seeks to unveil deep insights, which include interpretations by the researchers demanding a high level of empathy (Saunders et al., 2016). Within this study, since motivations and values of individuals are the key element, an interpretivist approach is most suitable. The collected data from research subjects is interpreted and grouped by the researchers under consideration of the contextual meaning conveyed by the subjects.


The research philosophy of a study defines its research approach. Generally, a deductive approach or an inductive approach can be chosen. A deductive approach is based on existent theory, seeking to falsify hypotheses (Gill & Johnson, 2010) and is generally used in a positivist study. Inductive approaches, on the other hand, are generally used for studies guided by interpretivism through the formulation of theories based on observations (Saunders et al., 2016; Malhotra, Birks, & Wills, 2012). Inductive approaches can be utilized if a field of research is identified, but the theoretical framework concerning this field is limited or nonexistent (Malhotra et al., 2012). As outlined in the literature review, many studies aim to explain motivations to partake in the sharing economy. Thus, this study seeks to explore the differing motivations related to the factor of ownership allocation, which has so far not been assessed in research. This follows an exploratory classification of the research purpose rather than a descriptive or explanatory classification (Saunders et al., 2016). Within inductive approaches, probing and in-depth questions aid participants in elaborating the nature of a broad theme (Malhotra et al., 2012). This study seeks to use those methods to grasp the complex theme of motivations in the context of ownership allocation in car sharing.

Research Design


Each research requires a clear research strategy, but no strategy is exclusive to a certain research approach. Instead, the different research strategies available (experiment, survey, case study, action research, grounded theory, ethnography, and archival research) can be used to complement each other in pursuit of answering the research questions (Saunders et al., 2016). This study adopts a grounded theory strategy. In grounded theory, data generated from multiple observations is used to constantly test predictions in order to derive a theoretical framework. Grounded theory is considered a ‘highly creative’ process, but ‘not perfect’ (Saunders et al., 2016). Grounded theory provides the researchers with a strategy, which is highly interpretative and based on high amounts of qualitative data. The key to succeeding when applying grounded theory is ‘distilling the essence’ of the gathered data. Thus the data needs to be structured and grouped in themes which form the core of the theoretical contribution to research (Langley and Abdallah, 2011). This thesis seeks to establish the gap in research considering the ownership allocation of goods within the sharing economy. Thus, the collected data is critically interpreted in terms of ownership allocation to unveil whether it has an effect on sharee motivations to partake in car sharing activities.

Research Choices

Data collection can be distinguished between qualitative and quantitative data collection. While quantitative refers to data collection of numeric data, qualitative data collection generates non-numerical data such as words, pictures or videos. Each collection technique can be used individually (mono-method) or in combination (mixed-method) in research design. Within each data collection technique, one or multiple analysis procedures can be utilized (Saunders et al., 2016). Qualitative research is typically used to understand a phenomenon by exposing an individual’s experience or behavior and is suitable to study organizations, groups, and individuals (Ghauri & Grønhaug, 2010). The flexibility of qualitative data collection allows researchers to explore several aspects of a problem area to derive in-depth insight, whereas quantitative data collection is a logical and controlled approach (Ghauri & Grønhaug, 2010). This study utilizes a qualitative mono-method to collect in-depth data. Qualitative in-depth data enables the researchers to unveil the range of meanings that research subjects associate with ownership allocation within the sharing economy. Those meanings (in positive, negative or indifferent expression), lead to the understanding of behavioral motivations to partake in the sharing economy.

Time Horizons

The time horizons of research studies can be cross-sectional or longitudinal but independent of research strategy and method. The longitudinal research investigates change and developments over time, whereas cross-sectional research is the study of a particular phenomenon at a particular time (Saunders et al., 2016). Due to the time constraints of this research and the dynamic development of the sharing economy, this thesis seeks a cross-sectional study of the phenomenon.

The Cases of car2go and Getaround

Case Sampling

As outlined in the literature review, extant studies have so far not compared sharing economy platforms with high degrees of similarity. The car sharing cases of this study are sampled based on similarity and dissimilarity criteria. Primarily, sample cases are required to be a form of free-floating-carsharing-services (Le Vine & Polak, 2017). Secondly, the technological usage needs to be similar. This usage refers to app-based user interfaces to search, reserve and rent cars. The similarity in price is an additional criterion of similarity that sample cases need to fulfill. Severe differences in price may result in economic participant motivations to overshadow the data collection process. Another sampling criteria require the cases to be existing, market established platforms in order increase the relatability for participants. Nevertheless, this research requires the case sample to differ in the aspect of car ownership allocation. One case platform is required to offer access to peer-owned cars for sharing, whereas the other is required to be single-entity that owns and offers access to the cars for sharing.
Two cases were chosen based on the criteria mentioned above: car2go and Getaround. Both cases fulfill the above criteria of similarities as well as dissimilarities. car2go is the worldwide market leader in the FFCS industry and is present in various metropolitan areas. Getaround is a leading FFCS platform in the United States of peer-owned vehicles and operates on similar technological grounds as car2go. Both cases hold a sizeable market presence with users in several locations or countries that participants can relate to. car2go and Getaround are similar in their service portfolio except for the characteristic of the ownership allocation of the cars. Minor differences between both cases are present but acceptable as a limitation of this research. Considering that this research seeks to explore real motivations with regard to ownership allocation instead of providing a experimental research with hypothetical cases, the minor differences in the cases are acceptable as a limitation of this research.

1 Introduction
1.1 Background
1.2 Research Problem
1.3 Research Purpose
1.4 Research Outline
2 Theoretical Background
2.1 The Sharing Economy
2.2. Ownership in the Sharing Economy
2.3 Motivations to Partake in the Sharing Economy
2.4 Research Questions
3 Methodology 
3.1 Philosophy
3.2 Approach
3.3 Research Design
3.4 Research Ethics
4 Findings 
4.1 Identified Motivations
4.2 Perception of Ownership Allocation
4.3 Differences in Motivations
4.4 Visualization of Motivational Differences
5 Analysis and Discussion
6 Conclusion
6.1 Contribution to Research
6.2 Managerial Implications
6.3 Limitations
6.4 Future Research
IV List of References
Differences in Sharee Motivations to Participate in Car Sharing with Regard to Ownership Allocation

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