The Age of Sharing
The Age of Sharing
Sharing is central to how we live today: it is what we do online; it is a model of economic behaviour; and it is also a type of therapeutic talk. Sharing embodies positive values such as empathy, communication, fairness, openness and equality. The Age of Sharing shows how and when sharing became caring, and explains how its meanings have changed in the digital age.

But the word sharing also camouflages commercial or even exploitative relations. Websites say they share data with advertisers, although in reality they sell it, while parts of the sharing economy look a great deal like rental services. Ultimately, it is argued, practices described as sharing and critiques of those practices have common roots. Consequently, the metaphor of sharing now constructs significant swathes of our social practices and provides the grounds for critiquing them; it is a mode of participation in the capitalist order as well as a way of resisting it.

Drawing on nineteenth-century literature, Alcoholics Anonymous, the American counterculture, reality TV, hackers, Airbnb, Facebook and more, <i>The Age of Sharing</i> offers a rich account of a complex contemporary keyword. It will appeal to students and scholars of the internet, digital culture and linguistics.
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  • December 2016
  • 224 pages
  • 135 x 219 mm / 5 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $72.75
  • 9780745662503
  • Paperback $26.00
  • 9780745662510
  • Open eBook $21.00
  • 9781509512294
Table of Contents

Figures vi

Preface vii

Acknowledgements viii

1 Introduction 1

2 How Sharing Became Caring 20

3 Sharing and the Internet 44

4 Sharing Economies 69

5 Sharing Our Feelings 98

6 Sharing Files 123

7 Conclusion 146

Notes 158

References 168

Index 188

About the Author
Nicholas John is Assistant Professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His website can be found at
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Winner of the 2017 Nancy Baym Book Award

"The Age of Sharing is an insightful and careful excavation of the concept and practice of sharing both material and immaterial things. It broadly interrogates primates and early humans to the latest social media and 'sharing' apps, for clues about our basic human nature."
Russell Belk, Schulich School of Business, York University

"The word 'sharing' has become so ubiquitous that we rarely stop to inquire into its meanings, let alone the ideological work it does in the diverse contexts of its use. John’s engaging historical analysis of 'sharing' across three domains is essential reading, offering deep insight into the implicit values that shape our interactions and economies."
Nancy Baym, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research

"The book is worth reading for scholars of the Internet for a number of reasons. First, it is an original argument about the centrality of "sharing" to online culture. As such, it is likely to prove useful in inspiring further research and investigation into sharing as an idea and examination of its use in other contexts. Equally, the work demonstrates a useful method of looking at the discourse around and in online (and offline) spaces. It is in some ways a "keywords" book of a single keyword, but might serve as an exemplar for those interested in taking similar approaches with other key concepts. Finally, and most importantly, it is an enjoyable and engaging read; a book to think with."
Alexander Halavais, Internet Histories: Digital Technology, Culture and Society

"John has written a useful account of the tangled meanings of [sharing] and the diverse practices associated with it. The book will be of considerable interest to those working in the fields of media and cultural studies, linguistics and sociology."
European Journal of Communication
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