But the further away people get from their immediate social circle, the more important trust becomes in facilitating sharing.
That's why systems for reputation building have become such an important part of any new collaborative consumption venture, with members being rewarded for model behavior and finding themselves disadvantaged when they don't honor agreements or otherwise misuse or abuse the system.
A new venture called Favortree is taking that idea to its logical conclusion—turning sharing into a social gaming experience by allowing users to trade favors or goods with each other, growing different kinds of "fruit" on a virtual tree—which can then be exchanged for more favors. PSFK has an interesting interview with Favortree founder Micki Krimmel about how it all works:
Similar to Farmville, the more you help, the more your virtual tree grows. Members earn and trade fruit for completing favors. And the rewards extend beyond the virtual. Every time you help a neighbor, you are strengthening your local community.
I'm sure there will be those who scoff at the notion of social gaming to encourage sharing—our grandparents didn't need it so why do we? But as I argued in my post on why the biggest barrier to sharing may be ourselves, we often do not know our neighbors and may be concerned about what kind of response we will get if we reach out for a favor.
By signing up to a game like Favortree, people are giving each other permission (and an excuse) to take that initial step and make a connection.
The game is currently trialling on two college campuses, but those interested in giving it a go can pre-register with 5 friends for early access to a beta version of Favortree.