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How the sharing economy is changing the value of ownership

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Lyft driver picks up rider in San Francisco.
A Lyft customer got into a car on January 21, 2014 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images file

The sharing economy is exploding: People can now use services like Airbnb to stay in another person's home during a vacation or request a ride from a stranger through apps like Uber and Lyft.

As it becomes easier to connect with others to share homes, cars, chores and even leftover meals, are these services making life better?

"The idea of owning stuff seems burdensome and kind of old school," said Time magazine Columnist Joel Stein on MPR News. "It's much better to show up in an Uber car--like your own personal chauffeur which seems more impressive--than showing off whatever car you bought."

In a piece for Time, Stein tried out the sharing economy himself. He said many of the services replicate the interaction a consumer has with a small business: The owner is nicer, cares about getting good reviews and has a more personal interaction.

Nancy Koehn, professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School, also joined the discussion. The sharing economy gives consumers more perceived control, she said.

"You text the driver, he or she comes directly to you," she said. "You climb in. You've given them your credit card so that's all taken care of. Then when you get out, he or she and you rate each other. So the whole experience has a sense of more control for consumers."

A listener in Minneapolis told his story of working as an Uber driver:

What sharing communities would you like to use? Here are some audience ideas:

MPR News Associate Producer Madelyn Mahon contributed to this report.