UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn recently issued a manifesto that calls for cooperative ownership of digital platforms. Corbyn took a page from the growing movement comprised of efforts to collectively own and democratically govern our workplaces using apps, websites, and similar technologies. Platform Cooperativism takes many shapes. It could be a multi-stakeholder co-op whose work is sold online, like Stocksy, or it could be a support organization like the Data Commons Cooperative, which facilitates the exchange of data between organizations. In all cases, it is what cooperation looks like in a digital age.
A new book, Ours to Hack and to Own, by the key organizers and contributors to Platform Cooperativism defines the movement and presents examples. Contributors to the book include cooperators, theorists, organizations, and CDI’s own fiscal sponsor, the Data Commons Cooperative. As a founding member, CDI sent Executive Director Noémi Giszpenc to present about the work of the Data Commons at the inaugural Platform Cooperativism conference. Her talk is below.
The book promises a “new vision for the future of work and a fairer internet.” The book jacket elaborates:
Real democracy and the Internet are not mutually exclusive.
Here, for the first time in one volume, are some of the most cogent thinkers and doers on the subject of the cooptation of the Internet, and how we can resist and reverse the process. The activists who have put together Ours to Hack and to Own argue for a new kind of online economy: platform cooperativism, which combines the rich heritage of cooperatives with the promise of 21st-century technologies, free from monopoly, exploitation, and surveillance.
The on-demand economy is reversing the rights and protections workers fought for centuries to win. Ordinary Internet users, meanwhile, retain little control over their personal data. While promising to be the great equalizers, online platforms have often exacerbated social inequalities. Can the Internet be owned and governed differently? What if Uber drivers set up their own platform, or if a city’s residents controlled their own version of Airbnb? This book shows that another kind of Internet is possible—and that, in a new generation of online platforms, it is already taking shape.