An Internet of Ownership: Democratic Design for the Online Economy
The disappointments of the online economy – for instance, user surveillance and systemic labor abuses – stem at least in part from its failures to meaningfully share ownership and governance with relevant stakeholders. Under the banner of ‘platform cooperativism’, an emerging network of cooperative developers, entrepreneurs, labor organizers and scholars is developing an economic ecosystem that seeks to align the ownership and governance of enterprises with the people whose lives are most affected by them. This represents a radical critique of the existing online economy, but it is also a field of experimentation for alternative forms of ownership design. This essay presents and analyzes some of the ways platform cooperativism has begun to generate ownership designs that could serve the platform economy of the future differently than the investor-owned structures that currently prevail.