The Internet Needs a New Economy
Ahead of the Platform Cooperativism conference, Nathan Schneider & Trebor Scholz on an internet economy grounded in solidarity and cooperation.
The history of the Internet itself is full of lessons and opportunities that the solidarity economy can learn from. Projects like Wikipedia and Debian – a variant of the open source operating system Linux – have established processes for self-governance online: for collaboration, decision-making, and accountability. They have shown that people spread across the world can work together. But for all the Internet has done to spread the spirit of sharing, this has too rarely extended to where it would matter most – sharing real ownership of platforms. Whoever owns these platforms will determine how we work, how we connect with each other, and what becomes of our personal data.
Platform cooperatives are not a simple fix-all solution to all our problems. Already, they take many kinds of forms, and they raise new challenges in place of the ones they address. We are certainly not suggesting that technology can single-handedly democratize society. Rather, we are trying to bring together the existing cooperative movement, with its valuable offline experience, and those in tech culture who are looking for strategies for expanding ownership and governance online.