Platform Cooperativism



My notes from the Platform Cooperativism conference at the New School on November 13th and 14th. Some great conversations around important ideas. There was no solid consensus on where to go next or how to practically solve the issues being raised, but I saw this as a result of cautiousness rather than lack of ingenuity. Tech and possibilities that were considered, such as blockchains, were met with well deserved skepticism.

Equality of efficiency leads to cooperative platforms / models

 - software development vs. ride sharing
 	- Individuals can be more productive within some systems and will gain more

Individual advancement within Uber is limited. You can only drive so fast / pick up so many people . . .

Network Effects

- What chance do co-op platforms have at dislodging corporate platforms?

Decentralization from inception - otherwise large corporate interests can step in much easier.

Yochai Benkler

40 year trajectory of building inequality

skill-efficiency-income divide

Institutional mechanisms favor higher earners.

Cooperativism vs. What?

- Unions, Social Democracy
- Working within the structure for more representation vs. changing manner 
of ownership.
- via FOSS

Marketing -> Surveillance Economy

- tracking
- big data

Extraction models stemming from FOSS, non-market solutions and tools, “commons based peer production”

Slack in the market still allows ethical choices to be sustainable. these choices “are not economically inferior”

Technology is raising the point of concentration. ( Aggregation of value capture?) I think the point here was that technology can have a centralizing effect where value capture trends towards singular points.

Lower the transaction costs for cooperative involvement. A great idea.

Robin Chase - Peers, Inc. Buzzcar

Uberization of activism - Uber pushing its agenda through its app, “De Blasio’s Uber”

“Sharing” [economy] should be an equitable split in earnings and responsibility (contribution)

Tom Slee - Trust

Technology stacks are neutral things, but they should have out values embedded within them. By building with tools that have our desired outcomes baked in, we’ll be better off…

Rating systems dissolve gatekeepers - more democratic, self-managing

Ironic(?) that libra software is used in surveillance / the NSA contributes to FOSS

Private ownership of reputation systems is a generally bad thing. No bell curve as the responses usually reflect satisfaction. Used as a “guestbook” as opposed to a real representative metric.

Rating systems are used as justification for non-regulation. But they don’t tell the whole story behind the subject. See: Uber drivers w/o criminal background checks, Airbnb hosts owning enormous groupings of properties, destroying neighborhoods.

Private systems are engaging in a different conversation from regulation. A poor rating does not usually reflect the issues that regulations address. Usually more trite, personal issues, rather than fire code and safety violations.(Things the consumer shouldn’t really be judging themselves. Chase: ‘we assume cars on the road are up to standards. . ‘) This leads to ‘what if’ questions which aren’t answered. See: Life and Death on AirBnb

Speaking openly of others seems to be a naturally uncomfortable thing.

Corporations hold massive amounts of power within the state, and also the platforms (the Internet)

Innovation via the state does occur. Often at the city level.


Backfeed - distributed governance.

DCO = Decentralized Collaborative Organization

DAP = Decentralized Application

Spectrum between DCOS and DAPS (From Human to Machine)

Evaluating contributions in a decentralized manner. i.e a blockchain, but moving away from computational / quantitative measurements. Work not based on math, but human processes. Plus, add context

Reputation on centralized infrastructure tends to fail.