What the heck is a platform cooperative?

I’m thinking about converting Level Translation into a platform co-op.

What the heck is a platform co-op?

The phrase “platform cooperative” is very new, having been invented only a little over a year ago by Trebor Scholz. Like many others, Scholz is highly critical of what is falsely labeled the “sharing economy”: AirBnB, Uber, TaskRabbit, and so on. These companies should not be associated with the word “sharing” at all, because they don’t do any sharing. They create an app (a “platform”) to connect users with people who have something to rent (car, space, time), and collect a fee for it. Here’s what the introduction to a longer paper by Scholz says:

With these new middlemen sucking profits out of previously un-monetized interactions, creating new forms of hyper-exploitation, and spreading precarity throughout the workforce, what can we do? Scholz insists that we need not just resistance but a positive alternative. He calls this alternative “platform cooperativism,” which encompasses new ownership models for the Internet. Platform cooperativism insists that we’ll only be able to address the myriad ills of the sharing economy—that is to say platform capitalism—by changing ownership, establishing democratic governance, and reinvigorating solidarity.

In other words, the Internet needs platform co-ops for the exact same reason that the tangible economy needs traditional co-ops, and worker co-ops in particular. The workers should own the means of production.

How does a platform co-op work?

That’s what we’ll be looking at in upcoming posts. We’ll talk about…

  • Membership
  • P2P organizations/DAPPs/DAOs/the blockchain
  • governance
  • reputation scores
  • can we make a living?
  • existing examples
  • technology vs. community
  • whatever else emerges along the way

A word of warning, though: I’m new to this. I have very few answers at this point, and in fact, I’m really still sorting out what the questions are. Your participation isn’t just welcome, it’s the whole reason I’m doing this in the first place. But instead of the traditional WordPress comment system, I’m using the GNU social plug-in built by my friends in Las Indias, and as long as I’m at it, I’m also going to use their GNU social node. I hope you’ll join me.