Reflecting on my enlightening interaction with Professor Trebor Scholz, his visionary approach to platform cooperatives profoundly influenced my perspectives on the future of work and the well-being of gig workers. His insights have been a cornerstone in the development of DAOcommons, reshaping my understanding of cooperatives as potent tools within a capitalistic framework.
Scholz's exploration of digital labor, especially his critique of the gig economy and extractive social media platforms, resonates deeply with my research on "Data Ownership and Wellbeing of Gig Workers." He highlighted the plight of workers on platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turk, often invisible and underpaid. Scholz also pointed out the deceptive practices of the so-called "sharing economy," where companies like Uber and TaskRabbit commodified peer-to-peer culture for profit, neglecting worker sustainability.
In 2014, Scholz introduced the term "platform cooperativism," a transformative concept blending the cooperative model with digital platforms. This idea, imagining workers like Uber drivers or Deliveroo couriers as owners and operators of the platforms, opened up new pathways for sustainable economic models. He stressed the importance of tangible steps towards a better society, positioning platform cooperatives as vital links between current realities and a more equitable future.
The global response to Scholz's platform cooperativism has been remarkable. Millennials, in particular, found his ideas appealing as they sought democratic, technology-facilitated organizational forms. This led to the formation of support groups and cooperative start-ups worldwide, furthering the movement. Scholz’s Platform Cooperativism Consortium has become a central body in this movement, providing essential support in policy, advocacy, and community building.
Scholz's advocacy at various levels, from U.S. Senators to labor ministers of the G7, and his efforts in grassroots organizing have been crucial in promoting this model. He acknowledged the challenges cooperatives face, like marketing and funding, but also pointed out the unique advantages of the platform model, such as access to innovative funding methods and broader worker organization.
The political leverage gained through worker aggregation on platforms, according to Scholz, creates opportunities for meaningful collaboration between unions and platform cooperatives, challenging traditional ownership structures. His call to action is clear: to truly transform the platform economy, we need to build and support new economic models that not only critique but also offer viable alternatives to existing systems.
The inspiration I draw from Trebor Scholz’s work is profound. His vision aligns closely with the ethos of DAOcommons, underpinning our efforts to create sustainable, autonomous organizations. His advocacy for platform cooperatives not only challenges the status quo but also illuminates a path toward a more equitable and empowering future of work.
Interview with Trebor Scholz on digital labor and platform cooperatives. ILO.org
Scholz, T. (2014). Concept of platform cooperativism.
Scholz, T. (2016). Platform Cooperativism Consortium founding. [platform.coop]
Scholz, T. (2018). Advocacy for platform cooperativism. [platform.coop]
Scholz, T. (2018). Platform cooperatives and worker organization. [platform.coop]