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Podcast    H1'ed 9/1/17

What To Do About the Monster Internet Platforms: Trebor Scholz on Platform Cooperativism

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Broadcast 9/1/2017 at 4:31 PM EDT (37 Listens, 24 Downloads, 1509 Itunes)
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Trebor Scholz
Trebor Scholz
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Today's guest is Trebor Scholz. He is a scholar-activist and Associate Professor for Culture & Media at The New School in New York City. His book Uber-Worked and Underpaid. How Workers Are Disrupting the Digital Economy

He co-edited Ours To Hack and To Own, the rise of platform cooperativism, a new vision for the future of work and a fairer internet.

Interview notes and prep notes;(very rough)

Start off talking about the problems that have inspired platform cooperativism.

Looked at Facebook as a place of value creation

Then crowd sourcing,

Amazon mechanical turk. Workers making between $2 an $3 an hour

So called crowd sourcing company founded by Amazon in 2005. Their slogan is artificial intelligence, but in fact it's people. What seems like work that seems to be performed by an algorithm is performed by people in India or the United States

Original purpose of creating it was to double check entries in its catalogue. Today it is used by companies that have receipts that they can't scan. Workers hav e to type at.

Employers can decide to not pay them and they have no recourse.

This technology could be good for disabled people and parents with small children who can't leave the house. The problem is the companies--who have have followed this extractive model to extract as much as possible.

Sharing economy

Couchsurfing.com (couch sharing) or blablacar.com (ride share)

Then you get something like Uber--their ills are pronounced and obvious now.

The main problems are concentration are concentration on five platforms--

Google, facebook, yahoo, Microsoft, apple Amazon

While we rely on these platforms every day we have no say on what happens on those sites.

Economic inequality has become more pronounced through some of these digital workplaces" at the expense of worker rights such as workers comp, health insurance, unpaid leave.

What are the advantages of the big platforms?

Which are the worst offenders

A little background. Co-ops Mandragon,

How is this worse than capitalism, as McKenzie Wark writes in your book

What is platform cooperativism and why do we need it

Multi-stake holder cooperatives

Why can't we co-own them.

One the one hand we have the shift of work to the internet, more intensely since 2008.

Freelancers aren't always shortened by this economy. Some freelancers are doing very well.

For 2/3s of freelancers, according to the bureau of labor statistics, they would rather work full time.

With shift to internet you get unfair labor conditions.

Why couldn't Uber drivers own the platform.

Why couldn't platforms be owned by workers.

Corporate platforms are extremely successful at bringing together workers.

On Task Rabbit, 30% of profits

Upandgo.coop a home cleaning cooperative. They take 5% for the platform and give 95% to workers.

Movement with at least 200 platform co-op businesses.

Which sectors are particularly conducive to this work:

Home care--in Southern California there's a platform NursesCan.com

Sharable.com article.

Childcare, home cleaning pet care, consulting translation.

Peer-to-peer vs what Robin Chase, founder of Zipcars calls peers incorporated.

And what about the quote "sharing economy."

What are the advantages of platforms.

There are other models B-co-ops. There are many solutions that aim at the same thing--exploitation and non-dignified workplaces and inequality.

Creative commons.

What are the advantages of platform over conventional business.

-convenience Uber, AirBNB--people appreciate the convenience of scaled businesses that are available worldwide

Network effects--power of a given technology increases exponentially the more people use it.

What are the advantage for the worker on the supply side?

The entry to finding a gig is easier. The barrier is lower than it would be with traditional businesses. I welcome that for students or people between jobs. This can be a viable solution for a few months. But for a career or life built on those models it is very problematic--there are no contracts.

In Chicago one taxi company changed fee to 30% lower overnight. How can people plan their income. Drivers can be fired for accidents that are not their fault, with no notice, just cut off from the app.

Amazon--white collar study--every worker had cried.

Amazon workers in warehouse--tracked when they go to restroom, speak to co-worker, when they stop for even a minute--they get notices sent to them. After two violations like that they are fired.

They do replace them with robots.

Platforms take technology

Tech exists. There are open source labor platforms.

The real challenge is marketing, and socially, there needs to be a cooperative that is set up. People need to think what it means to be democratically ".

Needs to be start-up funding.. Venture capitalists refuse

Fairmondo.de cooperative competition to Amazon online market place selling fair products in Germany raised money from user.

Let's talk about analog cooperatives. Talk about Mondragon

74,000 workers--a network of companies.

Highest paid worker in a Mondragon business cannot make more than 5 times more than the lowest paid.

One in three Americans are in a cooperatives.

ACE Hardware, REI, Ocean Spray, Associated Press are "hidden" cooperatives. They are really all around us.

In the US cooperatives have created 1 million jobs, around 250 million around the world.

They don't talk about being cooperatives. It's an economic model that works.

What we need is more.

Mondragon is worked owned but not managed by workers.

Mastedon--- open source twitter alternative--they are a member org--any user pays a little bit to the cooperative to make it sustainable.

Huffingtonpost? OpEdNews.com

Tom Stites founder of Banyan , called news desert

Banyan.coop news--create cooperatively owned, local news outlets that report locally what the community is interested in.

Taz in Berlin Germany

Il Manifesto in Italy,

Positive News in UK

Concentration is so overwhelming. This is not what Tim Berners Lee or the founders of the internet ever had in mind.

What do you mean by concentration? There's such a concentration of traffic on very few sites.

There are platforms that


Top down internet

Platform coops push back against that.

What you see, especially with millennials, that traditional hierarchical companies have a hard time hiring millennials because they don't want to work for companies like that.

Platform coops draw people who are looking for meaningful work, not check in their values at the door, to contribute to something that has meaning beyond themselves.

Has there been an alliance between analog and digital cooperatives?

Platform cooperative consortium--

Nov 10-11--Conference At New School in NYC--looks at how platform cooperatives can respond to global challenges platform.coop under events

Elisa Garza, founder of Black Lives Matter, Senators, Uber Drivers from South Africa who sued UBer

People from Maker movement in Denmark.

How are analog and digital cooperatives synergizing?

Labor markets are shifting to the digital.

Traditional analog cooperatives have to see how they can compete in that world. So they have to reinvent themselves. Platform cooperative offer

In Barcelona there's a chain of bookstores, Abacus, that are cooperatively owned. Unsurprisingly they are challenged by Amazon's online model and they are trying to compete online. Same in Northern California.

There's a taxi cooperative, Green Taxi that competes with

In Italy you have Cotabo, with 5000 drivers.

Google and Amazon are so big it would seem that Platform Cooperatives would go after pieces of these.

From government side, there are intensified efforts to go after monopolies.

An objection is this will not scale so it will not succeed.

Stoxie is successful--made over $10 million last year. Photographers.

What about government platform coops?

Libretaxi, in India goes into markets Uber would never go into--rural India.

How is platform cooperativism going?

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Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect, connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media.

Check out his platform at RobKall.com

He is the author of The Bottom-up Revolution; Mastering the Emerging World of Connectivity

He's given talks and workshops to Fortune 500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and Story. He hosts some of the world's smartest, most interesting and powerful people on his Bottom Up Radio Show, and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and opinion sites, OpEdNews.com

more detailed bio:

Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind. Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big) to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, (more...)

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