Where open source fits in

At or near the core of any platform cooperative lies open source; not necessarily open source technologies, but the principles and the ethos that underlie open source—openness, transparency, cooperation, collaboration, and sharing.

In his introduction to the book, Trebor Scholz points out that:

In opposition to the black-box systems of the Snowden-era Internet, these platforms need to distinguish themselves by making their data flows transparent. They need to show where the data about customers and workers are stored, to whom they are sold, and for what purpose.

It’s that transparency, so essential to open source, which helps make platform cooperatives so appealing and a refreshing change from much of what exists now.

Open source software can definitely play a part in the vision of platform cooperatives that “Ours to Hack and to Own” shares. Open source software can provide a fast, inexpensive way for groups to build the technical infrastructure that can power their cooperatives.

Mickey Metts illustrates this in the essay, “Meet Your Friendly Neighborhood Tech Co-Op.” Metts works for a firm called Agaric, which uses Drupal to build for groups and small business what they otherwise couldn’t do for themselves. On top of that, Metts encourages anyone wanting to build and run their own business or co-op to embrace free and open source software. Why? It’s high quality, it’s inexpensive, you can customize it, and you can connect with large communities of helpful, passionate people.

Not always about open source, but open source is always there

Not all of the essays in this book focus or touch on open source; however, the key elements of the open source way—cooperation, community, open governance, and digital freedom—are always on or just below the surface.

In fact, as many of the essays in “Ours to Hack and to Own” argue, platform cooperatives can be important building blocks of a more open, commons-based economy and society. That can be, in Douglas Rushkoff’s words, organizations like Creative Commons compensating “for the privatization of shared intellectual resources.” It can also be what Francesca Bria, Barcelona’s CTO, describes as cities running their own “distributed common data infrastructures with systems that ensure the security and privacy and sovereignty of citizens’ data.”

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