Digital Labor

Trebor Scholz


Trebor Scholz is a German-American writer, educator, activist, and chair of the conference series The Politics of Digital Culture at the New School. Scholz was born in East-Berlin, raised in a Russian-language school and has since lived in London, Dresden, Weimar, Portland, Buffalo, Tucson, Zurich, and San Francisco. Today, Scholz is Associate Professor for Culture & Media at The New School in New York City. He published The Internet as Playground and Factory, based on the 2009 conference of the same name. He is an activist in favor of worker rights in the sharing economy and a proponent of platform cooperativism as well as universal basic income. His teaching has focused on themes like global media activism and extra-institutional, self-organized learning. Scholz has convened nine major conferences including the series of three digital labor conferences at The New School. He has presented keynotes and lectures at conferences worldwide, including the Obama White House. He held a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and his articles and ideas have appeared in The Nation, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and The Washington Post. His book Uber-Worked and Underpaid. How Workers Are Disrupting the Digital Economy is forthcoming with Polity. Unpacking Platform Cooperativism will be published by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (in German and English). 

Unpacking Platform Cooperativism
The distrust of the dominant extractive economic model is growing, companies in the on-demand economy have been criticized for the “nullification of Federal Law,” the elimination of democratic values like accountability, dignity, and rights for workers. Every Uber has an unter; old command has been replaced with new command. However, trying to reverse the spread of contingent work seems futile; it is hard to imagine a return to the days when most people worked a 40-hour week.

Silicon Valley loves a good disruption, so let’s give them one. At the example of five different types of platforms, Scholz will offer ten principles for platform cooperativism and then aim to join the various pieces that make up this puzzle, ranging from ownership, financing, free software, design, and governance, to scale. It is about structural change, cooperative and municipal ownership models, legal protections, inventive unions, a redefinition of innovation, and collective decision-making. Platform cooperativism is a rectangle of hope. At this event, let’s start to build a politically powerful movement that expresses our ideas.