As the platform economy reorients how industries operate, it should also challenge taken-for-granted corporate ownership models. Cooperative ownership not only shares wealth more equitably among participants, but it also unlocks efficiencies by reducing the costs of transacting and contracting with an enterprise’s essential stakeholders (Bogetoft, 2005; Hansmann, 2000; Hueth, 2014; Molk, 2014; Taylor, 2015). Online platforms have yet to enjoy the value and benefits of this model. The time seems especially ripe to take up the challenge that Marjorie Kelly (2012) has described as ‘ownership design’: What ownership structures are appropriate, competitive and just for an economy orchestrated through platforms? How can corporate structure better align the feedback loops of actual online sociality?
One collective effort to address these questions, and one in which I have been involved, has come to be called ‘platform cooperativism’. As well as a rhetorical insurgency, this initative has opened a space of experimentation in online ownership design, taking inspiration from the legacy and ownership designs of the mostly offline cooperative movement. I will present and analyze here some of the ways platform cooperativism has begun to generate ownership designs that may serve the platform economy of the future better than have the investor-owned structures that currently prevail.