The Commons Platform wants to build an alternative media infrastructure - but starting from values first

“Like a Jellyfish”, Commons Platform

So much experimentation going on in the space between everyday community life, and broken political systems, where network technologies flourish. As we write regularly here, we have enough on our hands trying to resist the seduction and addiction tactics of the major information corporations.

So it’s good to hear about people who invite technologists to build their software from a set of values first, which - if users explicitly agree to them - will shape the functionality of the software before it gets locked in.

We’re delighted to introduce to you the Commons Platform - Sophie Varlow the founder, Nick Wood co-founder, and several hundred participants involved already. Their vision and mission is below:

What is it?

The Commons Platform is a new social media platform, based on values, built by everyone for everyone and owned by everyone. It is private and secure, open source and decentralised, and enables everyone to collaborate on community organising, resource-sharing or anything else that makes their lives better.

What does it do?

As it grows people are able to create collaborative alternatives to the extractive monopolies like Uber, Airbnb, TaskRabbit etc by sharing resources and skills and trading with each other without intermediaries.

By creating a wiki of the supply chains, employment practices etc of companies, it is even possible for everyone to create an ethical commerce alternative to Amazon.

We are also aiming to be a platform for independent media and meaningful content, where members can set their preferences to find content that is curated and helps them to get involved with the things they really care about.

What are the advantages?

All of these solutions will be interoperable leading to more ease: for example if you need a drill you could find out at a glance who in your neighbourhood has one you could borrow, or if someone is giving away/selling one, or where you could buy one at a local shop so that money stays within the local economy, and you could even have it picked up and delivered to you by someone in the network who is a driver or just someone passing by – all on the same platform without needing to open different windows for ebay/freecycle/amazon etc.

At scale it would start to change the narrative about what is ‘profitable’ outside of the network too: as large numbers of people get together to source products and services that are ethical it drives companies and corporations to produce goods in ways that cause less harm.

What are our aims?

Our aim is that the Commons Platform enables a new way of organising and collaborating on a local and global level, puts power back into the hands of communities, creates safety for those most marginalised, helps people engage with each other and media in a healthy way, and creates a new economic framework within the network which values everyone and all forms of labour/contribution – even those currently not recognised in existing economic systems – leading to much fairer wealth distribution and more equal societies.

We also aim to increase digital inclusion and digital literacy so that this is available to more people who currently cannot access the internet.

Rather than an internet of things, we are building an internet of people and connections that enable everyone to share things, skills and time in ways that contribute to a better world for everyone.

The Commons Platform is clear that mission, vision and values - and a community that supports them - comes first in the process, and will seek technologies which then serve that. Their vision for the platform’s future is that it becomes:

  • secure, decentralised, open source, commons-owned, social network that anyone in the world can join (see digital inclusion) and that will never be extractive of resources or data (see our promises on data etc)

  • community that anyone can join and use safely and be themselves, including those whose identities are currently marginalised or vulnerable

  • A place where anyone can share anything with anyone else – things, skills, data; where people don’t need to set up their own website or need a bank account to be able to share or trade with each other

  • A new economy within the platform, where people can negotiate according to their needs rather than exploitative ‘market value’, and where that value/money/cryptocurrency stays in local economies

  • Where people can act together in large numbers to change the prevailing narratives – e.g. an ethical commerce portal where everyone can share data about which companies are most ethical, and decide in large numbers to put their money where their values are, or get group discounts on ethically produced goods

Very congruent with many of our aims and initiatives at A/UK - we hope to be joining them in various projects soon.

More here. And BTW, they happen to think that a great metaphor for decentralised organisation is like jellyfish.