Openness enables knowledge-sharing, which fosters innovation through a diversity of ideas. Trust emerges in networks that are open and transparent. This is how open source software is developed. There are lessons to learn for open source work.
Consider open source software versus software as a service. If you do not own the software, you do not really own your data, as they are usually useless without the software to use them effectively. The same can apply to labour. If the workers do not own the platform that provides the work, then they may be of little economic value without it. Über is an excellent example of platform capitalism that turns labour into an easily replaceable commodity. Some day that labour may even be automated, eliminating the need for drivers.
An open source network needs a core operating system that is open and transparent. The operating system is essential for the network to function but is not owned by anyone and can be taken to create a new network at any time. What keeps the network together is the trust amongst its members. Members influence the network through their reputation. Everyone has a stake in the network working better.
Labour does not currently work this way. The salaried employee has no power over the wealth generation platform. Freelancers may have more flexibility, but they are constrained by the contract relationship. An open source work model requires something similar to the relationship between corporations. Giving each worker the rights of a corporation would create a labour market of equals. In an economy based increasingly on intangible value, the primary capital is financial, itself an intangible good. This makes it open for disruption.
An open source work model might ensure a more resilient labour market and could reduce periods of mass unemployment. Open source software development brought us distributed collaboration tools such as blogs and wikis. It was also key in promoting learning out loud.
“Software developers have created an incredible educational environment for themselves that supports the idea of “public learning” … learning in a way that simultaneously makes the environment smarter.” – Dave Weinberger
Perhaps open source can inspire a new labour model for the network era.
A really fascinating post.
You write: “An open source work model requires something similar to the relationship between corporations. Giving each worker the rights of a corporation would create a labour market of equals.” Wouldn’t a cooperative model work better?
It’s hard to not collaborate to get work done. I see the overall business environment as being more cooperative, especially amongst open source workers, but they would still need to collaborate to get work/projects done.
I meant cooperative in the sense of the “cooperative movement”, I should have been more explicit.