In this blog we keep you updated about the books we are reading, what we learnt from them and how they inspire us and our work. Spreading politics and economics, technology and ecology, this blog is our collective reading list.
Entry 9 – 12 – 2020
“I am reading the 2017 book Ours to Hack and to Own edited by Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider, who have been the main advocates of the ‘platform cooperativism’ movement. Platform cooperativism provides an alternative way of thinking about the internet, labour and the so-called sharing economy, underpinned by principles of democracy and collective ownership.
I love this book because it gives an insight into how we can organize the Internet differently, without monopolies, surveillance and exploitation. This quote of Nathan Schneider says it all: “Why does a village in Denmark have to generate value for some fifty people in Silicon Valley when they can have their own version of Airbnb?”.
Ours to Hack and to Own basically says: a different internet is possible. And it is already happening. The book has drawn my attention to the ideas, people and cooperatives that shape this new world.”
“In Less is more: how Degrowth will save the world, published in the fall of 2020, the Economic Anthropologist Jason Hickel tells a story on how our economy actually works, hereby revealing clues about how we can change it. I would recommend it to all of those eager to be engaged in having a meaningful dialogue on how a post-capitalist economy organized around human flourishing and ecological well-being rather then endless capital accumulation, may look like.
I love how Hickel brings in a more anthropological perspective to the degrowth discourse, as he makes the connections between the rise of capitalism and that of a dualistic worldview. As Hickel points out, ‘the real problem of capitalism lies in the realm of ontology – in our theory of being’. Dualist philosophy considers humans as separate from and superior to nature, and it is what many growing up in capitalist societies have been thought to believe. It is built on ideas of thinkers like Plato and Descartes. As Hickel argues, dualism is responsible at a deep level for our ecological crisis.
An amazingly thought-out and inspiring read!”
“I am reading Wired Norms by Niels ten Oever of the University of Amsterdam. Wired Norms shows how social and legal norms evolve in Internet governance, and how they are resisted and subverted by participants in governance processes.
I love this book because Niels brilliantly shows how a distributed ‘network of network’ – which is the internet – isn’t neutral or value free, but is biased towards a specific and dominant – or in Niels’s words, an ‘entrenched’ – norm: the architectural norm. This norm carries the implicit conviction that Internet governance solely functions to increase interconnectivity and that this function transcends all other functions – and norms.
Wired Norms, besides an intriguing read about how Internet governance works, is an important reminder how commons-inspired governance – distributed, voluntary, ‘democratic’ – produces outcomes that are not necessarily ‘good’ for everybody, or every participant or Internet user. I was reminded by this book that we should make explicit the values that we would like to see when exploring, researching or creating commons-inspired governance arrangements.”
Entry 12 – 5 – 2021
“Weapons of Math Destruction is a book by Cathy O’Neil, published in 2016, which instantly became a classic for anyone interested in the social impact of the use of algorithms. O’Neil illuminates how algorithms work, where they are used and how they turn into Weapons of Math Destruction (WMDs), discriminating on a vast scale and increasing exisiting inequalities.
I return to this book whenever debates about algorithms or artificial intelligence gets complicated or obscure. O’Neil offers a clear analysis of the mathematical models we call algorithms and shows how to recognize a full-blown WMD when confronted with one. She posits that they share three key features: they are opaque, unregulated, and difficult to contest.
Reading this book gave me some fundamental knowledge about rigged mathematical models, how they work and how they are violating basic human rights and increasing inequality, while they could be used for the exact opposite.”