Working The Future

(CC BY 2.0-licensed photo by k rupp.)

“Thankfully no one can shut up about the future of work + platforms + labor and their rapid evolution. It’s going to be crazy, amazing, and horrible. Builders are building platforms, workers are working, labor is organizing, lawyers are lawyering, VC’s and foundations are funding, and researchers are developing critical understandings. Data & Society is bringing them all together to mix theory and wonkiness with what’s happening at ground level with customers, workers, entrepreneurs, courts, and on Sand Hill Road. Even the biggest work platforms should strive to do right by all: workers, consumers, and markets.”

This was the teaser for Data & Society’s Platformation, a one-day summit that earlier this fall brought together a diverse group for a multi-disciplinary discussion on platform-based labor. Participants included platform business leaders, researchers, labor organization representatives, policy experts, and those contributing labor to this growing sector. Participants raised questions and discussed concerns, but the consensus was that collaboration at a larger scale is necessary to arrive at concrete solutions in all sectors.

Huge thanks to Dean Jansen (Data & Society) and Mary L. Gray (Microsoft Research) for doing the heavy convening lifting (and the D&S staff for taking notes and making things run smoothly!).

The Platformation agenda, session summaries, and background readings are available at platformation.net.

To answer the question of how to build an equitable future of work, there is a need for new conversations, alliances, and efforts to address the lack of data and research. Two events next week aim to fill this need. While O’Reilly’s Next:Economy summit is running in San Francisco, Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider will be convening Platform Cooperativism, “a coming-out party for the cooperative Internet,” here in NYC. D&S will be following both conversations closely.

In the meantime, here’s a sampling of our community’s writings related to the question What is the future of work?

As J. Robert Oppenheimer (yes, that Oppenheimer) put it: “Our problem is not only to face the somber and the grim elements of the future, but to keep them from obscuring it.”

November 15 addendum:

The good people of the MIT Center for Civic Media reported out from Platform Cooperativism in a series of blog posts:

And while attending Next:Economy, Microsoft Research’s Mary Gray offered The Paradox of Automation’s “Last Mile”.