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Open Source, Social Activism And "Necessary Trade-offs" In The Digital Enclosure: A Case Study Of Platform Co-operative, Loomio.org

Sam K Jackson, Kathleen M Kuehn

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This article explores the tensions and tradeoffs facing the open source platform co-operative Loomio.org, an online tool that aims to decentralize power through deliberative decision-making. Combining discourse analysis with political economy, we demonstrate how Loomio’s politics of resistance is built directly into the architectural design and platform structure, which invites users to participate in its development and evolution. Yet by prioritizing its social justice mission, Loomio must make certain tradeoffs around data storage and management that paradoxically threatens to compromise its wider social goals. The realities of operating an open source platform are discussed in the context of the contemporary digital economy. We argue that if platform co-operatives like Loomio are to fully realize their goals, a digital commons unencumbered by capitalism requires access to reliable, affordable and accessible alternatives to the existing Internet infrastructure.