2nd prize – Nic Wistreich



'Is there a co-operative alternative to capitalism? Open Source Capitalism, Why and How'. Synopsis


The web, as the biggest experiment in decentralised global collaboration in history, is powered by two concepts - open source software and motivation via social rather than monetary capital - which have more in common with co-operative values than the free market. Noreena Hertz recognised in her essay for Co-operatives UK that co-ops are the ‘open source version of capitalism’. For those coming from open source software development, it could also be said that open source is the co-op version of capitalism. “

In 2010 $2.3tn of trade in the G20 alone was dependent on systems and software built and maintained outside of the capitalist concept of competition and financial incentive as the best driver of innovation and productivity. “If it were a national economy, the Internet economy would rank in the world’s top five, behind only the U.S., China, Japan, and India”.”

Bringing together the lessons about what motivates us as individuals with the methods to mobilise and organise large distributed groups of people to address the urgent needs of our planet, seems our best hope to begin change quickly enough.

This could come through co-ops, governments or the private sector. For as long a private enterprise is funded from sources far removed from users, workers and those impacted by a product or service, co-ops seem to be the structure least corruptible to shareholder interests and distorting influences to achieve that.

There is a co-operative alternative to capitalism, and it is working at a huge scale already, just outwith a co-operative structure. The challenge for the co-op movement is to apply these lessons and get closer to these communities. For those without a technical background it may seem daunting, which is why the motivation should be that people want to work differently, they want to c0-operate and do work that solves problems, and want to enjoy that as summed up by Raymond: “It may well turn out that one of the most important effects of open source's success will be to teach us that play is the most economically efficient mode of creative work.”


In 1999, while writing a business report on media rights during a university break, Nic discovered two things: that the global media business was stacked against independent creators, and that the Internet might have an answer to this. A few months later he quit his film degree  to co-found and run Netribution, a website for indie filmmakers. The dotcom crash happened a week later, but the site was popular enough to encourage them to continue it, funded by writing for other websites, research jobs and filmmaking. Since then, Nic has worked as a writer, VJ, researcher, publisher, web designer and consultant, and is co-author of a self-published book on film finance (http://fundyourfilm.com) that sold over 11,000 copies. Throughout this time the focus has remained on the cultural and social potential and challenges of technology and networked communication; and how best to use this space to empower independent creators to get their work funded, made and seen. There's more info at http://visuali.st or @netribution on Twitter.


Download the full essay here.


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