What Happened to the Future?

Artwork by James SeiboldHi there! We’re just a few weeks away from the third #platformcoop conference at The New School in New York—a celebration and strategy session for a truly democratic internet. It’s called The People’s Disruption, and it runs all day November 10 and 11.

If you can come to just one part of it, come to our free, open-to-the-public Friday night event, “What Happened to the Future,” at 7 p.m. on November 10. It will include:

  • Alicia Garza, founder of #BlackLivesMatter
  • Yochai Benkler, Harvard University
  • Alicia Wong, Roosevelt Institute
  • Douglas Rushkoff, author of Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus

Learn about the Friday event here, and register for the full conference here. A million thanks to my co-organizers, Camille Kerr, Trebor Scholz, and Palak Shah.

Study and hone

I’m now in my third year of helping to create CU Boulder’s MA in Media and Public Engagement. I haven’t talked about it much, mostly because of the busyness of doing it, but now I feel like I should. My colleagues and I have worked hard to create a space where creators of diverse backgrounds can come and study together the crafts of media and social change—activists, social entrepreneurs, narrative hackers, solutions journalists, future academics who want to get their hands dirty, and more.

Maybe this is something you need. Maybe it’s something your community needs. We need you.

Please consider sharing this program with anyone you think might be interested. Let me know if you have questions. The application deadline for this year is January 10. It’s a lot of time and it isn’t.


This fantastic story of a weekend inside a black women’s secret society is just scratching the surface of the much, much bigger story Jessica Gordon Nembhard tells (h/t Phil Klay).

My Study Circle teammate Caroline Savery just published an epic on the Trumpocalypse via the young platform co-op Cosmos.

Bourdieu is useful for analyzing online reputation systems.

This is one of the better Zuckerberg think-pieces lately, but this one takes us to some solutions.

Isabella Bird’s A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains is helping me sleep.


  • 2017.11.07: New York, NY – Lecture on Catholic cooperative economics at St. John’s University
  • 2017.11.07: New York, NY – Lecture on Catholic cooperative economics at St. Joseph’s College
  • 2017.11.10-11: New York, NYThe People’s Disruption #platformcoop conference at The New School
  • 2018.03.07: Cambridge, MA – Platform cooperativism discussion at Harvard Law School
  • 2018.03.08: South Hadley, MA – Mount Holyoke College
  • 2018.03.10: East Lansing, MI – MSU Student Housing Cooperative

The People’s Disruption

[image: The People's Disruption]

Want to help bring democracy to the internet? On the heels of the successful platform co-op conference in Toronto, I’m now working with a mighty team of collaborators to organize November’s conference in New York, The People’s Disruption. It’s all about connecting the resources of the present with ambitious visions of a cooperative future online, featuring speakers from #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Alicia Garza to venture capitalist Brad Burnham. I hope you can join us! Space isn’t infinite! Register today (and retweet this).

Communists and Catholics

[image:Inside a wine co-op in Emilia-Romagna, Italy]

Over the summer I had the chance to join the MBA program at St. Mary’s University in Canada for a tour of the co-op sector in Emilia-Romagna, Italy. There was plenty to write home about, and I put it together in a dispatch for America magazine, which will appear in the next print issue. Read it and share it online now: “How Communists and Catholics Built a Commonwealth.”

It’s both a report from the field and a reflection on why, as we build a new economy, we should look to our past.

More Where that Came From

I’ve also been writing about stuff like how we can democratize ISPs and the little churches of St. Francis. I turned in a book draft, too! And then there are some live events coming up:

Thank you for reading, thank you for what you do.

Electricity People

Electric cooperatives in the United States

The big oil and electric companies are largely unaccountable to the communities they power and pollute. But the U.S. power grid has other kinds of companies, too. Seventy-five percent of the landmass of the country gets electricity from electric cooperatives—a wildly successful New Deal program, long maligned as communist, and now little-remembered, even by its members. These co-ops’ lobby just fought hard to end the Clean Power Plan and elect Donald Trump, but they might also become the cutting edge for a renewable-energy future.

This week in The Nation I report on the contradictory state of electric co-ops, from the promise of distributed, local generation to some of their members’ uphill battle for racial justice.

I hope you’ll consider helping to share this story, for instance by retweeting this, retooting this (if you’re in the fediverse), and liking or sharing this on Facebook.

The future of Twitter

[image: Birdies]

At their annual meeting on May 22, Twitter’s shareholders will be voting on a proposal to consider options for converting the company to some form of democratic user ownership. The proposal is an outgrowth of organizing that began with an article of mine in The Guardian last September, along with the brilliant, determined organizing of friends like Danny Spitzberg and Maira Sutton. With just two weeks to go, we’re doing all we can to spread the idea and persuade shareholders. Read more about us in places like Recode, Vanity Fair, and the Financial Times.

We need your help. Tweet your vision for the future of Twitter and sign our petition today. Or simply retweet this.

If you think the idea is crazy or impossible, tell that to the Associated Press.

More cooperative futures

[image: A photo I took of Chokwe Antar Lumumba in his office in 2015]

If you’re not watching Jackson, Mississippi, you should be. In 2015 I went there to report on the life of Chokwe Lumumba, the black-nationalist mayor who died suddenly after just a few months in office. But now his son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, has just won the Democratic nomination, all but clinching the next election. Antar is riding the same platform of cooperative enterprise and local economy that brought his father to office. We have a new rebel city.

And more. In my first article for Quartz, I wrote about why tech startups need new business models, and how we can build them.

Finally, through the delightful Colorado Co-ops Study Circle, I’m co-hosting a new, monthly community radio show, the Co-op Power Hour. Subscribe to our feed and listen up for shows on Black Lives Matter, co-op education, business conversions, and more.

Near and far

Innovation for Everyone

[image:Innovation Hub] Catch it while we still have public radio: This weekend I’ll be on WBGH-Boston’s show Innovation Hub. Listen online or over the air with your local NPR affiliate. I’m talking about Ours to Hack and to Own, the new collective manifesto for a cooperative internet that I co-edited with Trebor Scholz.

[image:Ours to Hack and to Own] The book is available now from OR Books, a fine publisher whose model bypasses Amazon’s monopolistic stranglehold on the industry. If you buy books, buy it direct. If you review books—for your blog, Goodreads, The New York Times, whatever—please consider reviewing it (email me for a review copy). If you tweet, retweet my pinned tweet about it. The success of the book and the movement it represents depend on your support.

More radio to come! The Colorado Co-ops Study Circle that I co-founded will begin our monthly radio show, The Co-op Power Hour on KGNU, a Denver-Boulder community radio station.

Anarchy Under Trump

[image:Rob Schumacher/Arizona Republic via Associated Press] We all have thoughts and feelings about things these days. I made a suggestion in YES! Magazine for how Trump’s infrastructure plan might benefit someone other than the rich. But then I tanked my chances for a place in the new administration by defending the anarchists who protested his inauguration in America. Besides, I’m not enough of an elite-insider for his taste.

Anyway, as the Financial Times reports, we’re one step closer to buying and cooperativizing Twitter out from under him.

Want more anarchy? I once wrote a book on it, plus the intro to Noam Chomsky’s collection on the subject.


  • 2017.02.23: Denver, CO – “Social Worship,” Regis University
  • 2017.03.09: OnlineTransform Finance webinar on platform cooperativism
  • 2017.03.15: Madison, WI – “An Internet of Ownership” lecture
  • 2017.04.06: Santa Barbara, CA – UCSB Community Matters lecture


[image: #WeAreTwitter ]

Usually when I throw out a somewhat crazy idea, it remains just that—a somewhat crazy idea, out there in the ether. But when I proposed in The Guardian recently that maybe Twiter users should buy Twitter rather than letting it get sold to another big company, something else happened. People started organizing. It has become the latest outgrowth of the platform co-op movement that’s the subject of my new book with Trebor Scholz (and 60+ contributors), Ours to Hack and to Own, available for preorder from OR Books.

Sign the petition at wearetwitter.global

Then RT a tweet about it here!

Meanwhile, here’s a bit more about what I’m up to.


[ Pat Kinsella for The Chronicle Review ]


Okay, that’s it. Take heart!

Ours to Hack

[image: Ours to Hack and to Own] The Internet we’ve been waiting for is now available for pre-order—or, at least, a book about it. For the past couple of years, New School professor Trebor Scholz and I have been working the support and build a movement to develop more democratic, fair, and accountable ownership models for the online economy. We organized a conference, traveled the world, and mapped the ecosystem. We also edited a book, with about 60 phenomenal contributors, from Harvard’s Yochai Benkler and Boston College’s Juliet Schor to filmmaker Astra Taylor and Frontline star Douglas Rushkoff. It’s not quite out yet—I’m dealing with the page proofs this week—but it’ll be shipping by next month from OR Books, a publisher that has built a platform-monopoly-busting business model in its own right.

Order your copy today!

Momentum is building. Just last week, UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn issued a manifesto that explicitly calls for creating platform co-ops. We hope that this book will help show that online democracy is both a live option and a moral necessity.

Cooperative advantages

[image:Photo by Nathan Schneider for The Nation] I’ve been continuing to follow a bunch of different leads along the cutting edge of economic democracy. In The Nation this week, read about Denver’s 800-driver taxi cooperative vying to turn Uber’s disruption into a push for worker ownership. If they keep

[image:Photo collage by Adam Mignanelli for Vice] Meanwhile, in the September issue of Vice, I return as economics columnist with a report on Enspiral, a remarkable co-working network based in Wellington, New Zealand, which shows how trust can become not only a cooperative advantage, but a competitive one. If you missed it, also, I recently reported for Vice about the latest on ColoradoCare, the controversial ballot proposal poised to bring cooperative, universal medical coverage to all the state’s residents—now, with the help of Bernie Sanders.


Upcoming talks and trips:

  • 2016.09.29: Alma, MI – Alma College
  • 2016.09.30: Grand Rapids, MI – Aquinas College
  • 2016.10.06: Omaha, NE – IGNITE at Creighton University
  • 2016.10.12: Quebec, CanadaCollaborative economy session at the International Summit of Cooperatives
  • 2016.10.20: Boulder, COMALfunction with the Media Archaeology Lab
  • 2016.11.02: Austin, TXHHHI HComp plenary
  • 2016.11.11-13: New York, NYPlatform Cooperativism conference at The New School
  • 2016.12.08-09: Cambridge, MA – Harvard Religious Literacy and Journalism Symposium
  • 2017.02.09: Nashville, TN – Belmont University Faith and Culture Symposium
  • 2017.04.06: Santa Barbara, CA – UCSB Community Matters lecture


[image: The Row Boat] You might have noticed that I’m writing from a different email address. Over the past few months I’ve pivoted from a public self-presentation heavily weighed toward modes of transportation: nathanairplane, The Row Boat, etc. As much as I enjoy transportation, I’ve decided to reorient my self-presentation around the name my parents gave me when I was born. So now this is where you can find me and my stuff:

And watch out, because I’m still playing around in various ways, like for instance with a shorter form of the URL; both http://ntnsndr.in and n@ntnsndr.in work right now but we’ll see if it really seems worth keeping. In the meantime, see y’all there!

Free the Land

[image:Nia and Takuma Umoja]

What would it take for black lives to matter in America?

In this month’s issue of Vice magazine, I take a long look at one answer to that question in Jackson, Mississippi. There, in 2013, voters elected black-nationalist lawyer Chokwe Lumumba as mayor based on promises of direct democracy and cooperative enterprise. Lumumba died unexpectedly less than a year later, but the story of what he tried to carry out in Jackson remains a possible future for Black Lives Matter—especially now that BLM spokesman DeRay Mckesson is running for the mayor’s office in Baltimore.

Please share this story far and wide! You can simply retweet this or share this. You can also download the print spread.

In addition to the excellent editorial work by the team at Vice, I’m grateful for the photographs by William Widmer, who also took pictures for my Al Jazeera America (RIP) feature on transgender Catholics.

More cooperation where that came from

Vice illustrationI’ve been continuing to explore the prospects for a more cooperative economy wherever I can. I profiled a co-op Internet service provider in the mountains west of me; I argued in The Guardian that cooperative economics might be the best way to make good on Bernie Sanders’s call for political revolution.

Together with a small, distributed team (join us!), I’m developing The Internet of Ownership, a directory of cooperative online platforms and the ecosystem that supports them. This week, also, Trebor Scholz and I are completing the manuscript for our collaborative book (with around 60 co-authors) on platform cooperativism.

In my column for America magazine this month, I reflected on Pope Francis’s emphasis on process in his governing philosophy, which can help us think through the U.S. presidential election as well as the pope’s own recent statement on family.

Speaking schedule, more or less

Check here for updates.

Opening Doors

Everyone is talking about Donald Trump. I can’t bring myself to do it. As we choose our apocalypse from among the presidential candidates, I’m starting to think that the best hope this election season may come from state-level initiatives, which in turn could open doors for the rest of the United States. This week, I profile two of the most interesting ones.


Colorado could be on the brink of embracing universal medical coverage. Thanks to an effort in recent months led by a band of doctors and volunteers, a proposal called ColoradoCare is going to be on the ballot, which, if passed, would create a quasi-cooperative healthcare system for everyone in the state. In an article for Vice, I introduce some of the people behind the effort, as well as their delectably Koch-backed detractors.

Meanwhile, a group of Oregonians wants to put a price on carbon and distribute the proceeds to everyone. In YES! Magazine, I interview Camila Thorndike of Oregon Climate, who is leading the effort. As the COP21 talks wind down and Finland considers a basic income policy, the moment seems especially ripe for such adventuresome thinking.

For more on ColoradoCare, too, see my earlier interview in YES! with its chief architect, Irene Aguilar, a physician and state senator.

Platform Cooperativism

#PlatformCoop Last month, together with Trebor Scholz of the New School, I co-organized a two-day event called “Platform Cooperativism: The Internet, Ownership, Democracy.” More than a thousand people from around the world came to help build a new breed of online platforms, with shared ownership and governance baked in—a real sharing economy. To learn more, read our manifestos at Fast Company, The Next System Project, and Pacific Standard. Relatedly, also, in The New Yorker, I reported on a new cooperative, co-working “guild” in New York that sets out to practice “slow entrepreneurship.”

Now, back in Colorado, I’m working with a fearsome team of visionaries and cooperators to strengthen the cooperative ecosystem here. More TK.


#OpenTheseDoors It’s Advent. As I wrote in my last column for America, the Mother of God is very pregnant right now. It was surprising how many fellow Catholics, who have no trouble contemplating the wounds of Christ-crucified, squirmed at reading about Mary’s stretching skin and discomfort. But whatever. This season is a great time to join the struggle to ensure necessities like paid family leave and access to the means for a safe, minimally invasive birth.

Last week, also, Pope Francis proclaimed a Jubilee of Mercy by opening the Holy Doors of St. Peter’s in Rome. In New York, some friends of mine took the occasion to call for the archdiocese to “Open These Doors” of its shuttered buildings for the city’s tens of thousands of people experiencing homelessness. Take part in their Advent calendar here, and read my interview with them at America, as well as Kaya Oakes’ report for Religion Dispatches.

Have a happy new year!

Pope Francis vs. the United States of America

The cover of the new issue of The Nation.The existence of a pope has never squared well with how we do business in the United States. In The Nation this week, as the United States anticipates and dreads the arrival of Pope Francis, I offer a report on the economics of the so-called radical pope. I draw from my decade-plus experience in the contradictions of papism, plus interviews with leading Catholic economists and economic innovators. The Nation even saw fit to include a list of some of my favorite classics of Catholic economic thought, forthcoming along with the article in the next issue.

For more on Francis, don’t miss my latest column for America magazine on the idea of the commons in the pope’s thought, as well as a controversial blog post about the ecology encyclical and an interview about just how far the Vatican has come on environmental issues.

Higher ground

God in Proof and rocks.

As much as I still love getting invited to awesome things friends are doing in New York (I do), it turns out that I don’t live there anymore. A few weeks ago my family arrived in Boulder, Colorado, where I am now serving as a professor of media studies at the University of Colorado’s new College of Communication, Media, and Information.

And what’s that book in the way of the mountains? Well, just in time for hauling my books halfway across the country, my dear God in Proof has been released in a lighter, convenient paperback edition—the perfect companion for adventuresome bike rides. Get your copy today!

Debts worth having

Are there debts worth having?

We’ve lost our language for talking about debt—for knowing the usurious from the upbuilding, the good from the bad. That’s why you should be sure to pick up Yes! Magazine‘s current “debt issue”, full of stories and wisdom from people like Charles Eisenstein, Laura Gottesdiener, and Raj Patel. I’ve got an essay in there too on the question of what debts are actually worth having. Pick up the issue from newsstands today, and look for my essay online starting September 15.

People’s platforms

Platform CooperativismYou might have noticed that a lot of my articles over the past year have dealt with efforts to build a more democratic Internet. Those efforts are now building toward a first-of-its-kind event at the New School on November 13-14: Platform Cooperativism: The Internet, Ownership Democracy. Featuring co-op developers alongside tech CEOs, venture capitalists alongside domestic workers, my co-organizer Trebor Scholz and I are trying to throw an historic coming-out party for the cooperative Internet. Register now.

To learn more about what we’re up to, see my new manifesto in Pacific Standard‘s “future of work” series, “Owning What We Share.”

Moneyless elf

One last thing I’d like to share with you is a story that appeared recently at Killing the Buddha, an oral history I recorded last year while working on an article for The Nation about a group of hackers modeling their commune in Italy on a medieval monastery. One evening when the others were gone, one of those hackers, elf Pavlik, recited a detailed account of living for the past five years without money or government documents. Read what he told me here.

Slow Computing

For about a decade now, I’ve been undertaking a gradual and ever-escalating experiment in using free and open-source software for my everyday needs. It has come to feel like an integral part of my work as a writer and thinker; the computer, after all, is often the chief companion of my day. This has become all the more important as my reporting has focused on resistance to profit-driven economies and domineering ideologies. In the new issue of The New Republic, I write about the pleasures of the community-based technology I use. I mean it as an invitation and a plea—to join the challenging but satisfying task of aligning our digital lives with our analog values, to use technology that depends on how well we build together and learn from each other.

Read the article in The New Republic here. To help spread the word about it, retweet this, share or like this, and upvote this.

Has the Time Come for Universal Basic Income?

Across the political spectrum, the idea of a no-questions-asked payout for everyone is gaining momentum. I’ve written about how Silicon Valley is getting behind the concept as an antidote for what automation is doing to the job market. Libertarians want it as a replacement for means-tested welfare programs, while socialists see it as a step toward abolishing the wage system. It seems like a crazy, impossible idea, but it may not be for long.

On May 26 at Civic Hall in New York City, I’m going to be part of a discussion about the prospects of universal basic income with progressive entrepreneur and activist Peter Barnes. Barnes’ proposal for a “citizen’s dividend” based on carbon emissions is an ingenious way of both mitigating climate change and strengthening the economy. We’ll be joined by scholar and basic-income advocate Michael Lewis, as well as Institute for the Future fellow Natalie Foster. RSVP on Facebook and Eventbrite here.

To learn more about universal basic income, listen to recent podcasts on the subject from my friends at Belabored and Disorderly Conduct.

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