Everyone now has a digital life. From the more modest, using only email at work, to the more bulimic, using email, personal blogs, facebook, twitter and so on, an increasing number of people have access to the internet and are leaving their traces in virtual space. It involves a life that is becoming increasingly more interwoven with analogical life. No, we will not say unreal, because life on the web is real, because it has an impact, and a strong one, on our ideas, on our actions and on our feelings.

In confronting the reality of digital life,  two types of attitudes emerge. They are are not new reactions, but new versions of two attitudes from the recent past. The first is that of apocalyptic fear where people are terrorized by the dangers of digital life and react calling for stronger protection, heavier security and more draconian measures – privacy, personal data and interaction on the web must be protected and restricted by new laws and stronger legal instruments. Instead, the second is one of enthusiasm, those who can’t wait to roam about even more on the web prairies and want no protection at all, seeing no reason to rein in the innumerable and new possibilities of the freedom offered by new technology.

We want to exploit the advantages and developments provided by the digital transition, but we don’t want to be dispossessed of our data and material and immaterial value.

We don’t want to propose a practicable and effective way between these two extremes. We are convinced that digital life is life just like the analogical one, and that protection and freedom are two necessary poles of human living. The idea that we wish to explore is – between a protection at all costs, and for all, and freedom as a license, wouldn't the best thing be a true freedom regarding  the instruments each of us uses to carve out our space, to run risks and to explore as we wish? We begin from the premise that digital life on the social web is basically made up of two phenomena – exposition and participation. In the social network, like in Big Data, each of us exposes part of ourselves, parts of our identity, shreds of data, fragments of our life. All this must be negotiated as well as protected by resources that the present legislation, but also shared public ethics, provides starting from aspects of analogical life where the parameters of the identity, personal data and existence of each of us are at stake. However, at the same time, the intrinsic value – monetary, but also symbolic and existential – of the web 2.0 is literally created by our participation. And, in reality, online platforms are nothing without the multitudes of people who interact with each other. The value - monetary, symbolic and existential - of facebook and twitter without our walls, without our tweets and without our messages, even the most way out, is nothing. And those who have produced the platform, and make it work, earn the proceeds only because we, who gain nothing other than its use for ourselves and of others, we are there.

We want our data to work together just as the bytes do on the web, also producing effects in the real world.

We want our data and content to work together with the data and content of all those who wish to create further material and immaterial value openly, democratically and sharing the effects mutualistically.

There is an implicit need for fairness in our request. At this moment in time, web creativity renders massive economic rewards to a very few. Its economic distribution is similar to what happens to the stars in the sporting world and show business. The famous athletes and performers earn millions while those at the lower rungs of the ladder have difficulty making ends meet. The same happens in the world of the web. Here the first inventors and investors fill their coffers, while all the isolated and minor contributors participate without any economic return. Our proposal is to establish a fairer balance that, through the cooperative system, allocates a part of the profits to each of us in proportion to the level of our input and the usefulness for others of the results we have obtained.

But it's not only a question of fairness. It's also a question of efficiency. A more widespread redistribution of profits makes the system more stable and sustainable. Moreover, redistributing also means allocating more resources to the middle social levels who have more purchasing power. In this way, the aggregate demand is maintained and, thus, the economic system as a whole. The present crisis is a clear indication of how the radical inequalities - those of the star system - don't work.

Finally, our proposal should involve a higher level of participation in the creativity of the whole digital system. More equality among the participants - which we want - makes skilled access easier and more widespread. Thus, in all probability, the possibility to compete and come up with new digital discoveries should lead to benefits.

In conclusion, we propose to introduce an old instrument into this new reality. This instrument has shown that over two centuries it has been able to merge consumer protection, strength in numbers and managerial flexibility.  This is the cooperative platform with its democratic and mutualistic forms of governance (one person-one vote). Let's imagine that a community of users sets up a cooperative and says: our members will organize themselves to protect their data - making use of our lawyers, and that means - enhancing their participation - being able to negotiate their profiles en masse - and that means, their participation is suitably enhanced. We propose that at the moment of registering on one of the social networks, a new participant should be able to choose different ways of registering and participating. And that there is also a cooperative option that offers a viable alternative for those who wish to manage, themselves, their own data and percentage of co-participation of the  value, also economic, generated based on each person's input. Cooperative commons is the means to make this option viable, firstly, by thinking about self-management and the enhancement of digital life, and secondly, by creating the first online community cooperative and producing a web software that makes cooperative participation, for those who wish it, palpable and practicable. This means being openly protected and co-participative in digital life.

Sebastiano Maffettone

Vanni Rinaldi

Giuliano Poletti

Gianfranco Pellegrino

Alfonso Papa Malatesta

Paolo Spagnoletti

Stefano Za

Andrea Resca

Simona Capece

Alessandro Lanni

Michele Bocchiola

Giuseppe F. Italiano

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