In the interview phase of our last research project, which was supposed to focus primarily on blockchains as a technology, we repeatedly encountered an exciting phenomenon: although our interviewees were ostensibly concerned with this new technology, in many cases the threat posed by the expansion of the so-called platform economy was in the foreground. The concern was not that miraculous properties of individual technologies would give them an unassailable lead, but that the large companies of the platform economy could create dependencies among existing companies through a combination of technology, technology narratives, and conventional means of power such as capital, reach, and political influence. The issue of blockchains and DLT turned out to be an important door opener to initiate debates on how to counterbalance the perceived threat. The result, are increasing attempts to coordinate through their own corporate platforms, which on the one hand should enable synergies and efficiency gains, but on the other hand must balance difficult issues of ownership and control. As well as pointing to new spaces of action for co-determination that may require additional competencies.
This research project explores the question of what new types of consortia have emerged in the attempt to make digital technologies such as blockchain and DLT work for established companies. The project is based on the assumptions that in this context there is an increase in forms of coordination and cooperation in the sense of “coopetition”. Building on this assumption, the essential question is which dependencies, forms of cooperation and competitive relationships will develop here and what effects they will have on employment relationships and thus on co-determination relationships in particular.
The research project relies on a “mixed-method” design and combines a qualitative-social science approach with a quantitative-economic one. On the qualitative side, we evaluate publicly available documents and articles to first elaborate on the consortia’s self-representation. Based on this preliminary information, we conduct two rounds of expert interviews with individuals from consortia, or from the supervisory and works councils of the companies involved. This qualitative research will be flanked by a quantitative-economic analysis of company data. This evaluation will compare data from companies that are active in cooperative DLT consortia with similar companies that are not. The combination is intended to produce an empirically saturated overall view of the state of DLT-oriented consortia in Germany.