An Online Democracy: What if “The Alternet” was real?

The internet is far from perfect

It’s become hard to imagine living without the Internet. We’re so ingrained, despite knowing that on it, our data is currency – every log-in, every click, every page impression is being mapped, measured, bought, and sold – we continue using the Internet without giving our relationship to our data so much as a second thought. Well – not all of us. London based designer Sarah Gold thinks that economy needs a radical overhaul.


In the final year of a master’s in Industrial Design at University of the Arts London 2014, Gold submitted a proposal for such an overhaul as a final project. Called the Alternet. It’s received several awards and business grants since.


Not to be confused with Independent Media Institute project and activist news service AlterNet, Gold’s Alternet is a nuanced, fair trade, cooperatively run, and open imagining of what online communication can be. It’s not another Darknet.


Whereas those solutions offer hiding as an answer to surveillance, as Gold told Imperica last year, they also create telecommunication realms where no one is accountable for their actions. Gold’s Alternet would emphasize transparency and actually encourage data sharing. The difference here is that users would have full ownership over their data and decide who can access it, and in what ways. This would work, Gold says, through equipping all users with creative commons-style data licenses that are as straightforward and user-friendly as common care symbols for laundry. Further, users would be able to access databases listing all other users they have shared their data with. In theory, this would allow users to transcend their positions as consumers to that of participatory citizens, Gold says, and if interest reached critical mass it could effectually impose online democracy – food for thought.


(All photos from