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[jox] Critical Studies in Peer production or Critical Studies in Commons Production?

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Hi Rob, all

I've been away from my computer for a couple of days and was looking forward to checking to see if there were any neat-o messages and I am "fully stoked" there are, and that one of them is a comment by Rob on this list! 

Its true that peer production effort is being co-opted by capital. But I think there is another side to this, which is that what matters is the issue of to what extent peer production is not only commons-based, but also commons-oriented. 

It is its quality as commons, i.e. as negation of the commodity, which opposes commons-oriented peer production  (C.O.P.P.?) to the capitalist market, which is based on the rarity of some commodities, or the protection of non-rare ones through copyright. 

The governance question is then mainly a question of how to favour the production of this commons. There is usually some overlap between different modes of legitimate domination, which can be described in neo-Weberian terms (collectivist, charismatic, etc) or as some other combination of regulation/governance mechanisms, see for example: 

DEMAZIÈRE D., HORN F. and ZUNE M. (2007), « The Functioning of a Free Software Community. Entanglement of Three Regulation Modes - Control, Autonomous and Distributed », in Science Studies, vol. 20, p. 34-54.

In this regard, the fact that the journal is called Critical Studies in
Peer Production (CSPP) is starting to bother me a little, because it
puts, in my view, too much emphasis on the _process_ (peer production,
which is to certain extent dependent on, and enmeshed in capitalism)
rather than on the sought-after _result_ of the process, the production of
commons. So I am wondering if a more appropriate title for the journal might not
be Critical Studies in Commons Production (CSCP)? 

Since the journal has not yet been put up for indexation it would not
be a big deal to change the name, we could just explain why we felt it
was necessary. 




On 08/22/11, Robert Ackland  <robert.ackland> wrote:

I decided it was time to de-lurk and comment on the "comparing peer
production to capitalism" thread(s).

A caveat is that my interest in peer production is more practical than
academic, having used of linux and other open source software in my
research since the late 90s.

What I don't understand about some parts of this thread is where peer
production is compared directly with capitalism.  To the extent that PP
is a new mode of governance, isn't more appropriate to compare it with
other existing modes of governance e.g. market and hierarchy (and
network, for that matter)?  The paper on this I keep on going back to

Demil, B. and Lecoq, X. (2006). Neither market nor hierarchy nor
network: The emergence of bazaar governance.  Organization Studies,

Even the production of FLOSS is in my opinion not pure peer production.
In a lot of FLOSS developer communities there exists hierarchy and
network, alongside PP.  So it is a overlay of different governance
systems but with FLOSS, PP is the dominant mode of governance while the
e.g. Microsoft way of creating software is more about hierarchy (and

In terms of production and distribution of goods, capitalism emphasises
market and hierarchy, while communism emphasises hierarchy (command and
control).  It is interesting to see how peer production is being added
to the capitalist's toolkit (alongside market and hierarchy) - this has
been pointed out by others in this thread.  I contributed to an Oxford
Internet Institute-McKinsey Technology Initiative project called
"Performance of distributed problem-solving networks".  This was
ostensibly about peer production, and those guys (McKinsey) are not

Thank you for an interesting discussion list.


On Mon, 2011-08-22 at 09:45 +0200, Maurizio Teli wrote:



Still waiting to hear from Maurizio and Vincenzo on how they want to address the criticism by StefanMn that they are not properly addressing the issue. So far StefanMz has expressed support for StefanMn. This is an edited version of what I wrote on the issue on july 21: 

"I understand what you say about peer production being a new phenomenon, but I don't see how it can be separated from the 95% rest of the world economy which is capitalistic. PP is both dependent on and enmeshed within this wider order. For me the interesting thing scientifically is precisely to work out the relationship between these two orders and - possibly from a more activist perspective - to work out how to extend the commons and peer production (...) if you want to get your point across effectively IMHO it would be best to submit a paper to the journal for our upcoming issue on peer production theory - that way you can explain what new tools and concepts are needed etc. A whole issue on Oekonux can be envisaged for later, we don't have the writing and editorial resources right now. The peer production theory issue can be released next December. Is an article possible?"

Matthew Allen then agreed with this (sort of) see:

-- COMMENT ON THE TOPIC (quite long)

StefanMn was an interesting point, that I try to collapse in the
conviction that "Peer production is a new mode of production. *As such*
it can not be understood with the tools which were valid and fine for
the previous mode of production - namely capitalism."
I can agree with that but at the moment, stating that "peer production
IS a new mode of production" is so strong that the "old tools" should be
tested and proven uneffective for the task at hand (and, by the way, the
same concept of "mode of production" is an old tool that as proven to be
extremely effective)

Mathieu and Matthew argument (FS is part of a capitalist society, so
understanding the relationship between the two modes of production is
useful) is a convinving one and, moreover, the aim of the special issue
is explicitly to understand the novelty of PP in the instance of FS from
other points of view, not only the ones of organization of labour or
economic production. 
To make it short, our perspective is: IF Free Software is changing the
epistemology of Computer Science, THEN Free Software novelty is stronger
than thought until now. 
Otherwise, the debate on the novelty should move further in exploring
the relationship between means of production, their property, and the
institutional setting that is previewed by the configuration of such
relationship (Jakob concept of productive negation is an interesting

going over on the debate, Stefan wrote:

Last week (12 days ago) Maurizio Teli wrote:
   > From the perspective of social organization, Free Software can  be
   > conceived as [...] standing outside
   > institutionalized forms of power

Well, someone who writes this has no idea of peer production not
speaking of Free Software. Of course there are institutionalized forms
of power.

Now the *really* interesting question is: As a modern leftist you
believe that institutionalized forms of power are bad in general. How
does it come then, that in Free Software we see such institutionalized
forms of power?

Here probably the short presentation of the special issue was lacking in
idexicality. Kelty's argument is that Free Software is standing outside
ACTUALLY instituzionalized forms of power, creating NEW ones. 

If we look at FS, the case of corporate FLOSS is showing clearly how the
actual institutional setting (in its wider sense, including "the
market") is envisioning a potential of domestication of FLOSS as another
tool in the reproduction of capital. Therefore, the novelty of FS should
be investigated further.


Dr Robert Ackland
Fellow and Masters Coordinator, Australian Demographic and Social
Research Institute, The Australian National University

e-mail:   robert.ackland

Information about the Master of Social Research
(Social Science of the Internet specialisation):


Dr Mathieu O'Neil
Adjunct Research Fellow
Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute
College of Arts and Social Science
The Australian National University
email: mathieu.oneil[at]

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