• Cultures of peer production

    Michael Stevenson (see profile)
    Digital media
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    Book chapter
    New media
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    How can we make sense of cultures of peer production, which exist in diverse national, cultural and language contexts, span several industries and domains, and comprise a range of different organizational structures? Peer production is commonly defined as a mode of production - that is, a social and material structure in which labor takes place. Specifically it is defined as a decentralized mode of production in which a group of participants collaborate on a common project (say, an operating system or an encyclopedia), and in which individuals self-select for specific parts of an overall project and generally volunteer their time (Benkler, 2002). Given this definition of peer production as a mode of production, it makes little sense to talk about a single culture – defined as a more-or-less shared set of values, expressed in a common identity and shared practices – much like it makes little sense to speak of the culture of factories or the culture of firms. In practice, however, there are certainly comparisons to be drawn between the values and practices commonly found in peer production projects, in particular in the well-known examples of Wikipedia and F/OSS production.
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