Peer Production and Collaboration

From Technologies and Politics of Control
Jump to navigation Jump to search

February 15

Note: To make up for the snow day on February 1, tonight's class will run an extra hour, until 8:30pm.

The free software movement is one example of a trend towards distributed volunteer networks of individuals collaborating on collective projects that were formerly the domain of the for-profit private sector. In this session, we explore how far such peer production can go in redefining the economic and social structures of modern society.

Slides: New Economic & Business Models


Additional Resources

Joseph Reagle's book: Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia

The following audio streams from NPR may be interesting:

Class Discussion

Wikipedia’s norms were the most thought provoking and entertaining subjects of last weeks readings for me. The emergence of the rules of behavior for Wikipedia, many of which seem to be just as valid and useful during the non-plugged in moments of our daily life, strikes me as being as unique and interesting as the overall notion of Wikipedia it self, if not more so. Some of the basics like apology and civility are pretty standard and not overly surprising in their development. Others however, like, “Drop the stick and back slowly away from the horse carcass” are excellent, and I would like to post on my companies intranet as a new code of conduct, ( . Of equal importance is humor as a norm. A norm which I believe if given more play in our daily (political) lives, might save lives around the globe. Such as, the, “No one cares about your garage band norm,” ( Read: "Keep yourself in perspective." Again, not to state the obvious, but I would imagine others who read this may have been struck by the attractiveness of applying these or very similar norms to our daily working environment outside of the Wikipedia world. Coreymacd 21:27, 17 February 2011 (UTC)

The pattern of emerging of a Generative System was particularly interesting. The power of the five qualities (leverage, adaptability, ease of mastery, accessibility and transferability) and the reciprocity between them allowed a better understanding of the Generative pattern and how it can influence innovation both in positive and negative ways. Already, the emergence of a collective, collaborative generative system is apparent in diverse forms in the cyberspace. However what I found most interesting (and enthusiastically agree with) is Zittrain’s mention of how this change in the cyberspace is making general societal, cultural and political changes in the real, non-cyberspace world. Quill80 20:04, 22 February 2011 (UTC)

As per Zittrain's argument, I found that his reasoning about "affordance" and "adoptabilty", although defined with great deal of common sense, has enough ambiguity to start questioning ourselves about that tipping point at which the environment's affardances take over the user's adoptability. The point is difficult to trace in the light of constantly changing user interfaces that in turn are sensitive to changes in hardware. It seems that Zittrain wants the reader to complete his thought. As in the bicycle example, the environment is meant to compete for more users by adding value in a form of a new hardware and then dressing it up with a new, often more complex user interface. This motion triggers the action on the user's side where after the initial opportunity cost, users attempt to improve the interface, often falling behind on the hardware due to its cost. This is where the peer-production and collaboration takes place that is defined by users' "four-freedoms" and stimulated by systems' "generativity". Now everything seems reasonable in the market terms, but when the added-value concept is applied to Wikipedia, it just does not make sense because there is no classic law of supply and demand can be applicable to the intellectual property market, nor there is a right of ownership. There is a marginal social benefit however, but again, it is unmanaged and therefore no accuracy guaranteed and thus it cannot be a beneficial nomenclature as for instance a library is.

After yesterday's meeting with a guy who has a doctorate in the field of Wikipedia, it remains unclear, or perhaps completely unanswered, whether Wikipedia, as any other entity on the market of "intellectual goods and services", should have its ultimate authority and who that authority might be. I often wonder how else I could have phrased the question on a person's native language to obtain a straightforward answer. I know one thing for sure based on years of seminar experience that if a scholar is not answering the question directly or asking for reinterpretation, he or she is probably a dilettante. Anyway, I am thankful for his marvelous answers and his efforts to take a trip to Cambridge, Massachusetts. --VladimirK 20:55, 16 February 2011 (UTC)

A common but still under-developed theme throughout the readings is a comparative look at how traditional companies are adapting to the technological and social changes brought about by the internet. As described by Zittrain and Benckler, incumbent firms are essentially undergoing a massive increase in competition from generative systems. There look to be three sorts of reaction. Some firms are treating this as a traditional attack and their strategy is to undermine the competing product based on quality (i.e. Encyclopedia Britannica vs. Wikipedia.) Others are co-opting newly-developed methods and changing or developing new products (Google’s embrace of Linux to create Android and drive search revenue.) A third set is building whole new businesses on top of the generative processes (IBM’s extension of open-source software into services.) Smithbc 22:14, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

Listening to, and reading, various pieces on Wikipedia I am struck by the amount of effort that Jimmy Wales seems to put into promoting the idea of Wikipedia as, to paraphrase, "a close-knit community of dedicated users" with emphasis on user reputation and his role as "benevolent dictator", and distancing himself from the more "democratic" (read: anonymous contributors) aspects of the site which (I assume) are generally the first things that come to most peoples' minds when Wikipedia is mentioned. I wonder if this attitude was always a core part of the site's conception, or whether it was developed in response to outside criticism of the encyclopedia’s (lack of) credibility. Or if it is merely an accurate description of how the site has evolved... I would hazard to guess that Wikipedia, despite what Mr. Wales may say, is *both* a close-knit community *and* a conglomeration of faceless, unorganized (naturally organizing?) "ants"; I doubt the site could survive without both aspects. I am also struck by the parallel between this view and the criticism of Wikipedia skeptics: they see "peer review" being essential, where a "peer" is a responsible member of the academic community, while Mr. Wales sees "peer review" as equally essential, only with "peer" defined as a responsible member of the Wikipedia community. I wonder that seems to occur to no one that the "Wikipedia community" (let alone the "faceless ants") might very well contain those self-same learned academics who compose and edit articles for Britanica. And if companies are hiring PR agents to "protect" their image on Wikipedia, then I wonder why University faculties have not taken it upon themselves to jointly, publicly venture into Wikipedia to improve the quality of the articles found there in. Surely, after 10 years we should have started to take this thing seriously. BrandonAndrzej 00:57, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

What has struck me most about the readings from this week has been the innate desire of most people to help and be helpful. "Be Nice" was particularly interesting because of how thorough the author was in examining these behaviors; I've never read social theory like that before and it's great to get a good foundation to start working from. However, beyond the obvious example of the Wikipedia community, there are dozens of other communities and companies that I did not realize were taking advantage of people's urge to contribute constructively, including the importance of peer reviews for sites like Amazon and Yelp, and the adoption of consumer-generated innovations by companies like LEGO. The article from Business Week, "The Power of Us," contained one quote, from Yochai Benkler, natch, that really caught my attention: "The economic role of social behavior is increasing." Today, consumer input is not just useful, it's almost mandatory in order for a company to be successful. This made me consider what Hollywood and the record and publishing industries are doing with themselves. They have been referenced in nearly ever reading we've had so far as the industry most affected by the easy sharing of information via the Internet, and yet not one article has discussed what that industry is doing to counter that damage. Is this a simple omission by these authors, or has the industry not responded at all? mcforelle 3:32, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

McKensey has conducted annual surveys the past several years on companies' use of web 2.0 in various ways. This year's report is on its web page at Interesting to see the number of companies reporting increased number of successful innovations and decreased product development costs when fully utilizing the web. After reading this week's assignments, I went back to re-read this article and wondered why it had not impressed me as much on my first read-through. [[sjennings 16:01, 15 February 2011 (UTC)]]

As for the books of this month, I am reading Wikinomics by Don Tapscott & Anthony D. Williams and Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky. Coincidentally, these two books describe and reveal amazing aspects of peer collaboration and its consequences. Regarding the mass collaboration's economic effects, the Goldcorp Challenge can be deemed a symbolic case. To summarize a long story behind the success of Goldcorp, sending an SOS to people outside of the company significantly contributed to discovery of new gold mines and boosted its financial growth. In a common sense, showing any sign of a company in a trouble is looked as a disaster in business management. Nonetheless, Rob McEwen, at then the CEO of Goldcorp Inc., risked asking for a help and announced the Goldcorp Challenge to look for undeveloped mineral properties; and it worked out incredibly well. These books are absolutely recommended for someone who is looking for a detailed explanation on our class topic. --Yu Ri 17:55, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

So much for Wikipedia and so little about Academia as we've been hearing and reading so far. It could probably mean that there is a clash of ambitions between scholars and free lancers. Each of us has attempted to measure the intellectual climate, sort of speak, in the area of our interests and now we have formed our reports and opinions about which no body really cares. Our opinions are only for the purpose of this course, not for the purpose of creation of policy, so as opinions of millions of others who attempted to make changes to Wikipedia but lost their rights due to lack of authority. This is what ultimately matters the most as Chris Anderson is simply begging the question on NPR about the efficiency of the review process: a review by three fellows with a doctorate versus a review by the bunch of scholars with degrees from the university of life is the quantitative approach. The qualitative approach perhaps, not of the major concern but participation is. Ok, an average user might say, the participation will build a virtual community that could educate itself after time. Well, good luck with that virtual degree, virtual job, and virtual personal life, an average scholar might say. The reality just does not work that way and fiction should not be a part of it. The web governing organization, as Henry Jenkins describes in his article "Science Fiction and Smart Mobs" [1], remains unofficial but its possible function is sketched out in the Ellis's book "Global Frequency"[2]. The real Wikipedia agents however, unlike agents of "Global Frequency", are unable to enforce the policy and contribute their intelligence to the real society. Then, the question rises why we even considering Wikipedia as a model of a wider web space a proper control of which we are attempting to establish? --VladimirK 20:45, 15 February 2011 (UTC)

As I was searching for materials related to Prof. Zittrain's Generativity theory, I found quite interesting websites that might help other classmates who want to better understand this term.

In particular, I was intrigued by the double natures of generativity of the Internet. According to Zittrain's explanation, generativity - the platform for creation and innovation - also possesses threats in itself (e.g. widespread of viruses and other badwares). Would it be possible to maintain generativity without compromising to reduce malicious codes floating around the digital world? --Yu Ri 14:21, 20 February 2011 (UTC)


Chris Anderson: People Power

Business Week: The Power of Us

Nasa: Clickworkers Study

  • the link to the NASA Clickworkers Study seems to be broken. Here is a link to the program's home page --Gclinch 13:14, 14 February 2011 (UTC)

Yochai Benkler's Seminal Work on Peer Production: Coase's Penguin

Jimbo Wales: Talk on the Wikipedia Community