Peer Production: Development from the Edges and from the Crowd

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April 2

Beyond merely providing a forum for political activism, scholars are increasingly aware of the benefits the Internet provides as a mode of production. How can the Internet help us make things together? How much hierarchy and control is needed to produce? How good is the material that peer production creates? And finally, what are the risks to producers (and society) inherent to peer production?

Our special guest this week will be Jérôme Hergueux, a fellow at the Berkman Center, who specializes in behavioral economics and online social spaces.


  • if you’re not familiar, you may want to spend a little time looking at Wikipedia’s entry on Seti@home.

Optional Readings

Videos Watched in Class


Class Discussion

Please remember to sign your postings by adding four tildes (~~~~) to the end of your contribution. This will automatically add your username and the date/time of your post, like so: Asellars 15:29, 21 January 2013 (EST)

I really enjoyed Surowiecki's "The Wisdom of Crowds" and how it spoke to the potential superiority of aggregated and averaged knowledge. Due to the rise in portable and mobile computing, the internet has provided a fantastic forum for big data to be collected and analyzed. I personally believe that as the world experiences greater globalization and an increased democratic forum for information sharing, we achieve greater solutions. I found the end of the article particularly interesting as the simulated maze/node experiment highlighted the "mob mentality" vs. the average of individual paths. It's quite astonishing that the "mob mentality" path, using the majority's decision at each node, achieved the original solution. I think that the growth in crowdsourcing and big data will become a huge focal point and resource for research over the next 10 to 15 years. In contrast, I thought Zuckerman's "My Heart's in Accra" brought up various thought provoking questions regarding ideological cocooning. However, I think the chief undermining piece to his study is that most individuals do not belong to only one blog. And if the study were to be done on aggregators of multiple blogs, than I believe different questions and concerns may have been raised or alleviated. I am a big fan of aggregated analysis like macroeconomic market bets. After all it was this philosophy and mentality that gave George Soros his fortune. AaronEttl 15:39, 1 April 2013 (EDT)

The notion of crowdsourcing is an interesting phenomenon in the current digital era, shedding light on an important question: what does the future behold?

Zittrain’s lecture was great! I liked hearing about new virtual work methodologies, some of which I hadn't been exposed to in the past. Whether working online to take orders for a fast food restaurant thousands of miles away, adding comments to blogs, or turking via Amazon’s platform, each Internet employment activity is unique. As I watched Zittrain’s lecture and read the articles this week, I couldn't help but think about the future, 25 years from now. The ideas, approaches, and practices outlined in our readings/videos were considered science-fiction when my parents were children; and will most likely be seen as archaic when my children look back on today. That said, our lives not only revolve around technology, but it’s challenging to comprehend where technology will be decades from now. For example, working from home is common for people worldwide, but before the Internet it was a far-reaching reality.

The idea of crowdsourcing and its relationship to teamwork is also an interesting concept to consider. Teamwork usually means working together as a cohesive group, whether virtual or in-person, driving toward a specific goal. However, based on the readings, teamwork may be evolving in which people share thoughts and ideas separately, in-line with a common end, but not necessarily working together. The maze and jellybean examples from The Wisdom of Crowds show how puzzles can be solved when the average response is calculated. However, in neither example were the groups working together, yet the majority train-of-thought led to the most streamlined/correct answer. What do others think about this model? People’s minds may work alike to solve a given problem, but not necessarily when working cohesively. "[Social networks] have enabled crowdsourcing—aggregating bits of information across a large number of users to create productive value—as a popular mechanism for creating encyclopedias of information (such as Wikipedia) and solving other highly distributed problems" (Tang et al., 78). Has teamwork improved due to crowdsourcing, has it declined, or is this simply another form of teamwork?

Zittrain concluded his lecture on a perfect note—the future surrounding online communication is unknown, because creativity is always changing. Many of the concepts he set forth are ever-evolving in a similar manner: human intelligence, mechanical turking and associated incentives, obtaining online elite status (e.g., Yelp/Trip Advisor elites), and freely engaging in open-source communication leads to countless possibilities. His ending statement about opportunity costs is a final point to consider: now that we can accomplish things 24/7 (online), what other attributes in life are scarified? Furthermore, as production increases through online means, what future attributes will be scarified?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts! Zak Paster 11:09, 2 April 2013 (EDT)