Michel Bauwens on Peer 2 Peer’s Mutual Alignment

Karl FitzgeraldMultimedia1 Comment

Renegade Economists Podcast 253

As broadcast on 3CR, Wed Sept 12th
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Michel Bauwens from the Peer 2 Peer Foundation discusses the ongoing revolution in open source activity. He presents evidence showing that peer 2 peer networking delivers the lowest cost format for information sharing and production.

Listen in on this extended podcast edition.

We discuss Michel’s work in coordinating the paper Synthetic overview of the collaborative economy.

Notes from this important paper:

A challenge to the traditional means of control in production, distribution and interaction. A synthesis of networks.

Akin to the self regulation of markets, where perfect information exists to some extent, where self interest is reflected in the common interest, tho differs by its non hierarchical nature.

… the open content and open source economy has already been estimated to be one sixth of U.S. GDP, and certain practices, like grouped buying in China, may have a strong local weight in some national economies.

the horizontalisation of human productive relationships in peer production, when confronted with the more ‘vertical’ (centralized, hierarchical) players of the market economy, will lead to a wide variety of ‘diagonal’ adaptations.

When is For Profit Collaborative Production NOT peer production? Here are important indications:
• If the production is directed to the market, not the use value
• If the resources are allocated by the corporation, not the community’s social logic
• If participation is constrained by the controlling corporation
• If the corporations controls the common product


It is important to see the value inversion that occurs in peer production. Though it is integrated in the
dominant economic model and embedded in the strategies of business firms, there are numerous
inversions in the logic of value and production:

• Beyond Exchange: commons-based peer production is not about exchange. Giving and taking are not coupled with each other.
• Beyond Scarcity: peer production is marked by anti-rivalry (sharing does not produce a loss, but a gain), i.e. because the knowledge, code or designs are shareable they can be used, copied and modified by everyone.
• Beyond Commodity: because the result of the production is shareable and anti-rival, and there is no tension between supply and demand, there are not produced for exchange value directly, but for use value.
• Beyond Money: money is only one of the possible drivers for the contributions, many other motivations become productive factors.
• Beyond Property: peer production uses licenses that make the contributions available to all possible users, creating a new form of universal common property; this means that there are no direct returns for property.
• Beyond Labor: because of the multiplicity of motivation, and production for need and use, peer production is not marked by labor for gain.
• Beyond Classes: contributions become agnostic to whether waged labour is involved; traditional division of labour and the command and control exerciced by the firm is secondary; new meritocratic and ad hoc hierarchies replace them (cfr. supra returns on property are inoperable).
• Beyond Exclusion: peer production systems are designed to enable the maximum number of contributions with the lowest possible threshold of participation.
• Anti-Credentialism: refers to the inclusiveness of peer production. What matters is the ability to carry out a particular task, not any formal a priori credential ( ≠ credentialism).
• Anti-Rivalry: sharing the created goods does not diminish the value of the good, but actually enhances it ( ≠ rivalry).
• Communal Validation: the quality control is not a ‘a priori’ condition of participation, but a post-hoc control process, usually community-driven ( ≠ hierarchical control).
• Distribution of Tasks: there are no roles and jobs to be performed, only specific tasks to be carried out ( ≠ division of labor).
• Equipotentiality: people are judged on the particular aspects of their being that is involved in the execution of a particular task ( ≠ people ranking).
• For Benefit: (Benefit Sharing; Benefit-Driven Production). The production aims to create use value or ‘benefits’ for its user community, not profits for shareholders ( ≠ for-profit).
• Forking: the freedom to copy and modify includes the possibility to take the project into a different direction ( ≠ one authorized version).
• Granularity: refers to the effort to create the smallest possible modules (see Modularity infra), so that the threshold of participation for carrying out tasks is lowered to the lowest possible extent.
• Holoptism; transparency is the default state of information about the project; all additions can be seen and verified and are sourced ( ≠ panoptism).
• Modularity: tasks, products and services are organized as modules, that fit with other modules in a puzzle that is continuously re-assembled; anybody can contribute to any module.
Negotiated Coordination: conflicts are resolved through an ongoing and mediated dialogue, not by fiat and top-down decisions ( ≠ centralized and hierarchical decision-making).
• Permissionlessness: one does not need permission to contribute to the commons ( ≠ permission culture).
• Produsage: there is no strict separation between production and consumption, and users can produce solutions ( ≠ production for consumption).
• Stigmergy: there is a signalling language that permits system needs to be broadcast and matched to contributions

According to Yochai Benkler, in his classic exposition, The Wealth of Networks, peer production’s emergence is directly related to technologically driven lowering of transaction, communication and coordination costs. That lowers the capital requirements of information production …

… participants in open design communities do not have an incentive for including planned obsolesence in their design practices.

If the price of machinery drops, and the organizational tools to coordinate cooperation develop in tandem, it is easy to imagine the development of a much more localized organization of production.

Photo courtesy of Jonas Tana

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