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Peer production (also known as mass collaboration) is a way of producing goods and services that relies on self-organizing communities of individuals. In such communities, the labor of a large number of people is coordinated towards a shared outcome.


Peer production is a process taking advantage of new collaborative possibilities afforded by the internet and has become a widespread mode of labor.[1] Free and open source software and open source hardware are two examples of peer production. One of the earliest instances of networked peer production is Project Gutenberg, a project in which volunteers make out-of-copyright works available online.[2] Examples include Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, and Linux, a computer operating system. For-profit enterprises mostly use partial implementations of peer production, and would include such sites as Flickr, Etsy, Digg, and Delicious.[citation needed] Peer production can also be utilized by sharing open source hardware designs to be replicated with digital manufacturing technologies such as RepRap 3-D printers.[3] The number of such designs is growing exponentially on free design sites such as Youmagine.[4] As such open designs can be replicated for approximately the cost of materials they provide enormous value to commons.[5] Peer production refers to the production process on which the previous examples are based. Commons-based peer production is a subset of peer production.

Peer production occurs in a socio-technical system which allows thousands of individuals to effectively cooperate to create a non-exclusive given outcome.[6] These collective efforts are informal. Peer production is a collaborative effort with no limit to the amount of discussion or changes that can be made to the product. However, as in the case of Wikipedia, a large amount, in fact the majority, of this collaborative effort is maintained by very few devoted and active individuals.[7]


Crowdsourcing products such as community cookbooks are a form of peer production. Gooseberry Patch[8] has used its customer/friend community to create its line of exclusive cookbooks for over 18 years.

For example, there are now several types of open-source solar-powered 3-D printers,[9] which can be used for production in off grid locations.[10]

Peer production has also been utilized in producing collaborative Open Educational Resources (OERs). Writing Commons, an international open textbook spearheaded by Joe Moxley at the University of South Florida, has evolved from a print textbook into a crowd-sourced resource for college writers around the world.[11] Massive open online course (MOOC) platforms have also generated interest in building online eBooks. The Cultivating Change Community (CCMOOC) at the University of Minnesota is one such project founded entirely on a grassroots model to generate content.[12] In 10 weeks, 150 authors contributed more than 50 chapters to the CCMOOC eBook and companion site.[13] The Peer to Peer University has applied peer production principles to online open learning communities and peer learning.


Several critics have challenged the prevailing optimism with which peer production is viewed.

Daniel Kreiss, Megan Finn, and Fred Turner criticize the consensus perspective on peer production as utopian. Asserting that this new mode of production challenges the traditional form of bureaucracy, they reference Max Weber’s analysis of modern bureaucracy and urge that this analysis be applied to peer production. They argue that bureaucracy is better equipped to handle social problems than peer production, which they consider unsustainable. As bureaucracy promotes a rationally organized, rule-oriented functioning of society, Kreiss, Finn, and Turner claim that peer production undermines this aspect due to its tendency to encourage individual behavior based on private morality. This tendency, they argue, degrades autonomy by “collapsing public and private boundaries,” allowing people’s professional lives to extend into their private domains.[14]

Other critics claim that the participatory nature of peer production is apt to generate misinformation and products of inferior quality. In his book The Cult of the Amateur, Andrew Keen assesses peer-produced content on the Internet and asserts that it exists as a “smokescreen” which emptily promises more truth and deeper knowledge, but actually leading to the disappearance of truth. According to Keen, the Internet advocates peer production to a questionable degree by permitting anyone to post information freely. This form of peer production, he cautions, leaves room for people to plagiarize ideas and distort original thoughts, which he says ultimately creates an uncertainty in the validity of information.[15]

Another critic, Jaron Lanier, cites Wikipedia as an example of how dependence on mass collaboration may result in unreliable or biased information. He warns that websites like Wikipedia promote the notion of the “collective” as all knowing, and that this concentrated influence stands in direct contrast to representative democracy.[16]

In addition to these adversarial views, some critics assert that peer production does not perform as well in some contexts as it does in others.[17] Paul Duguid suggests that peer production works less efficiently outside of software development, stating that continued reliance on peer production in various domains of information production will necessitate a search for new ways to guarantee quality.[2] Yochai Benkler similarly proposes that peer production may produce functional works like encyclopedias more proficiently than creative works.[17] Despite the valuable potential of peer production, several critics continue to doubt extensive collaboration and its ability to yield high quality outputs.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Benkler, Yochai (April 2003). "Freedom in the Commons: Towards a Political Economy of Information". Duke Law Journal 52 (6): 1245. Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Duguid, Paul (2006-10-02). "Limits of self-organization: Peer production and "laws of quality"". First Monday 11 (10). ISSN 1396-0466. Retrieved 2014-09-26. 
  3. ^ RepRap stands for self replicating rapid prototyper and the design of the printer itself is an example of peer production.
  4. ^ Wittbrodt, B.T.; Glover, A.G.; Laureto, J.; Anzalone, G.C.; Oppliger, D.; Irwin, J.L.; Pearce, J.M. (2013). "Life-cycle economic analysis of distributed manufacturing with open-source 3-D printers". Mechatronics 23 (6): 713–726. doi:10.1016/j.mechatronics.2013.06.002. 
  5. ^ Pearce, J.M. (2015). "Quantifying the Value of Open Source Hardware Development". Modern Economy 6 (1): 1–11. doi:10.4236/me.2015.61001. 
  6. ^ Benkler, Yochai and Nissenbaum Helen, "Commons based Peer Production and Virtue"
  7. ^ Huberman, Bernardo A, Wilkinson, Dennis M, Wu, Fang "Feedback loops of attention in peer production"
  8. ^ "Gooseberry Patch". Gooseberry Patch. 
  9. ^ King, Debbie L.; Babasola, Adegboyega; Rozario, Joseph; Pearce, Joshua M. "Mobile Open-Source Solar-Powered 3-D Printers for Distributed Manufacturing in Off-Grid Communities". Challenges in Sustainability 2 (1): 18–27. 
  10. ^ D.J. Pangburn, How 3D Printers Are Boosting Off-The-Grid, Underdeveloped Communities - MotherBoard available at http://motherboard.vice.com/read/how-3d-printers-are-boosting-off-the-grid-underdeveloped-communities Nov. 7, 2014.
  11. ^ "About.""Writing Commons". CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  12. ^ Anders, Abram (November 9, 2012). "Experimenting with MOOCs: Network-based Communities of Practice.". Great Plains Alliance for Computers and Writing Conference. Mankato, MN. Retrieved February 11, 2013. 
  13. ^ "About.""Cultivating Change Community". CC BY-NC 3.0. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  14. ^ Kreiss, Daniel; Finn, Megan; Turner, Fred. "The limits of peer production" (PDF). Sage Journals. Sage. pp. 243–259. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  15. ^ Keen, Andrew (2007). The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture (3rd ed.). Crown Business. 
  16. ^ Lanier, Jaron (2010). You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto (1st ed.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 
  17. ^ a b c Benkler, Yochai; Shaw, Aaron; Mako Hill, Benjamin. "Peer Production: A Modality of Collective Intelligence" (PDF). Retrieved 24 May 2014. 

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peer_production — Please support Wikipedia.
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277 news items

The Guardian

The Guardian
Mon, 05 Oct 2015 01:44:22 -0700

At the same time, the buzzwords had also stabilised, with a number of academic-sounding terms such as “commons-based peer production” (as coined by NYU law professor Yochai Benkler) to two main contenders: “the sharing economy”, and “collaborative ...

Slugger O'Toole

Slugger O'Toole
Thu, 17 Sep 2015 15:00:42 -0700

... Post-Carbon World under the umbrella of the QUB School of Law and the Chief Executive's Club at Queen's University, he began by giving some examples of the post-capitalist way of producing value that he referred to as commons-based peer production.
Thu, 13 Mar 2014 07:44:12 -0700

“Commons Based Peer Production (CBPP) means collaborative production and sharing of resources among peers under commons settings. From the initial cases, such as Wikipedia and FLOSS, recently there has been an expansion to other areas of activity, ...
R Street
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 10:03:45 -0700

While the franchising mental model may be a good way to think about at least some companies in the peer production space (most notably Uber), a few caveats are in order. First, while Uber reigns supreme in the black car space, I'm not sure the network ...

Boing Boing

Boing Boing
Tue, 02 Sep 2014 17:56:15 -0700

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R Street

R Street
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 07:15:00 -0700

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Wed, 05 Feb 2014 10:45:00 -0800

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Wired (blog)
Tue, 03 Jul 2012 12:24:22 -0700

“But first, a few words about the multiple sites of do-it-yourself biology. (((Gets the anthrax-tainted popcorn.))) There is quite a diverse set of places in which laboratories, associations, and networks around do-it-yourself biology have emerged ...

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