The Journal of Peer Production - New perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change New perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change
Reviews (The Origins and Impacts of Swedish Filesharing) image

Review A

Reviewer: Maurizio Teli

1) Is the subject matter relevant?

The subject is extremely relevant for the aim of the journal and for its historical character. It is out of any discussion the fact the “The Pirate Bay” and the Swedish file­sharing history is relevant not only for understanding Sweden and the Swedish context, but it is also representing an international case, relevant for any study of file­sharing and critical practices on the Internet.

Moreover, the questions the paper asks, on the elements shaping the file­sharing movement, and on their relationship, are fundamental questions to build a theory of critical practices on the Internet.

2) Is the treatment of the subject matter intellectually interesting? Are there citations of bodies of literature you think are essential to which the author has not referred?

Although the crucial questions the paper asks, its development is unfortunately unclear and badly formulated. I have to point to three main weaknesses in the paper argument:

history, theory, and empirical data are not clearly distinguishable and recognizable, therefore the argument lacks some order; the research design is completely unclear, and it is equally unclear how the author has collected and analysed data in conclusion, the paper does not really addresses the questions asked, in particular it looks like a more anecdotal story of file­sharing in Sweden that tries to be expanded through theoretical instruments, whose validity is not discussed or elaborated, both theoretically and empirically. In relation to the first issue, the paper organization, the question remain theoretically underdeveloped in the first pages, and only in section “Self­reflexive opportunism…” there is a theoretical questioning of the problem, in an area that is mainly devoted to discuss the research results. In particular, both the Introduction and the section “On Sweden and file­sharing” is theoretically weak and it mixes a review of theoretical contribution (e.g. Galloway, 2004) with data coming from the empirical research (e.g. MMS, 2009), without clearly distinguishing in the argument the relationship between the two kind of narratives.

This is directly connected with the second point, methodological weakness. Except from getting some clues on the the fact that the author has done interviews, it is absolutely unclear which was the original research design, and to what questions the original design was supposed to answer. Lastly, the discussion section, at the end of the paper, is more interested in arguing a potential theoretical standpoint to analyse and discuss the phenomena, more than at answering the questions the paper asks and in connecting those answers to the theoretical thinking.

Therefore, it is my opinion that the paper will benefit widely of a restructuring of the argument that separates (in any order the author is comfortable with) the history of file­sharing in Sweden and its relationship with political and economic standpoints; the theoretical lens through which the author tries to understand such phenomena; a methodological discussion on how the data has been collected and analysed by the author; a discussion on how the case study foster the theoretical understanding of file­sharing phenomena in Sweden. I also suggest the author to ground his judgements on a more literature­oriented fashion, e.g. section “On Sweden and file­sharing”, end of first paragraph, the author claims for a “libertarian ethos” among the geeks, and this could be sustained referring both to insiders (Raymond) or scholars (Coleman).

3) Are there any noticeable problems with the author’s mean of validating assumptions or making judgements?

The main issue deals with the fact the the structure of the paper is unclear, as well as the general argument. To make an example, at the beginning of the paper, the author underlines how he could find three main factors supporting file­sharing in Sweden: broadband penetration; high level of technical competence; the presence of a debate also in mainstream media.

In my understanding, the importance of this three elements is underdeveloped and weakly underlined in the paper. For example, the author argues that the TPB trial has increased attention and connection to the website, but he does so without stressing clearly how it is in connection with the widespread adoption of P2P practices in Sweden.

4) Is the article well written?

Generally speaking the article is written in a reasonably good way, although the lack of structure undermines the overall quality of the single sentences.

5) Are there portions of the article that you recommend to be shortened, excised or expanded?

I have already mentioned how I suggest the author to restructure the entire article, giving a better articulation of the relations between the specific parts.

Review B

Reviewer: Anonymous

The subject matter of the paper Is of relevance to CSPP, even though the focus is on describing and theoretically discussing the context of digital piracy (the Swedish case) rather than on the actual peer­ production aspects of piracy. The author is familiar with key texts within the field, and has chosen to analyze the issue in terms of theories of (late) modernity. But the author is also referring to a relatively wide variety of relevant texts from other traditions as well. The article is well written apart from a couple of minor spelling and grammatical errors. Overall this is a good and promising contribution. However it has a couple of key weaknesses. First, it tends to argue in a way that is not wholly convincing that Sweden differs from other western economies. Secondly, the research process is not made clear. References are made to what appears as research questions, methodological approaches and analytical strategies. But the text essentially reads as somewhat sketchy, as the author constantly moves between what seems to be more empirical sections and more theoretical ones. As an essay, it is a nice read. But as an empirical research paper it comes across as quite unstructured. I would prefer that the path from research questions, via sample and methods, to analysis is made clearer. These general comments together with the detailed ones in the enclosed pdf will hopefully give the author an idea of what I mean.

See PDF for further comments [not included – Ed.]