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
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JoPP Signal:
14/15
Title: Authority in peer production: the emergence of governance in the FreeBSD project
Author/s: George Dafermos
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Abstract:
This paper examines the articulation of authority in peer production projects, focusing on the transformation of the FreeBSD Project's governance structure over fifteen years of development. Catalysed by the growing criticism of the distribution of authority in the project, the adoption of the elective principle for the selection of the FreeBSD administrative team brought about a shift in the conception of leadership from the informal rule of a self-selected group of veteran developers to the democratic authority of an elected group that is revocable and bound to formal rules. Since, FreeBSD has evolved a collectivist governance system, based on a direct-democratic, consensus-oriented process of decision making. Furthermore, in keeping with the normative standard of individual autonomy of action, FreeBSD did not attempt to manage increased scale by supervising developers' work process but rather tried to achieve coordination through the standardisation of the induction process for new developers and of outputs through frequent building. This outcome discredits the notion that supervisory hierarchy is the inevitable consequence of expanding size, showing that the response of an organisation to structural changes depends on the moral values espoused by its members.

Keywords:
Governance, authority, FreeBSD, peer production

JoPP Signal:
11.5/15
Title: Why free software is not the antonym of commercial software: two case studies from corporate and volunteer based projects
Author/s: Stefano De Paoli, Vincenzo D’Andrea and Maurizio Teli
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Abstract:
Academic literature often uses the terminology “commercial software” as an antonym of Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS). In this paper we challenge this opposition. Using an approach inspired by ethnomethodology, the paper illustrates how FLOSS developers, both volunteers and corporate employees, use the term “commercial software” as a constituent part of their discourses. We look closely at FLOSS discursive practices uncovering the interactional function of the term “free software” with the aim of provoking a reflection on how such terminology is used in FLOSS academic literature. In particular, we propose examples taken from two case studies: the Geographical Information System known as GRASS and the Operating System known as OpenSolaris.

Keywords:
free and open source software, commercial software, proprietary software, ethnomethodology, actor-network theory

JoPP Signal:
9.5/15
Title: Caring about the plumbing: on the importance of architectures in social studies of (peer-to-peer) technology
Author/s: Francesca Musiani
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Abstract:
This article discusses the relevance, for scholars working on social studies of network media, of “caring about the plumbing” (to paraphrase Bricklin, 2001), i.e., addressing elements of application architecture and design as an integral part of their subject of study. In particular, by discussing peer-to-peer (P2P) systems as a technical networking model and a dynamic of social interaction that are inextricably intertwined, the article introduces how the perspective outlined above is particularly useful to adopt when studying a promising area of innovation: that of “alternative” or “legitimate” (Verma, 2004) applications of P2P networks to search engines, social networks, video streaming and other Internet-based services. The article seeks to show how the Internet's current trajectories of innovation increasingly suggest that particular forms of architectural distribution and decentralization (or their lack), impact specific procedures, practices and uses. Architectures should be understood an “alternative way of influencing economic systems” (van Schewick, 2010), indeed, the very fabric of user behavior and interaction. Most notably, the P2P “alternative” to Internet-based services shows how the status of every Internet user as a consumer, a sharer, a producer and possibly a manager of digital content is informed by, and shapes in return, the technical structure and organization of the services (s)he has access to: their mandatory passage points, places of storage and trade, required intersections. In conclusion, this article is a call to study the technical architecture of networking applications as a “relational property” (Star & Ruhleder, 1996), and integral part of human organization. It suggests that such an approach provides an added value to the study of those communities, groups and practices that, by leveraging socio-technical dynamics of distribution, decentralization, collaboration and peer production, are currently questioning more traditional or institutionalized models of content creation, search and sharing.

Keywords:
Peer-to-peer, architecture, innovation, Internet-based services, distribution