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
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JoPP Signal:
15/15
Title: Producing a Knowledge Commons: Tensions Between Paid Work and Peer-production in a Public Institution
Author/s: Lorna Heaton, Patricia Dias da Silva
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Abstract:
This paper explores peer-production initiated and organised by a public institution. We propose a sort of borderline test case that may shed light on issues surrounding peer-production in a capitalist context. We explore tensions around work and production in the digitisation project of the Marie-Victorin Herbarium in which a team of volunteers is working to photograph thousands of herbarium specimens, complete a database entry for each specimen and associate the digital photos with the database. Carried out in the context of a digital infrastructure, Canadensys, whose aim is to make information contained in Canadian biological collections freely accessible online, the project is realised almost exclusively with volunteer labour. This case illustrates how unpaid labour, freely given but organised from above in an institutional context, can produce a knowledge commons that may be difficult for capitalist forces to appropriate.

Keywords:
public institution, volunteer labour, digitisation, botany, knowledge commons

JoPP Signal:
15/15
Title: Crowdsourcing Citizen Science: Exploring the Tensions Between Paid Professionals and Users
Author/s: Jamie Woodcock, Anita Greenhill, Kate Holmes, Gary Graham, Joe Cox, Eun Young Oh, Karen Masters
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Abstract:
This paper explores the relationship between paid labour and unpaid users within the Zooniverse, a crowdsourced citizen science platform. The platform brings together a crowd of users to categorise data for use in scientific projects. It was initially established by a small group of academics for a single astronomy project, but has now grown into a multi-project platform that has engaged over 1.3 million users so far. The growth has introduced different dynamics to the platform as it has incorporated a greater number of scientists, developers, links with organisations, and funding arrangements—each bringing additional pressures and complications. The relationships between paid/professional and unpaid/citizen labour have become increasingly complicated with the rapid expansion of the Zooniverse. The paper draws on empirical data from an ongoing research project that has access to both users and paid professionals on the platform. There is the potential through growing peer-to-peer capacity that the boundaries between professional and citizen scientists can become significantly blurred. The findings of the paper, therefore, address important questions about the combinations of paid and unpaid labour, the involvement of a crowd in citizen science, and the contradictions this entails for an online platform. These are considered specifically from the viewpoint of the users and, therefore, form a new contribution to the theoretical understanding of crowdsourcing in practice.

Keywords:
citizen science, crowdsourcing, labour process, microwork

JoPP Signal:
9/10
Title: Makers as a New Work Condition Between Self-employment and Community Peer-production. Insights from a survey on Makers in Italy.
Author/s: Massimo Menichinelli, Massimo Bianchini, Alessandra Carosi, Stefano Maffei
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Abstract:
Peer production has emerged as a new and relevant way of organising the work of distributed and autonomous individuals in the production and distribution of digital content. Increasingly, the adoption of peer production is taking place not only in the development of digital and immaterial content, but also in the design, manufacturing and distribution of physical goods. Furthermore, Open Design and Open Hardware projects are developed, discussed, manufactured and distributed thanks to digital fabrication technologies, digital communication technologies, advanced funding initiatives (like crowdfunding platforms and hardware incubators) and globally integrated supply chains. This new systemic dimension of work is possible, among other factors, thanks to local facilities like Fab Labs, Makerspaces and Hackerspaces (that can be generally called Maker laboratories), where individuals can gather and form communities with other people, designing and manufacturing together. Generally, these people are referred to as Makers and, while their existence is still an emergent phenomenon, it is widely acknowledged that they could exemplify a new modality of work. We investigated the knowledge, values and working dimensions of Makers in Italy with the Makers' Inquiry, a survey that focused on Makers, Indie Designers and managers of Maker laboratories. This research generated a first overview of the phenomenon in Italy, improving the knowledge of the profiles of Makers; an important step because Makers are usually defined in a very broad way. Furthermore, we investigated their profiles regarding their values and motivations, in order to understand how much Makers engage in peer production or in traditional businesses and whether their working condition is sustainable or not. Finally, we compared these profiles with data regarding traditional designers and businesses and the national context. Given the recent nature of the Maker movement, the focus of this article is on providing a first overview of the phenomenon in Italy with an exploratory analysis and with comparison with existing related literature or national data, rather than contextualising the Maker movement in sociological and political contributions. Far from happening in a void, Italian Makers have a strong relationship with their localities and established industry. Therefore, this is a recent evolution, where Makers work with a broader palette of projects and strategies: With both non-commercial and commercial activities, both peer production and traditional approaches. The activity of making is still a secondary working activity that partially covers the Makers’ income, who are mostly self-employed working at home, in a craft workshop or in a Fab Lab in self-funded or non-commercial initiatives, where technology is not the only critical issue. As a conclusion, we identified current patterns in the working condition of Italian Makers. The data gathered shows some interesting information that, however, could be applicable only to an Italian context. Nevertheless, the survey could be a starting point to compare the same phenomenon in different countries. Therefore, we released the survey files, software and data as open source in order to facilitate the adoption, modification, verification and replication of the survey.

Keywords:
maker movement, indie designers, Italy, survey

JoPP Signal:
9/15
Title: Communal Work and Professional Involvement: the Balance of Open Source Projects
Author/s: Clement Bert-Erboul
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Abstract:
Why do people with stable professions participate in open source projects? The case of teachers in these types of communities shows the evolution of participant motivation. During their early years, teachers are animated by a social motivation to use digital tools that broadcast teaching contents widely. In subsequent years, teachers tend to be even more animated by their wish to contribute to collective activities as related to their professional focus at school. However, to maintain and develop the community’s capabilities, a part of the contributor’s time tends to remain involved in activities distant from the school’s core issues. This finding contributes to the field of open source studies, and it concerns the individual’s motivation.

Keywords:
open source, open communities, open education, work, involvement

JoPP Signal:
14/15
Title: A Critical Political Economic Framework for Peer Production's Relation to Capitalism
Author/s: Arwid Lund
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Abstract:
This article examines the relation between peer production and capitalism on a systemic and theoretical level. One problem with understanding peer production as an alternative and potentially competing mode of production in relation to capitalism is that the main bulk of economic theory deals only with capitalism. Alternative economic theories from an emerging theoretical P2P movement have done important pioneer work on commons-based peer production, and in discussing its sustainability as a mode of production both on a systemic and individual level (for the peer producers) within capitalism. This article argues that the disadvantages of the P2P movement’s theoretical framework, compared to a Marxist one, have their roots in an evolutionist motif, and the article aims to situate peer production more clearly in relation to the workings of capital, and in relation to a Marxist understanding of the potential for political agencies and counter-powers to emerge from capital’s outside.

Keywords:
peer production, p2p movement, mode of production, critical political economy, marxism