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

Review A

Reviewer: Anonymous

1. Is the subject matter relevant?

Yes.

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

The article provides an extensive portrait of makers in Italy thanks to a survey and traces connections to family firms. What may be missing are possible connections to cooperatives and social centres which have a long history in Italy. Are makers located in spaces which are somehow part of this tradition? If not, is this a conscious rejection?

See Restakis in JoPP 7: “In Italy, although social co-ops compose only 2% of non-profits, they are responsible for 23% of jobs in that sector (Menzani and. Zamagni, 2009). In Bologna, 87% of the social services in that city are provided by social co-ops under contract to the municipality (Restakis, 2010).”
http://peerproduction.net/issues/issue-7-policies-for-the-commons/peer-reviewed-papers/policy-for-a-social-economy/

3. Are there any noticeable problems with the author’s means of validating assumptions or making judgments?

The authors do not deal with the wider politcal economy implications of makers for the labour market in Italy. For example, is there a risk that devolving certain types of production to unregulated and unpaid volunteers may exercise downward pressure on wages (as some say is the case with the “sharing economy”)?

What of the self-perceptions of makers about this issue or other aspects of their activity? Do they see themselves as having a political role to play?

4. Is the article well written?

There are no major problems with language.

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

See above.

Review B

Reviewer: maxigas

1. Is the subject matter relevant?
The article presents the results of a survey of makers in Italy (on a sample of 134 persons), arguing that makers are more collaborative than self-employed workers and more engaging with the market than peer production communities. In this capacity the subject is highly relevant to the topic of JoPP #10: work and peer production. It can improve the understanding of making as an economic sector.

2.a Is the treatment of the subject matter intellectually interesting?
The proposal to understand the political-economical conditions of makers empirically is very interesting. The current literature largely understands makers as a “movement” and as “communities”, while at the same time argues that it is a potentially important sector of the economy (particularly manufacturing). The paper addresses this question based on original empirical results. The penultimate section attempts to contextualise the results in existing policy frameworks for makers and tries to give recommendations for policy makers.
However, the argument presented in the abstract is not well developed throughout the article, and the engagement with policy is largely inconclusive. The main problem is that the argument for makers’ position in the world of work and employment is not embedded in the sociology of work in general, or literature on social stratification. In order to make a convincing argument, it is necessary to situate makers within contemporary Italian society in general, not just contrast them with “traditional designers” (a somewhat ill-conceived category).

2.b Are there citations or bodies of literature you think are essential to which the author has not referred?
There are specific surveys of peer production communities and shared machine shops that can be introduced at this point of the paper: “The Makers’ Inquiry represents the first attempt realized in Italy (and maybe at international level, to our knowledge)”. Refer to the surveys of the “Statistical Studies of Peer Production” initiative (associated with JoPP), as well as to the P2P Value project. Perhaps Adrian Smith of the SPRU can provide other references to surveys in this general area.
As mentioned above, in order to make the main argument more relevant, it would have to be made in the context of general sociological writing on working conditions and social stratification (ideally referring also to the contemporary Italian context). There are many ways to do it and many potentially interesting bodies of work to choose from. For instance there is a large debate in sociology about the category of precarity that could be used to contextualise these results. Literature on precarity in the contemporary Italian context should be available (since the concept have been inspired by local discussions), and therefore it could be worth engaging with.
Another option would be to embed the discussion in the works of Manuel Castells on network and knowledge societies, especially regarding the emergence of the network enterprise. Makers are potentially close to that model and there is empirical data to validate or invalidate, or at least refine and complicate the network enterprise conceptualisation. However, there are other options and any could provide enough sociological context as long as it is about work in society at large.

3. Are there any noticeable problems with the author’s means of validating assumptions or making judgments?
A small problem that can be fixed with linguistic reformulations is that the research question of the survey (“profiles of makers”) is very close to the initial definition of who is targeted in the survey (“makers, indie designers, etc.”). Therefore, it appears that the definition is circular.
A bigger problem that can still be fixed with a careful rewrite of sentences throughout the article is that the authors seem to have strong and unquestioned assumptions about the history of maker culture. I have pointed out some of these in the comments on “Logic” in the appendix.
The main rhetorical problem is that the argument of the paper is not made explicit enough throughout the text and it does not mobilise existing literature on makers. I think there is a great opportunity there to criticise a large portion of maker-literature$that"ic professing “Industrial revolution”, the authors have to simply engage with it. Their empirical results already show that most of those prophecies have not materialised in contemporary social reality. Most of the relevant literature is already part of the paper in the literature review section but it is not evaluated vis-a-vis the empirical results presented here. Such evaluation could happen in the body of the text or in the conclusion.
Having said that, the analysis of the survey results is without major methodological problems.

4. Is the article well written?
The article is well organised and easy to read. However, the English is poor quality and the final version would need thorough proofreading. I marked particular grammar problems in the appendix. For instance, the title (“Makers as a new working conditions”) is already flawed grammatically, and “peer-production” is written with a hypen whereas in the title of this journal it is written without hyphen.

5. Are there portions of the article that you recommend be shortened, excised or expanded?
Yes. The article is not theoretically situated on the literature on work, and the discussion of policies is not ineffective. Therefore, I suggest to drop the amibition of discussing policies and leave it for another paper. Instead, I recommend adding a section or part before the current section 3. that situates the argument in work literature. Such discussion would have to be referred in the conclusion when summarising the results. Finally, I suggest to develop the theoretical argument more coherently throughout the whole text. The latter is more of a linguistic problem because the evidence is already there, but it is not always explicitly connected to the actual argument.

Review C

Reviewer: Anonymous

1. Is the subject matter relevant?
Yes, highly.

2. Is the treatment of the subject matter intellectually interesting? Are there citations or bodies of literature you think are essential to which the author has not referred?
I think the author/s should try to clarify the central concepts/phenomena, and how they are connected better in the beginning of the article: Makers, digital fabrication, peer production etc. Maybe a model would help.
I think that the themes of the inquiry can be clarified better and it would be a good idea to select the most important of them and connect these themes better to the following chapters.
The article also lacks critique of the relation between the Maker’s movement and Industry. The critique being made is that the connection is weak, but perhaps there could be other kinds of critique as well?
The article by Maxigas in JoPP could perhaps be of help in sharpening the article’s critique.

3. Are there any noticeable problems with the author’s means of validating assumptions or making judgments?
Some examples in need of some clarifications, or less drastic analysis, from the analysis of the inquiry:
The role of making in the economic conditions page 10, last sentence: 21,6 % did not reply, which leads to the conclusion “”showing how the working conditions is less clear or it does not fit in conventional formats”. I think this line of reasoning could improve if it were not put forward so bluntly, a little word of “could be seen” would make it more trustworthy
Page 9: “The age of Italian Makers falls mainly in the range of the working age, showing how the identity of Makers could be linked to work”. Either obvious or in need of some elaboration to get any meaning.

4. Is the article well written?
The language sometimes is a bit of a problem, the article will have to be proof read.
I could also be shortened to get more concise.
The article would also gain from some work on its alignment, this would also help the authors to shorten the text.

5. Are there portions of the article that you recommend be shortened, excised or expanded?
Yes.  Chapter 5 on policies needs to be more closely connected to the findings of the survey. As it is now it “hangs in the air”. The chapter should also be shortened, there are some passages in the conclusions that are more to the point and could be transferred to chapter 5 and discussed there.