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

Summary: Article is recommended for publication.

Is the subject matter relevant?

Yes. The subject matter of the article is highly relevant to both JoPP as a whole, and to this special issue in particular. The focus on collaborative work between different kinds of stakeholders, the experimental nature of the workshops, and the inclusion of maker spaces are all relevant to the issue.

The project itself sounds extremely exciting, particularly the structure of the workshops as having “applied theory in practice using waste textile material from local manufacturers and the tools and resources in a maker space to uncover practical issues to implementing circular practices through hands on experiments, live design briefs and multi stakeholder debate.”

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 treatment is broadly interesting and hits a lot of good points. However, some concepts would benefit from additional definition/unpacking. For example, the idea of “cost” is used without explicit recognition that it implies both monetary and non-monetary implications in the contexts described in the article. A little extra unpacking would be hugely beneficial for getting the relationship between a complex view of “cost” and the circular economy across to the reader.

Similarly, the term “open source” is defined somewhat tacitly. There’s a very large body of scholarly work on various facets of open source projects and movements which could prove useful in providing a more explicit definition of the concept.

For example:

Kelty, C. M. (2004). Culture’s Open Sources: Software, Copyright, and Cultural Critique. Anthropological Quarterly 77(3), 499-506.

Crowston, K., & Howison, J. (2005). The social structure of free and open source software development. First Monday, 10(2).

This last concern is slightly more personal, and the authors are very welcome to ignore it entirely: While I do recognize that this is a UK case, it’s mildly problematic that non-UK examples are mentioned (generally in the context of comments from participants) but are not elaborated or substantiated. While I recognize that the context in which the examples are raised makes it not a priority to unpack them, it might still be worthwhile to elaborate them slightly, if feasible. For example, bottle reuse is brought up, and is mentioned specifically in the context of Scandinavian competence at recycling and reclamation. While in the UK context, bottle recycling may seem exotic (and, indeed, is a current topic of debate), it is practiced in a very large proportion of the world, beyond the provided Scandinavian example (see, for example: ).

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

The article is well-reasoned and substantiated, on the whole. There are, however, a couple of small holes which could be easily fixed.

In section 2.1, the articulation of the stat about 10,000 tonnes of solid waste reads as ambiguous. It doesn’t feel clear that the stat is referring to 10,00 tonnes of waste a day being added to several specific landfills, as the cited article specifies.

Section 3.1 sets up a dichotomy between academics and citizens, as the two kinds of stakeholders in maker spaces. While this is anecdotal, my own experience of makerspaces/hackerspaces/fablabs does not mesh with the idea that academics are one of the major stakeholder groups present. In addition, the section also positions “entrepreneur” as a subset of “citizens”, which might need a bit more conceptual unpacking.

Is the article well written?

The article is broadly well written, but has some frustrating exceptions (frustrating because it’s an otherwise very enjoyable article). There are some terminological problems. One of which is the use of the term “circular thinking” to mean thinking which is in-line with the methods and goals of the circular economy. The term has a more established, perjorative meaning which detracts from its ability to convey the newer idea of “thinking which is in line with the circular economy”.

Some rearrangement would help with clarity. A number of slightly contentious terms are used heavily in the introduction of the article, before they are defined. While I recognize that it takes some space to lay out the structure and thesis of the article, terms like “democratic” and “open” are difficult/contested enough that they would benefit from at least cursory definition earlier in the article.

There are also some small technical issues which, if addressed, would improve the over-all quality of the article: The style of in-line citations isn’t consistent. Some are rendered as (Author, YEAR, page) and others as (Author, YEAR:page). Eric von Hippel’s name is misspelled both in the body of the article and in the references section.

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

While the empirical portions of the article are very nice, some of the background, especially sections 3 and 4, could use tightening. The two sections seem disproportionately long, given the work they accomplish. I would suggest either finding a way to shorten them, while keeping the current arguments and background, or keeping them the same length but increasing the volume of substantiation and background provided.

Issue-specific concerns:

How adequately does the paper address the special issue topic of ‘institutions and the institutionalisation’ of makerspaces, and how could the connection be improved (particularly within the three themes in the CfP)?

The article does a good job of taking into account the concerns of various institutional actors. One small concern, however, is that there’s a promise in the title that the article will provide a “cross geographical” perspective. While the article does make it evident that two different contexts were involved in the broader study, it is not very clear exactly how the cross-geographical angle was represented in the roundtable that forms the empirical basis of this particular article.

Where is there room for improvement in the presentation/use of empirical material?

The empirical material is presented extremely well.

Review B

Reviewer: Anonymous

This well-written paper presents a carefully thought through reflection of a complex set of practices. The set up for the paper is clear. The potential found for makerspaces as both sites and method for plural reflective practice is well argued, and an exciting prospect given the tensions between an open culture and in-group practices noted at the beginning. The topic is relevant to the special issue – though could be related more explicitly to institutions.

The discourse analytical approach to power, and its relation to things, is well made. The figures and workshop activity illustrate how the discourses are arrived at. I’d like to see it elaborated a little further, and towards the ‘institutions’ focus of the special issue. This might be done by relating discourse to institutions (norms and routines), for example, taking Hajer’s notion of institutions as discourse solidified and thinking about discourse coalitions cemented by shared storylines.1 If circular economy means breaking-out of existing institutions, and trying to build new institutions, then how can a makerspace initiative contribute? What kinds of discourse (coalition) are being mobilised? The materials broker, for example, might become a new institution in Scottish textiles, but only if mobilised and rendered powerful enough to reorganise existing processes. This would take considerable institutions entrepreneurship2–4, so might the makerspace also be seen as an initiator of such institutional entrepreneurship?

The relationship between responsibility and the power to assign, take, mask or evade responsibility could be developed more in section 7, and thereby related to the discourse analysis. What is strong in this paper is that the textile objects enable people to get into these discursive and political terrain, and so the promise of makerspaces becoming a parliament of things seems possible. Similarly, with scale, and the importance or power of processing technologies and the dominant discourse of large-scale and scaling-up. The notion of scaling-down or decentralising appears to be off the Roundtable (which is surprising to me, given the prominence of decentralisation narratives in makerspace discourse). Some reflection on what was not said, yet is related, might say something about the power dynamics. Or, more precisely, what kinds of discourse did the makerspace activity permit that would not have happened in normal circular economy discussions? Here you might get at the (power) redistributive potential of makerspaces.

Out of this arises a bigger question, which is the fate of the temporary formation once the initiative is over. Learning is the focus in the paper. But does that presume a relatively rational world beyond, in which power can be redistributed and activated differently through learning? The challenge is not a new one (see Smith’s Technology Networks paper in issue 5 of this Journal). Maybe in the conclusions, and say drawing on some of the disappointments in participatory design with respect to challenging power, the authors could situate their activity within some wider reflection about making the most of makerspaces in the ways experimented in their project, and pushing against any limitations identified.

My points above could be accommodated or addressed relatively easily I think by re-writing some sections or adding a little material. So, for example, bringing institutions into the methodological section on discourse, and improving the discussion and conclusion to be a bit more reflective and analytic. So my recommendation is minor corrections.

Other points:

  • The material/object foundation of the activity is important, and something towards which makerspaces might have affinities. Can you introduce the prototype ‘collars’ more when they first appear (section 6.2)? Do you mean shirt collars, or is it a more technical term?
  • Waste landfilling stats could in places more clearly state if they are annual or daily quantities (e.g. Chinese stats)?
  • Circular economy is introduced as dealing with waste from factories, but might also mean post-consumer waste and end-of-life consumer products too?
  • The numbering of sections might be re-considered, e.g. having a section 8.5 conclusion within the conclusions …
  1. Hajer, M. Politics on the move: the democratic control of the design of sustainable technologies. Knowl. Policy Int. J. Knowl. Transf. 8, 26–39 (1995).
  2. Zietsma, C. & Lawrence, T. B. Institutional Work in the Transformation of an Organizational Field: The Interplay of Boundary Work and Practice Work. Adm. Sci. Q. 55, 189–221 (2010).
  3. Garud, R., Hardy, C. & Maguire, S. Institutional Entrepreneurship as Embedded Agency: An Introduction to the Special Issue. Organ. Stud. 28, 957–969 (2007).
  4. Levy, D. & Scully, M. The Institutional Entrepreneur as Modern Prince: The Strategic Face of Power in Contested Fields. Organ. Stud. 28, 971–991 (2007).

Editors’ review

Many thanks for submitting your paper to the ‘institutions’ special issue of Journal of Peer Production. We have received comments and recommendations about your paper from two peer reviewers. One recommends publish and the other minor-corrections. Here we set out the changes recommended and hope that you are able to respond to them, and that we can count on your paper in the issue.

  • Both reviewers point out some minor corrections, such as referencing and information presented – please attend to these;
  • Reviewer 2 makes some good analytical points about connecting to ‘institutions’. Whilst this was not within the design of the activity, we think as authors/analysts reflecting on the narratives and discourse challenges arising in the workshops, you can make these connections.
  • In order to do that, we suggest you say a little about textiles sector in Scotland and the linear model of Scotland and existing circularity discussions.
  • The background on circularity in Scottish textiles (initiatives, problems) might then help you address another good point from Reviewer 2, regarding teasing out what the makerspace processes enabled that might not otherwise have appeared – the unique strengths of an object-oriented approach in a setting where those objects can be explored and manipulated.
  • Your conclusions about the potential in makerspaces for deeper participatory design and democratisation are great. But who and how might they be brought about and, say, institutionalised?

We hope these comments help you re-work some of the discussion and conclusions you draw from an important case and method. In addition to delivering your revised paper, we would be grateful if you can list and explain your responses to the reviewer recommendations in a cover letter.