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 (Prototypes as Agents of Transition) image

Review A

Reviewer: A

1) Is the subject matter relevant?

Yes. This article handles the practical considerations of an experimental process that involves widespread engagement of participants as peers within the domain of community networking and alternative internet infrastructures. This subject, and the tensions that are the focal point of the argument, are certainly relevant to the journal. Insofar as these networking and democratic governance arrangements are presented as desired futures, the article is relevant to the issue theme, although “transition” is not a foregrounded theme of the article.

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?

Yes. The treatment of the subject is based on practical considerations and reflections which are useful for building up a theory of practise within an important area of work. Community Networks are an interesting domain with digital and material and geographical elements. This article will be of interest to technologists interested in decentralized web infrastructure, to scholars interested in HCI, participatory design and commoning.

If this article is based on empirical, or action research, that could be more clearly stated, as that would be another good contribution, especially since many of the tensions relate to tensions between academic and community norms!!

The author’s choice of citations is well selected and deep, but there is not a lot of reference to participatory design in the context of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) or even community wireless networking literature that I could see. I invite the author(s) to consider the work of scholars in the Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) community, including (but not limitted to) Lilly Irani, Ishtiaque Ahmed, and Chris Le Dantec who have significantly advanced the way that the term “infrasctructuring” is applied to social design processes, as well as some of the epistemic tensions between academic and community peers mentioned in the article.

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

There is no detailed statement of methodology, and the author’s position and involvement in the situation are unclear.

4) Is the article well written?

By and large the article is readable, but significant revisions should be made before publication.

There are numerous grammatical errors and irregularities throughout the text, some of which make the text difficult to understand. Sometimes pronouns refer to the wrong noun phrase, or are missing (e.g. there are several instances where “enabled to [verb]” is written, but who is enabled? Who is the subject?) There are some problems with list agreement on page 2. Some idioms are misused, e.g. “flushed out” (where something hidden is brought into the open) is used where the (admittedly very similar) “fleshed out” is appropriate (meaning providing more detail where it was previously sparse), or vice versa.

Structurally, there are alterations that could be considered. For example, theoretical concepts are sometimes presented very close to practical discussions without sufficient (e.g. lifeworld p5, “design-in-use”). Some adherence to more formal conventions, such as presenting the key theoretical concepts as “background” at the beginning of the work might help to position them as more relevant to the article throughout. Empirical details about the case are presented throughout, but it might help to begin with a solid description. This is mostly accomplished in Section 2, but the first three paragraphs present further background.

The conclusion of the article could be strengthened- as it stands, it doesn’t quite serve as a critique of how tensions in MAZI were/are handled, nor does it really explore how these tensions were mitigated (if at all) during the process. Articulating the authour’s standpoint and relationship to the work could help with that, especially if they want to be honest about criticizing their peers, or a project they do feel strongly about.

Tensions are presented well, but were they addressed during the process? If so, that discussion would be very interesting. If not, then can the authors contribute any thoughts on their potential resolution?

Some signposting sentences would help a lot, and there are a few paragraphs where the topic sentence is at the bottom!

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

In general, I think that the empirical descriptions, but especially the discussion of tensions, are very interesting. I believe they could easily be expanded, even at the cost of trimming some of the content handling concepts from the literature. Applying theoretical concepts to the discussions could help flesh them out as well. Many concepts introduced earlier on for analysis don’t return for the discussion, but would be interesting points for synthesis.

A more unified description of the MAZI project entities and their relations could also help.

In sum: expand discussion to offer a concrete view and solifidy conclusion; expand and unify initial description of case where possible; trim and compress theoretical background concepts and ensure they are relevant from beginning to end.

Review B

Reviewer: B

Reviewers: Andrea Botero & Philip Hector

First we want to thank you for the opportunity to comment on this interesting paper. The issue of community networks is a very relevant theme for p2p research in general, and we believe one component in transitions to more sustainable futures that are at the core of the call for papers on the issue. Linking these 2 aspects will make a nice contribution to the special issue. The case is interesting, has ambitious goals and the processes are well described. It was interesting to read how authors reflect on their process with critical insights, some of them we are familiar ourselves with, from our previous work, so it felt relevant and painfully familiar.

While authors do not make explicit connections to p2p research or transitions, we believe that with some work the connections are easier to make and will certainly tie the paper better to what this call for papers is asking for. To that end we have the following suggestions:

1. Explicit connection to the call: The authors indirectly respond to the special issues call questions such as When is innovation socialised? How can allies be enrolled? In their introduction of e.g digital sovereignty (to which they devote quite a lot of space) there could already be some interesting connections that authors can unpack better to make the contribution to the special issue stronger. There are some connections in e.g. transitions theories discourses in various disciplines that link urgent and needed transitions to democracy, social processes and capacity building that authors could tap into. Also the discussion of prototyping and participation in the intro and theoretical framing can serve as a bridge to discuss transitions, (one needs to rehearse new practices, etc to understand some of the changes and paths to make them should be walked collaboratively, etc). In doing that authors can be more explicit about the type of transition they envision CWN can achieve or contribute to and reflect on it in the end.

2. Literature Framing: If they decide to follow our suggestion #1, they would need to also take these issues back again in the discussion (self determination, sovereignty, etc or prototyping, etc) and reflect whether their case material tells us something about the ways in which these experiments talk to transitions. To do these additions, they will need some space. We believe this can be easily solved by tightening a bit the introduction to concentrate more on the main themes (see also our point #3 on RQ). Now the introduction and literature framing tries to do too much, and there might be materials for more than one paper. For example: If they want to use the concept boundary objects it should be handled more carefully instead of just one sentence. However we felt that they might not need this concept at all. We suggest they concentrate on the other concepts and leave out boundary objects as they don’t currently even come back to it in the discussion. Infrastructuring again serves as one discussion point of three so it should be introduced more specifically and we suggest this can be done by linking it to their discussion in prototyping and participation. For example these papers already do some of that work and might help authors bridge these 2 discussions:

a. Nold, C. (2018). Turning controversies into Questions of Design: Prototyping Alternative Metrics for Heathrow Airport. In N. Marres, M. Guggenheim, & A. Wilkie (Eds.), Inventing the Social (pp. 94–124). Mattering Press.

b. Hillgren, Per-Anders, Anna Seravalli, and Mette Agger Eriksen. 2016. “Counter-Hegemonic Practices; Dynamic Interplay between Agonism, Commoning and Strategic Design.” Strategic Design Research Journal 9 (2): 89–99.

c. Nicola J Bidwell. 2020. Wireless in the Weather-world and Community Networks Made to Last. In Proceedings of the 16th Participatory Design Conference 2020 – Participation(s) Otherwise – Volume 1 (PDC ’20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 126–136. DOI:

3. In the same vein as they are dealing with the particulars of a process embedded in a R&D project and infrastructuring with communities these 2 articles can help them to link (and argue for) their infrastructuring in relation to EU funded research discussion (and of participation) later on: 1. Vlachokyriakos, Vasillis, Clara Crivellaro, Pete Wright, and Patrick Olivier. 2018. “Infrastructuring the Solidarity Economy: Unpacking Strategies and Tactics in Designing Social Innovation.” In Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems – CHI ’18, 1–12. Montreal QC, Canada: ACM Press.

2. Peter Lyle, Mariacristina Sciannamblo, and Maurizio Teli. 2018. Fostering Commonfare. Infrastructuring Autonomous Social Collaboration. Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Paper 452, 1–12. DOI:

4. Research Questions: At the end of p.10 authors introduce a series of questions guiding their discussion: “However, who is accountable for the upshots of failure beyond the experimental and visionary realms of prototyping; how is failure mitigated within the realities of social context and locally situated interventions?“ The authors can focus on these questions and perhaps turn them into their Research Questions? Consequently, these questions should be introduced earlier e.g. in the introduction so that the reader better understands which tensions exactly the authors are trying to demonstrate, and how they plan to do it, and why it is important in relation to transitions (and p2p).

5. Discussion: The 3 themes they have now in the discussion are interesting and relevant, but they might need to be revised in the light of the tightening of the introduction and theoretical framing, and refined RQs. The second theme and especially its headline sound more complicated than it is useful in terms of content. To give an example, at the end of this 2nd theme you say: “Usually working under comparatively precarious conditions toward goals that are difficult to achieve, urban political initiatives have little time to “stray” or “tinker” around for the purpose of mere exploration.” This underlines that it can easily go into Theme 3 “Infrastructuring against the troubles of project logics”. A short reflection on how the interplay of a research project and “peers” play out might be a nice addition (if there is space).

6. Toolkit image/diagram: We suggest you present the toolkit more up front or clearly. Perhaps the accompanying diagram solves the problem, but while reading we were left with many questions about what was the toolkit comprised of (there is one line describing it briefly), It will be good to see pics of the toolkit and have an explanation of the toolkit earlier on so that the reader understand what the fuzz is all about.

7. Language: Overall the article is well written, but we noticed a couple of typos and overly complicated sentence structures, such as e.g. “In contrast, activists expected for a certain level of performance by the experts/designers amplified by particular sets of needs shared by many protagonists of the urban initiatives.” This can be easily solved by another careful reading.

Review C

Reviewer: C

The paper deals with an ambitious and relevant case study, but the narrative remains more often
descriptive, missing a main argument that will engage the reader. So what are the main insights
derived from this experience? How does the content connect with the current issue’s topic
“transition”? The paper will benefit from a more analytical approach and from placing this
participatory process into a related body of literature. As it is now, the references seem somewhat
scattered, lacking the necessary context of similar theoretical and practical cases.