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:
9.5/10
Title: ‘Karma, Precious Karma!’ Karmawhoring on Reddit and the Front Page’s Econometrisation
Author/s: Annika Richterich
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Abstract:
In Reddit’s numerous topical subsections, so called subreddits, users post and share diverse content. The social news aggregator claims to be ‘a website about everything, powered by community, democracy and you’ (Figure 1). However, one can observe internal conflicts which indicate discrepancies between such idealistic claims as opposed to quantitatively-oriented participation. While some users emphasise topically focused motivations for their participation, others suggest that they mainly post content with the aim of collecting ‘Karma-points’. The latter approach has been called ‘Karmawhoring’. The term references Reddit’s ranking and evaluation system through the allocation of Karma-points. This paper examines how such a quantification of user participation influences interactions and content posted on Reddit. By looking at participatory practices and users’ interplay, it investigates opposing justifications and controversial incentives for contributions. It analyses particular cases of Karmawhoring, user criticisms of such merely achievement-oriented contributions as well as attempts to counteract (alleged) ‘Karmawhores’. The website’s ranking system is described as strategy that aims at decentralising the governance of content: it leaves the subjective determination of quality criteria to the crowd. The aforementioned conflict between idealistically and quantitatively motivated contributions has however led to a discrepancy between value assessments of content. The numerical representation of a contribution’s value through Karma-points, calculated by users’ up- and downvotes, does not function as uncontested signal of content quality. Instead, Karma-points have been criticised by users since they seem to economise participation and inhibit innovative content. Such an ‘econometrisation’ of participation particularly appears to be a result of the community’s rapid growth in scale. A focus on achieving Karma-points becomes primarily appealing once the visibility of communication is regulated by a vast amount of users and interpersonal feedback becomes less likely. Subsequently, Karma functions as main, quasi-monetary incentive and reward of participation. By analysing Karmawhoring and its criticism on Reddit, this paper describes how users’ claimed social values and the website’s quantitative valuation of content fall apart.

Keywords:
Reddit, participatory media, social news media, gift economy, econometrisation, karma and value, governance

JoPP Signal:
7/10
Title: The Paradoxes of Distributed Trust: Peer-to-Peer Architecture and User Confidence in Bitcoin
Author/s: Alexandre Mallard, Cécile Méadel and Francesca Musiani
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Abstract:
The decentralized electronic currency system Bitcoin gives the possibility to execute transactions via direct communication between users, without the need to resort to third parties entrusted with legitimizing the concerned monetary value. In its current state of development - a recent, fast-changing, volatile and highly mediatized technology - the discourses that unfold within spaces of information and discussion related to Bitcoin can be analysed in light of their ability to produce at once the representations of value, the practices according to which it is transformed and evolves, and the devices allowing for its implementation. The literature on the system is a testament to how the Bitcoin debates do not merely spread, communicate and diffuse representation of this currency, but are closely intertwined with the practice of the money itself. By focusing its attention on a specific corpus, that of expert discourse, the article shows how, introducing and discussing a specific device, dynamic or operation as being in some way related to trust, this expert knowledge contributes to the very definition and shaping of this trust within the Bitcoin system - ultimately contributing to perform the shared definition of its value as a currency.

Keywords:
Bitcoin, decentralization, currency, trust, peer-to-peer, expert discourse, value, devices, money

JoPP Signal:
9/10
Title: The Politics of Cryptography: Bitcoin and The Ordering Machines
Author/s: Quinn DuPont
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Abstract:
This paper explores the cryptographic aspects of Bitcoin. I suggest that cryptography can be reimagined and reconceptualised, putting forth an alternative to the dominant view that cryptography is secrecy. I argue that we can fruitfully view cryptography as a discrete notational system. I describe the specific cryptographic mechanisms as used in Bitcoin, and building on this foundation I offer a description of a full Bitcoin transaction. My method for understanding this technical foundation was to engage in praxis, so I describe the lessons I learned by running a Bitcoin mining machine. In conclusion, by drawing on my reconceptualization of cryptography as a discrete notational system, I suggest that Bitcoin functions as a new weapon in our control society.

Keywords:
bitcoin, cryptography, control, code, order

JoPP Signal:
9.5/10
Title: Reproducing Wealth Without Money, One 3D Printer at a Time: The Cunning of Instrumental Reason
Author/s: Johan Söderberg
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Abstract:
The paper investigates the relation between two approaches to transforming the world, one wedded to technological development and industrial revolution, the other stressing popular mobilisation and articulation of conflict. This discussion is grounded in a case study of a low-cost, open source 3D printer called “Rep-rap”. The aim of the Rep-rap project, as explained by its founder in a manifesto article titled “Darwinian Marxism”, is to spread a self-reproducing 3D printer to the masses. It is hoped that this will undermine the market in 3D printers as well as markets in every other kind of goods that could be printed on such a machine. In short, Darwinian Marxism is a roadmap to the transcending of existing market society. The ideas of the hobbyists in the Rep-rap project are compared with a longer history of utopian thinking among engineers, beginning with the French Revolution and leading up to the cyber-political vision of 1960s counterculture.

Keywords:
3D printing, open hardware, engineering, utopia, markets