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?
The subject matter is highly relevant.

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 treatment of the subject matter is intellectually engaging. The bibliography looks good. However, the bibliography mentions mostly academic literature on the subject. It would seem appropriate to also mention non-academic sources such as interviews, eye-witness accounts, etc. As I explain below, the paper makes a brief reference to Actor Network Theory without then actually using it or ever returning back to it. I would suggest that the author/s look at other branches of science and technology studies which have maybe more to offer for this subject matter. I suggest to have a look at areas such as The Social Construction of Technological Systems (SCTS) and notions such as “communities of practitioners.” Another field of interest could be Participatory Design (PD). As I explain below, the notion of “community network” is not explained well. The paper states that it follows a multidisciplinary approach but then does not say what those disciplines are. Regarding the notion of the community and its political instrumentalisation in the neoliberal discourse of the 1990s, it would be good to also look at political science and general critical cultural discourses on the Internet such as “net critique” (Lovink and Schultz).

3. Are there any noticeable problems with the author’s means of validating assumptions or making judgements?
The paper does not define key concepts well. This is the most significant issue I have found with this paper. For instance, a key concept is the notion of the community network. However, there is no definition of what a community network is right at the start. A bit further down into the paper an attempt is made at saying what a community network is. But this falls short of a proper definition. Admittedly, community networks are fast moving target, so there can’t be an abstract, timeless “definition” of what a CN is. However, it would be better to have a bit more critical distance to this notion of community and reflect exactly this tension between the notion of “community” on a social level and network as technical network. The notion of the community has been overemphasized in the anglophone discourse on the Internet of the 1990s often in connection with a neoliberal argument against the state. Such assumptions of the technologically empowered community versus the state have to be critically interrogated rather than taken on board.

The paper also appears to state that there is a difference between the Internet and community networks on the technical level. This is an unsupported claim and is also something that could be disentangled more. Mesh network routing protocols are also Internet protocols, they belong to the protocol family upon which the Internet is based. It is also problematic to juxtapose the supposedly “decentral” mesh network with the more “central” Internet topology. The Internet is also decentralized. This was the basic idea on which the technology was built and this is still the case to some degree. But there is no black and white here. As the paper goes on to demonstrate, even in the supposedly more decentral CN there are nodes which have a more central function. Thus, rather than taking on board assumptions about centralism or decentralism, the author/s would do well considering a more dialectic approach to the notion of de/centrality. My suggestion would be to consider the layered structure of Internet protocols and to consider social layers as another property of the network and to see how the community networkers own discourse mixes social and technical properties.

Another key concept which is not explained is hacktivism, which even features in the title. It would be good to know what the author understands under “hacktivism.”

4. Is the article well written?
The article is well written as far as content is concerned but has English grammar issues. The paper should be copy edited before being published.

5. Are there portions of the article that you recommend be shortened, excised or expanded?
The paper has a number of structural issues but none of those are so severe to deserve turning it down. So these are meant to be constructive criticism and not pass or fail issues. The paper declares its intentions in the abstract, and then continues to do so on the first pages. It says what it will be doing, and continues to make such statements up till page 7. It would be better if the paper did what it said rather than continuing to declare what it eventually might deliver. I am aware that this is often the case in academic papers, and this paper is, in this respect, not that bad. However, from a human readability point it would be better to scale down those “declarations” of intent and focus on actually doing the job. This also implies on presenting a clearer analytic structures at the beginning that is really capable of binding together the different sub-chapters of the paper from beginning to end.

The paper appears to have three parts which are not organically connected. It starts out with a general exposition of the theme and the story of Ninux. Then suddenly it switches to quantitative measurements, and then finally it touches on what the author calls “cyber-governance.” It is not sufficiently made clear how those three parts interconnect. The notion of “cyber-governance” also remains unexplained. Is “cyber-governance” really the issue or not rather social and political structures that impinge on the running and use of the Internet? Of which then “cyber-governance” would be a special, and highly technical part?

The paper also refers to Latour and Actor Network Theory (ANT) as a theoretical framework. However, after this initial declaration, the paper never returns to ANT. Thus, it seems that ANT is not needed at all to explain community networks.

Suggested improvements:
I am not sure if my suggestions amount to minor or major statements. I therefore want to state clearly that I recommend publication of this paper. The author/s should seek to clarify key concepts better (see above) and also find more coherence in the overall structure of the paper and how the three main sections interplay. Theoretic concepts such as ANT can be dropped without being a loss for the paper, while it might benefit from considering SCTS and PD literature.

Review B

 Reviewer: Anonymous

1. Is the subject matter relevant?
The subject is close to the heart of the reviewer and very relevant to the current revival of interest in autonomous infrastructure and self-provision of network services.

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?
With so much detail about process and the many references in the text, the bibliography is essential.

3. Are there any noticeable problems with the author’s means of validating assumptions or making judgements?
All assumptions seem to be well reasoned and informative.

4. Is the article well written?
The article is well written and succeeds in conveying issues of operational process both problematic and progressive without weighting opinion and distorting assumptions.

5. Are there portions of the article that you recommend be shortened, excised or expanded?
Many texts about community networks struggle to ring around the key issues and get to the point. Summarizing processes that may have taken years to evolve and which involve social actions, a churning of individual interest and engagement, are difficult to report on. The text is long and presents many of the issues in a weave of notation obstructing some aspects for critical inspection but this does not distract form the informative quality of the article. The prospect of access to ongoing investigation of the issues may be of interest to the reader so how will this be facilitated? Thankfully the bibliography is comprehensive.

There are also a couple of sentences that don’t add up, perhaps as English is not first language eg.   [Just the fact that someone says: “Sorry, but Internet is not already at working ? Why is it not enough to request to the municipality to put Internet in areas where there is not? “. ]

Suggestions for improvement:
Double check for grammar and construction of sentences.

Review C

Reviewer: Anonymous

The paper is very agreeable to read. A good interdisciplinary collaboration, it provides a technical, socio-political/STS and legal analysis of CNs which are a good example of infrastructural alternative internets. I only have minor comments and small suggestions.

p. 3 I’m not a sociologist and don’t have a recommendation of reference, but I don’t think you can write “Behind a community network we find, if not a “community” in a proper sociological sense” without providing at least a working definition which would differentiate it from a working group. It seems especially important since the word ‘community’ is the first of the CN expression.

What does variegate mean in this context and would you like to give a few examples of “personal motivations and incentives to participate” as described in Antoniadis et al. 2008 ?

Was Snowden’s scandal in 2012, not rather in 2013 ?

Would you be able to give a couple of examples of Anonymous cyber-political actions, and perhaps a reference or 2 such as Coleman?

p. 4 “Indeed one unsolved dichotomy that is present in CNs is that it is easier to let a network grow when it becomes a cooperative ISP, but a local-only network has a higher (and still undeveloped) social potential (Maccari et al. 2015b).”

This looks very interesting but too elliptical, would you be able to develop?

p. 5 “First of all, the network can not be easily switched off (…) and rest of the paragraph

Can you provide a few references and/or examples for these claims? I believe them, but since you finish the paragraph with “These are attributes of generic distributed networks, which theoretically apply also to CNs. In the rest of the paper we will discuss how much this is effectively true.”, it would be good to bring more accurate theoretical foundations.

p. 6 the co-author in charge of that section should spell Defilippi and Treuger (twice) correctly

p. 8 “a ‘cyber-governance’. This concept states the juxtaposition between technological, scientific and legal devices through which the regulation architecture of the relationships between social actors and the Internet infrastructure is articulated, also in its proprietary borders, contents, modalities of services access, and participation.” I see what you mean, but the sentence could be clearer, and/or cut into 2. A reference to similar or different definitions of cyber-governance could also be helpful.

p. 9 this sentence is hard to read, I don’t understand it, please rephrase and cut it into 2 or 3: “This reflection points out that the relations between activists, political aspirations and technologies can shape a conflictual socio-technical space, which can be connoted by tensions, and recursive negotiations on the boundaries between the implementation of consolidated knowledge (which already work), and the push to experimentation and creation of new skills and knowledge capable of translating political aspirations into an alternative network which embeds new conceptions on the use of ICT.” Also, could you please explain what are “recursive negotiations” and what are the “boundaries” between the implementation of consolidated knowledge (what is knowledge?) and what follows (which i understand, but the sentence is too long)?

What are these “plurality of visions”, could you please cite them to sum up?

p. 10 for author of section 2, what is “a discursive context”?

p. 10 for author of section 3, “and the community is governed with a peer-to-peer approach”: this is new, and deserves developments.

p. 12 “We have observed this behaviour even in larger CNs (Maccari et al. 2015) and this actually shows that the sole fact of being “distributed” does not at all guarantee that there are no critical nodes in the network.” Does this contradicts the theoretical claims made on p. 5 that distributed architectures are more resilient?

p. 13 A real power law distribution in all figures! (You might by the way be interested by the book “Networks, Complexity and Internet Regulation: Scale-free Law”:, preprint pdf at

The conclusion of section 2 shows a re-centralisation of power, how does that relate to p. 10 claim of p2p governance?

p. 17 What is d.lgs.? Can you please expand or translate this italian legal abbreviation?

p. 19 Shouldn’t the last word of section 3 be responsibility (or liability) instead of “powers”?

In general for section 3, would you be able to better distinguish what applies to CNs in general, and what is especially relevant to Ninux with its special architecture, nodes ownership and governance?


This sentence sounds a bit too promotional: “Decentralization and distribution seem to be the keywords that make Ninux intrinsically different, and that should guarantee its development as an “alternative Internet”, especially without comparison to other CNs

This sentence is not very clear: “Similarly, the legal perspective can enter the evaluation with questions about the predominance of the use of a certain Internet gateway on the others.”