Editors: Mathieu O’Neil (University of Canberra), Stefano Zacchiroli (University Paris Diderot)
The rise in the usage and delivery capacity of the Internet in the 1990s has led to the development of massively distributed online projects where self-governing volunteers collaboratively produce public goods. Notable examples include Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) projects such as Debian and GNOME, as well as the Wikipedia encyclopedia. These distributed practices have been characterised as peer production, crowdsourcing, mass customization, social production, co-configurative work, playbour, user-generated content, wikinomics, open innovation, participatory culture, produsage, and the wisdom of the crowd, amongst other terms. In peer production, labour is communal and outputs are orientated towards the further expansion of the commons, an ecology of production that aims to defy and resist the hierarchies and rules of ownership that drive productive models within capitalism (Moore, 2011); while the commons, recursively, are the chief resource in this mode of production (Söderberg & O’Neil, 2014).
Peer projects are ‘ethical’ as participation is primarily motivated by self-fulfillment and validated by a community of peers, rather than by earning wages. Their governance is ‘modular’, understood in a design sense (decomposable blocks sharing a common interface), but also in political-economy terms: participants oppose restricted ownership and control by individually socializing their works into commons. Conflicting interpretations of their societal impact have been articulated (O’Neil, 2015). Skeptics view the abjuration of exclusive property rights over the goods they produce as irrelevant, and ethical-modular projects as increasing worker exploitation: participants’ passionate labour occurs at the expense of less fortunate others, who do not have the disposable income, cultural capital, or family support to engage in unpaid labour (Moore & Taylor, 2009; Huws, 2013). In contrast, reformists, often hailing from a management perspective, suggest that the co-optation of communal labour by firms will improve business practices and society (Arvidsson, 2008; Demil et al., 2015). Finally activists celebrate the abjuration of exclusive property rights, and present ethical-modular projects as key actors in a historical process leading to the supersession of capitalism and hierarchy (Kostakis & Bauwens, 2014).
This last perspective raises a central challenge, which is the avoidance of purely utopian thinking. In other words, how can commons-based peer production reach deeply into daily life? How can ‘already existing non-capitalist economic processes’ be strengthened, ‘new non-capitalist enterprises’ be built, and ‘communal subjects’ be established (Gibson-Graham, 2003: 157)? An increasingly large free public goods and services sector could well cohabit in a plural economy with employment in cooperatives, paid independent work, and the wage-earning of the commercial sector. However analysis of peer production typically eschews mundane considerations such as living wages, benefits, job security, working conditions, work-induced medical conditions, and debates on labour organization. How can peer production operate as a sustainable practice enabling people to live, if labour and work issues are not formally addressed?
To advance this agenda, the tenth issue of the Journal of Peer Production, titled Peer Production and Work, calls for papers in two linked areas:
Peer production in a paid work society
Nowadays firms attempt to monetize crowdsourced labour. The paradigmatic example is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk labourers (popularly known as ‘Turkers’, ‘cloud workers’ or ‘click workers’) who accomplish micro-tasks such as tagging and labeling images, transcribing audio or video recordings, and categorizing products. This extreme modularization of work results in their status being that of independent contractors rather than employees with rights, necessitating novel means of protection and redress (Irani & Silberman, 2013). The so-called ‘sharing economy’ also uses peer production methods, such as the self-selection of modular and granular tasks, to extract ever-more value from the labour of volunteer ‘prosumers’ (Frayssé & O’Neil, 2015). Capitalist firms are also increasingly engaging with ethical-modular organizations, in some cases paying wages to participants. Such labour is thus both ‘alienated’, or sold, and ‘communal’, as workers freely cooperate to produce commons. Do traditional categories such as exploitation and alienation still apply?
Topics may include, but are not limited to:
– Peer production and the global political economy
– Peer production and the rise of precarious work
– Peer workers and possibilities for worker organisation
– Does the autonomy of peer workers cause conflict in firms, and how is it resolved?
– What strategies do firms adopt to co-opt peer production (e.g., ‘hackhathons’)?
– Do tensions around property rights emerge?
– Subjectivity in peer production
– Peer production and intellectual property, coded work
Paid work in peer production projects
How does paid labour affect ethical P2P projects? Mansell and Berdou (2010) argue that firms supporting the work of programmers who contribute to volunteer projects, to the commons, will not affect the ‘cooperative spirit’ of projects; nor can this support prevent the results of labour from being socialized into commons. Is this always the case?Topics may include, but are not limited to:
– How do peer projects deal with the presence of paid or waged labour?
– Is this topic discussed within peer production projects? In what way?
– What benefits do paid or waged workers enjoy in peer projects?
– How does paid labour affect peer production projects?
300-500 word-abstract due: 30 July 2015
Notification to authors: 30 August 2015
Submission of full paper: 31 December 2015
Reviews to authors: 15 February 2016
Revised papers: 30 April 2016
Signals due: 30 May 2016
Issue release: June/July 2016
Submission abstracts of 300-500 words are due by July 30, 2015 and should be sent to <firstname.lastname@example.org>. All peer reviewed papers will be reviewed according to Journal of Peer Production guidelines. See /peer-review/process/
Full papers and materials are due by December 31, 2015 for review.
Peer reviewed papers should be around 8,000 words; personal testimonies or ‘tales of toil’ in the Processed World tradition should be up to 4,000 words.
Arvidsson, A. (2008). The ethical economy of consumer coproduction. Journal of Macromarketing, 8, 326-338.
Demil, B., Lecoq. X. & Warnier, E. (2015). The capabilities of bazaar governance: Investigating the advantage of business models based on open communities. Journal of Organizational Change Management, in press.
Frayssé, O. & O’Neil, M. (2015) Digital labour and prosumer capitalism: The US matrix. Basingstoke: Palgrave, in press.
Huws, U. (2013). The underpinnings of class in the digital age: Living, labour and value. Socialist Register, 50, 80-107.
Irani, L. & Silberman, M. (2013). Turkopticon: Interrupting worker invisibility in Amazon Mechanical Turk. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.
Kostakis, V. & Bauwens, M. (2014) Network society and future scenarios for a collaborative economy. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Mansell, R. & Berdou, E. (2010). Political economy, the internet and FL/OSS development. In Hunsinger, J., Allen, M. & Klastrup, L. (Eds.) International handbook of Internet research (pp. 341-362). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Springer.
Moore, P. (2011). Subjectivity in the Ecologies of P2P Production. The Journal of Fibreculture FCJ-119. Online.
Moore, P. & Taylor, P. A. (2009). Exploitation of the self in community-based software production: Workers’ freedoms or firm foundations? Capital & Class, 99-117.
O’Neil, M. (2015). Labour out of control: The political economy of capitalist and ethical organizations. Organization Studies, 1-21.
Söderberg, J. & O’Neil, M. (2014). Introduction. Book of Peer Production (pp. 2-3). Göteborg: NSU Press.