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Benkler first introduced the term in his 2002 paper "Coase's Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm", whose title refers to the Linux mascot and to Ronald Coase, who originated the transaction costs theory of the firm that provides the methodological template for the paper's analysis of peer production. The paper cites Eben Moglen as the originator of the concept.
In his book The Wealth of Networks (2006), Benkler significantly expands on his definition of commons-based peer production. According to Benkler, what distinguishes commons-based production is that it doesn't rely upon or propagate proprietary knowledge: "The inputs and outputs of the process are shared, freely or conditionally, in an institutional form that leaves them equally available for all to use as they choose at their individual discretion." To ensure that the knowledge generated is available for free use, commons-based projects are often shared under an open license.
Not all commons-based production necessarily qualifies as commons-based peer production. According to Benkler, peer production is defined not only by the openness of its outputs, but also by a decentralized, participant-driven working method of working.
Peer production enterprises have two primary advantages over traditional hierarchical approaches to production:
Information gain: Peer production allows individuals to self-assign tasks that suit their own skills, expertise, and interests. Contributors can generate dynamic content that reflects the individual skills and the "variability of human creativity."
Great variability of human and information resources leads to substantial increasing returns to scale to the number of people, and resources and projects that may be accomplished without need for a contract or other factor permitting the proper use of the resource for a project.
In Wikinomics, Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams suggest an incentive mechanism behind common-based peer production. "People participate in peer production communities," they write, "for a wide range of intrinsic and self-interested reasons....basically, people who participate in peer production communities love it. They feel passionate about their particular area of expertise and revel in creating something new or better."
commons-based peer production refers to any coordinated, (chiefly) internet-based effort whereby volunteers contribute project components, and there exists some process to combine them to produce a unified intellectual work. CBPP covers many different types of intellectual output, from software to libraries of quantitative data to human-readable documents (manuals, books, encyclopedias, reviews, blogs, periodicals, and more).
First, the potential goals of peer production must be modular. In other words, objectives must be divisible into components, or modules, each of which can be independently produced. That allows participants to work asynchronously, without having to wait for each other's contributions or coordinate with each other in person.
Second, the granularity of the modules is essential. Granularity refers to the degree to which objects are broken down into smaller pieces (module size). Different levels of granularity will allow people with different levels of motivation to work together by contributing small or large grained modules, consistent with their level of interest in the project and their motivation.
Third, a successful peer-production enterprise must have low-cost integration--the mechanism by which the modules are integrated into a whole end product. Thus, integration must include both quality controls over the modules and a mechanism for integrating the contributions into the finished product at relatively low cost.
Additional examples of commons-based peer production communities (by the P2Pvalue project)
One day living with commons-based peer production communities (by the P2Pvalue project)
Examples of projects using commons-based peer production include:
Cross-fertilization: Experts in a field can work on more than one project with no legal hassles.
Technology Revisions: A core technology gives rise to new implementations of existing projects.
Technology Clustering: Groups of products tend to cluster around a core set of technology and integrate with one another.
Interrelated concepts to Commons-based peer production are the processes of peer governance and peer property. To begin with, peer governance is a new mode of governance and bottom-up mode of participative decision-making that is being experimented in peer projects, such as Wikipedia and FLOSS; thus peer governance is the way that peer production, the process in which common value is produced, is managed. Peer Property indicates the innovative nature of legal forms such as the General Public License, the Creative Commons, etc. Whereas traditional forms of property are exclusionary ("if it is mine, it is not yours"), peer property forms are inclusionary. It is from all of us, i.e. also for you, provided you respect the basic rules laid out in the license, such as the openness of the source code for example.
The ease of entering and leaving an organization is a feature of adhocracies.
Some believe that the commons-based peer production (CBPP) vision, while powerful and groundbreaking, needs to be strengthened at its root because of some allegedly wrong assumptions concerning free and open-source software (FOSS).
The CBPP literature regularly and explicitly quotes FOSS products as examples of artifacts "emerging" by virtue of mere cooperation, with no need for supervising leadership (without "market signals or managerial commands", in Benkler's words).
It can be argued, however, that in the development of any less than trivial piece of software, irrespective of whether it be FOSS or proprietary, a subset of the (many) participants always play--explicitly and deliberately--the role of leading system and subsystem designers, determining architecture and functionality, while most of the people work "underneath" them in a logical, functional sense.
Commons Based Peer Production & Capitalism
Commons Based Peer Production (CBPP) represents an alternative form of production from traditional capitalism. Nevertheless, to this day CBPP is still a prototype of a new way of producing, it cannot be called a complete form of production by itself. CBPP is embedded in the Capitalist system and even though the processes and forms of production differ it is still mutually dependent to Capital. If CBPP triumphs in its implementation the market and state will not disappear, but their relationship with the means of production will be modified.
A socio-economic shift pursued by CBPP will not be straightforward or lead to a utopia, it could help solve some current issues. As any economic transition, new problems will emerge and the transition will be complicated. But, moving towards a CBPP production model will be ideal, a step forward for society.
CBPP is still a prototype of what a new way of production and society would look like, and can't separate itself completely from capitalism: commoners should find innovative ways to become more autonomous from capitalism.
In a society led by commons the market would continue to exist as in capitalism, but would shift from being mainly extractive to being predominantly generative.