Yochai Benkler, Harvard University – Keynote
Keynote: Peer production, Commons, and the Future of Capitalism – Peer production has become a field of study in its own right, and has drawn scholarly attention from diverse disciplines using diverse methods. At its core, it is a mode of production based on decentralized organization, harnessing diverse intrinsic and social motivations, and separating governance and management from property and contract. As such, it offers social scientists a rich field for observation and experimentation in social motivations, social organization, and the innovation theory. While rich in its own right, it is important to understand that research on peer production is part of a broader debate on how we are to interpret the history of the past forty years in capitalism, and the potential futures of market-based societies. In particular, commons-based peer production, in combination with the Ostrom school institutional analysis and development of common property regimes, offer critiques of the three pillars of neoliberalism that have underwritten many of the discrete policies that drove the consistent rise of inequality in many market economies over the past four decades. In these schools, the same uncertainty and complexity that drove Hayek’s insistence on market signals have been shown to require greater reliance on commons-based, context-specific knowledge, experimentation, and exploration rather than more abstracted, context-independent property bundles. The model of rationality that emphasizes self-interest with guile gave way to a model built on more diverse motivations and the consistent pressure of motivational non-separability, or crowding out. And the insistence on property has given way to evidence based claims of the necessary interrelationship between property and commons in advanced, innovation- and knowledge-based modern economies. Together, these are forming the foundation of an alternative understanding of capitalism and what it requires, as well as pointing to a new frontier of research on peer production—particularly how it can be more closely integrated into a market economy, perhaps through a new emphasis on peer cooperativism.
Ulrike Cress, University of Tuebingen
Application of Networks: Analyzing Knowledge Construction – The presentation considers collaborative knowledge construction (e.g. as it happens in Wikipedia) under a systemic perspective: It considers individuals as cognitive systems and the community as a social system. Both systems are autopoietic and self-referential. Each one can irritate the other, which leads to a co-evolution of both systems. Individual learning and collaborative knowledge construction result from this co-evolution. The presentation first shows some highly controlled experimental studies that we have done in the lab to analyze these processes of learning and knowledge construction. Based on these it shows how we made use of network analyses to deal with the systemic and autopoietic processes of knowledge construction. In these studies we tried to analyze the conceptual development of Wikipedia content, the dynamic process of knowledge creation in and between different domains and the role of controversy in that process. The presentation poses, that network theory provides an excellent tool to analyze processes of knowledge construction under such a systemic perspective.
Kevin Crowston, Syracuse University
Stages of Motivation for Virtual Voluntary Teams Online Engagement – Members of virtual voluntary teams engage in massive virtual collaborations (MVC), in which large numbers of mostly unpaid contributors collectively collaborate to create new content. Motivation for such contributions has been an active area of research. We argue that what was previously considered a single, static and individual phenomenon, namely motivation for contribution to MVC, is in fact at least three separate but interrelated phenomena, with varying organizational and dynamic aspects. Using the theory of helping behavior as a framework and integrating stage models, work motivation and social movement theory, we propose a conceptual framework that distinguishes three separate models of motivations of participants in Virtual Voluntary Teams. The models distinguish motivations for three stages of participation (initial, sustained and meta) and include as well propositions concerning the effects of contributions on individual states and emergent states of the project as a whole and vice versa. The models provide implications for both researchers and practitioners who manage MVC projects.
Laura Dabbish, Carnegie Mellon University
Transparency and Open Collaboration Environments – An emerging internet trend is greater social transparency, such as the use of real names in social networking sites, feeds of friends’ activities, traces of others’ re-use of content, and visualizations of team interactions. There is a potential for this transparency to radically improve collaboration and learning. In this talk, I will describe my research examining how social information influences collaborative performance in online work environments. Open collaboration environments often involve distributed workers who do not know one another personally and use traces of activity and interactions to inform their behavior. We are investigating how socially transparent interfaces influence perceptions and behavior with both positive and negative effects.
Jeff Nickerson, Stevens Institute of Technology
Reuse Networks – Peer production is based on different forms of reuse. Open design collectives are heterogeneous, and there are interactions between the form of design representation and the attributes of designers. Theories of reuse can be tested on the persistent traces of these collectives. In an open design collective oriented toward additive manufacturing, the confluence of peer production and printing technology has led to a new form of mass customization that highlights issues of peer production platform design. These findings may be useful input to a more general theory of reuse that may apply to a wide range of peer production collectives.
Charles Schweik, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Reflections on Open Source Software and Open Science Peer Production – In this talk, Schweik will first present findings from a largescale empirical study of the classic, “quintessential instance” (Benkler, 2006) of commons-based peer production, Open Source Software. In this study, published in his book “Internet Success: A Study of Open Source Commons” (MIT Press, 2012), Schweik and his team investigated factors that lead open source projects to either “success” — ongoing collaboration — or abandonment before their goals were achieved. Second, Schweik will reflect on his more recent ‘on the ground’ work understanding peer production in other domains such as in open geospatial technology research and education (GeoForAll.org) and open source hardware and science (the Public Laboratory of Open Technology and Science and the OpenROV communities).
Aaron Shaw, Northwestern University & Benjamin Mako Hill, University of Washington
Reflections on Empirical Peer Production Research – Early research into the organization of peer production networks described characteristics that differentiate successful peer production from traditional organizations. Recent research has sought to understand when peer production organizations are more and less effective as well as how features of communities change over time. Many of these studies have turned to large-scale comparative analysis and/or causal identification. In this talk, we highlight recent and ongoing research that is attempting to address these concerns. We focus on an inprogress study in which we combine large-scale comparison with observational causal identification in peer production wikis. Drawing on a panel of quasi-experiments, we empirically test the effect of requiring “cheap pseudonyms” on the quantity and quality of contributions.