The Tyranny of Openness: What Happened to Peer Production?

Not sure if anyone here read this but this is a fascinating academic paper about open source licensing.


Hadn’t seen that; that raises some really interesting points.

1 Like

This by Nathan Schneider aka “Exit to Community”

I’m in the social media coop he’s part of

I hadn’t seen this work. Digesting it now. Thank you for sharing!

Thinking about social accounts…we should do an introductions thread where people can share other accounts where we might follow each other.

1 Like

Nathan’s heavily involved with the platform cooperative movement. I’ve been meaning to be in touch with him about XLC. Can’t remember if I emailed him or not.

As a headline, the analogy to “The Tyranny of Structurelessness” is damn seductive. I fell for it, too:

Yes. My observation is both high level novel and banal conversations about Peer Production are mostly rhetorical around the meaning of decentralization among ensembles of machines and natural persons. Broadly speaking, it seems as though many ‘leftist’ commentators are in thrawl to decentralized structures because they see a correlation between centralized ownership, control, authoritarian hierarchy and explotation of workers on one side and a correlation between decentralized networks, P2P distribution, freedom and community on the other. It is sad how people are hoodwinked into maintaining these false distinctions when it seems all too obvious that neither decentralization, P2P production nor networked communities offer much in the way of resistance to the structures these people insist are inimical to their own political preferences.

I read Wealth of Networks cover to cover and found it worthwhile. I read all of Benkler’s papers from that era, too, once upon a time. But I can’t vouch for the popularity of the “commons-based peer production” among academics. I get it, but I don’t get it.

It’s clear “CBPP” made Benkler’s name. Benkler and others have minted new tenured profs within its literature, including some doing really important empirical work, like Mako Hill.

But the phenom reminds me in more than one unpleasant way of “open source” itself. It was very much in fashion, and embodied a lot of diverse, often unstated social and policy preferences of academics. But I’ve slipped into believing that it gathered energy to itself as a coinage and an academic brand, rather than as a theory. The concept, and the idea of it as an emerging, independent, competitive alternative to economics as we know it, weren’t really borne out.

Some academic friends recently brought my attention to the public wager Benkler made with journo Nicholas Carr. In a nutshell, Benkler bet that come 2011, the most important sites would be peer-production products, while Carr bet they’d be corporate products. Each has subsequently claimed victory. To my eye, they’re both wrong. The idea of the dichotomy is broken beyond repair to useful service.

1 Like

oh that’s an interesting wager, and i totally agree with your position there. what we have instead is the worst of both, with all the asymmetry of the corporate model and all the lack of compensation of the commons model. and i think indiecc has the potential to address both of those problems, at least in the world of software development.

1 Like

Did you get this?

‘De Angelis’s critique of Benkler highlights the indisputable fact that the immaterial production of the digital commons depends on the material production of energy, raw materials and labour. But he cannot provide a technological link between immaterial and material production. [In] Benkler’s and Bauwens and Kostakis’s work, there is a lack of the political dimension, which is necessary to deal with the moral and social implications emerging at the intersection of technology, society, and politics’.

Papadimitropoulos, V., 2018. Commons-Based Peer Production in the Work of Yochai Benkler. tripleC 16, 835–856.

1 Like

What strikes me about that is it’s likely both already knew at the time that the coin flipped in this wager would land on both heads and tails around about the same number of times as the years went by… isn’t it obvious that the biggest P2P we know, (the internet) is a corporate production, while so much of corporate production depends on P2P?


1 Like

Just bought it. Thank you.

Absolutely agree. Which is why lately I have been throwing myself someone unusually away from programming and more into figuring this one out for myself. The question I raise is “How could I structure my next company where the incentives are right and not exploitative?”. I do CTO work and the other day one of the PMs said to me something along the lines of “we should just use some open source to minimize costs”. As an open source contributor I was flabbergasted. Muffled something like “This sh*t in open source is not built for free, it’s built by hard work and dedicated people.” And that is where the entire interaction ended.

I think you are right here. In early days of the internet it made sense to build everything in free form in encourage adoption. But I feel like some loopholes in those strategies led us here where that “free” is exploited without significant enough contribution back.

1 Like