Why most mobile phones run the Linux operating system, which anybody can read and propose changes? Why we turn to Wikipedia when we want basic information on a topic, even though it is not authored by certified experts but a host of pseudonymous volunteers through an open editing platform? Why only the Pirate Bay can deliver in time the latest blockbusters or the obscure oldies we want to see tonight? Why we have to rely on the anonymous underground publishers of Library Genesis to get the books we want to cite for our academic work?
Is it true that major informatics giants cannot write innovative software any more on their own? Was the academia left behind in its efforts to translate the world’s knowledge to a publicly accessible and useful form? Did the media industry cease to be a viable channel for distribution? Are libraries failing at their mission of providing public access to books?
Peer production refers to the particular way open collaboration happens in these various cases, an innovative organisational paradigm behind seemingly spectacular and disparate achievements. Peer producers do not obey orders; they choose their tasks freely and coordinate their work using open digital platforms. They share the fruits of their labour as part of a global commons. In sum, everyone works according to their abilities and benefits according to their needs, as stated in Critique of the Gotha Programme by Karl Marx.
In this blog we invite you to explore the potential benefits or dangers of such way of working. Is it an emerging form of communism, as social anthropologist Jakob Rigi argues; a new mode of production, as activist Michel Bauwens claims; or the future of liberal capitalism, as Harvard law professor Yochai Benkler, who came up with the term, would have it? Can we use it to build gadgets, farms or cities, or even communities and societies? Through this website we would like to offer the views of peer-producers and practitioners as well as professors, researchers and pamphleteers about their take on this way of doing things.