Blog Archives

Shining a new light on democracy

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By Andy Williamson, consultant, researcher and speaker on digital and social media, society and policy.

It was Jacques Ellul, in his book The Technological Society, who noted in the 1960s that technology, in its broadest sense, cannot be isolated from the social and human factors that surround it. Technology forms a core part of the ecology in which it is situated and, within which, we live. When the lightbulb blows, we notice it. It affects us in various ways and, as the light fades, it becomes obvious that it must be changed.

In a literal sense, one individual might physically change the bulb. But it takes an entire supply chain to ensure that the bulb is there when we need it. Package designers ensure it is packed safely, logistics experts get it from factory to warehouse to the supermarket, and electricians have installed the fittings. To ensure that it all works, regulators and policy makers must draft laws, create standards and ensure these are enforced. And without electricity the lightbulb remains dark. Even the humble light bulb is part of a complex ecosystem.

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Posted in Open Thoughts 2014

Peer production and the opportunities and struggles of constructing a more humane production system

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By Yochai Benkler, professor, Harvard Law School; and faculty co-director, Berkman Center for Internet and Society

Commons-based production generally, and commons-based peer production in particular, are the most important and surprising organizational innovation to have emerged in networked economy and society. Surprising, because throughout the 20th century our intellectual frame for understanding production was dominated by a binary vision: state and market. By the end of the last century, we had shifted from a view of state- and managerial-hierarchy-based production as dominant to a view of market- or decentralized price-based organization as the dominant model.

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Posted in Open Thoughts 2014
About the Question
How many peers does it take to change a light bulb?

Systems like Linux and websites like Wikipedia are paradigmatic of a particular way of open collaboration known as peer production. Peer producers 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, and everyone works according to their abilities and benefits according to their needs.

Is this an emerging form of communism? Or the future of liberal capitalism? Or is it simply a new mode of production? In this blog we want to explore both the benefits and the downsides of such way of working.

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