Self-organized Plenty: The Emergence of Physical Peer Production

Date and Time: 
7 November, 2010 - 16:15 - 17:00

Commons-based peer production, as described by Yochai Benkler and others, has become an essential driving force of the digital world. The Wikipedia and some other community-driven websites are among the most successful online projects, and the Internet wouldn t even work without free software. But peer production is starting to expand from the digital into the material realm.

In my talk I will look at four essential building blocks of generalized peer production:

1. Voluntary cooperation among peers: Peer production is goal-driven people cooperate in order to reach a shared goal. Participants decide for themselves whether and how to get involved; nobody can order others around. Cooperation is stigmergic: people leave hints about what there is to do and others decide voluntarily which hints (if any) to follow.

2. Common knowledge: Digital peer production is based on treating knowledge as a commons that can be used, shared, and improved by all. Projects developing and sharing free design information on how to produce, use, repair and recycle physical goods (often called open-source hardware) provide a basis for physical peer production.

3. Common resources: Free design information is not enough for physical production access to land and other natural resources is essential as well. In the logic of peer production, these too become commons to be used, shared (in a fair manner) and maintained by all.

4. Distributed, openly accessible means of production: In peer production, the means of production tend to be distributed among many people there is no single person or entity controlling their usage. Hackerspaces, Fab Labs, and mesh networks provide the basis for a distributed physical production infrastructure. If the machines and other equipment used in such open making facilities become themselves the result of peer production, the circle is closed: Peer producers can jointly produce, use and manage their own productive facilities, allowing to overcome the dependency on proprietary, market-driven production.

Room 1