Studying Commons Based Peer Production, ‘an expanding new frontier’

“This is a new frontier and this frontier is expanding in quite an impressive way”, Marco Berlinguer (IGOPnet) opened the roundtable discussion at the first public presentation of the P2Pvalue Project, which took place on the 22nd of January at the CCCB in Barcelona. P2Pvalue Project is a large project developed by a consortium of 6 institutions (University of Surrey, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Stichtung Peer to Peer Alternatives (P2P Foundation), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Università degli Studi di Milano),with more than 20 researchers, developers/hackers and commoners.

Mayo Fuster Morell (IGOPnet & Berkman Center) introduced P2PValue Project in terms of its social science objectives, talking about “what governance means in the digital environment and how it shapes collaborative production” (Slides MFM). The Common Based Peer Production (CBPP) is a third form of production, she said, and “it is characterized as a network of individuals that communicate and interact for the building and sharing of a common resource; frequently this common resource is accessible as a public good, in open access conditions. The interaction is among peers, where the relationships are not mainly mediated by mercantile exchange, labor contracts and traditional hierarchical command.”

Two main challenges have been identified, the expansion of CBPP to other areas (physical resources, collaborative mapping, collaborative consumption, among others) and the hybridization of the CBPP, cases that are difficult to identify, between market formats.

As such, criteria of typification of CBPP have been established to inform a new directory of cases:
1. It has to be collaborative production – intended action and production (a resource must result of it).
2. Between peers.
3. Common based- driven from an approach of wanting to contribute to the general collective interest, often open access.
4. Replicability and derivativity of the content provided:forkability.

P2PValue Project will investigate from a plurality of research methods how different elements contribute to value creation in P2P production, governance, sustainability, strategy of the cases, legal design, technical strategy, resource characteristics and the community attributes.

But what is value creation in collaborative economies? Adam Arvidsson (University of Milan. co-author of the book “The Ethical Economy. Rebuilding Value after the Crisis“), opened his presentation with a “grand statement”: “collaborative peer production is already undermining capitalism, as we speak”.
Arvidsson was referring to ‘intangible resources, generally defined as brand, innovation or flexibility”, produced by what Mayo Fuster had referred to as “a third mode of production that is distinct from either markets or hierarchy”; produced by what, in the 1980’s, management scholars started to refer to as “communities of practice or collaborative community or corporate clans, etc”.
“The market value of the world’s largest multinational corporations is based on so called intangible resources to a share of a 70%. They are resources that we suspect are valuable, such as tacit or implicit knowledge, but we can’t value with any kind of precision or rationality” and as such they cannot be managed in a rational way.

Arvidsson argues that reputation, based partly on technical and partly in civic skills, is emerging as a common currency of value in a wide number of empirical instances in CBPP and in terms of reputation you can reintegrate the theory of CBPP within established notions of economic rationality, because reputation is the currency that can be valorised in many ways.

The P2PValue Project is oriented not only to understand the conditions that favor the CBPP but also to inform the design of a technological platform to support these formats. Primavera De Filippi (CNRS; Berkman center), will be in charge of identifying and analyzing the legal issues surrounding collaborative production and making recommendations for the design of platforms for CBPP.

Some of the “legal challenges around collaborative production” (Diapositivas de Filippi)underlined by De Filippi are the difficulty to distinguish between contributors and also between the user and the producer; the fact that we are moving to a more dynamic conception of a work that is interactive and evolving as it receives the feedback of the public; the problem of jurisdiction and the question of what is the applicable law over communities that operate at a global scale and are often transnational; or the use of decentralised infrastructures and its impact in terms of privacy and freedom of expression.

“As the legal team our objective is to analyse a large number of existing Peer Production platforms and identify what are the regimes of intellectual property they have adopted and what are the technical features they have implemented, in order to try to understand what are the implications of those choices over the overall productivity and the long term sustainability of those platforms”.

“The overall goal is to come up with the most appropriate combination of legal tools and technical features in order to try and create a platform that will be secure and privacy compliant and that will promote and support collaborative production while encouraging the best practice in the context of online peer production community and try to discourage the deviant behaviours“, concluded De Filippi.

This platform, within the P2Pvalue Project, will be a software platform that will boost sustainability, both macro and micro, in CBPP communities, clarified Samer Hassan (University Complutense of Madrid) who spoke about “decentralised technologies to support digital commons” (Slides Samer).
The recent increase of User Generated Content (UGC), the fact that so many users are producing content, that we feel they are empowered, that there is community participation, that they communicate, the increase of online communities, and initiatives for digital culture and digital commons, makes us forget that in fact these contents, production and interaction are concentrated in the hands of a few large for profit corporations that offer web services centralised in ‘the cloud’. These large entities control the data, there is a huge concentration of power resources, which allows for monitoring, data mining, profiling, censorship. There is no way in which the community can influence on how this software runs and it is a single owner of an infrastructure and contents.

The platform, within the P2Pvalue Project, will bet for decentralisation. Decentralisation facilitates privacy embedded in the structural design, encryption and anonymity, for instance supporting multiple nickname-based identities.

It will be a federated infrastructure, “building on the top of the already existing Kune Project” (by, a decentralised collaborative platform, “where the control is decentralised, and this promotes autonomy and social control, “and this promotes autonomy and social control, while being bottom up, community driven, and with a shared ownership of the network. Thus, it promotes diversity, culturally and legally”.

Kune is a federated infrastructure, and as such, there are many nodes that are interoperable with each other. Samer concluded the P2Pvalue Project platform will adopt the results of the social research conducted within the project, to become a “platform with useful social value for real world communities”.

The session was closed with a discussion with members of the international team and also from the local community with Joan Subirats (IGOP-UAB, P2Pvalue), Albert Cañigueral (OuiShare), Javier Creus (OKFN), Nuria Alabao (Fundacion de los Comunes), Enric Senabre (P2Pvalue Stakeholder Board), Ignasi Capdevila, Karthik Jayaraman (P2P Foundation), Juan Pavón (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), Amical Viquipedia, among others. Other participants from the P2Pvalue project include Ruben Martinez, Jorge Salcedo y Monica Garriga (, David Rozas (Drupal, University of Surrey), Alessando Gandini (University of Milan), Pablo Ojanguren, Antonio Tenorio, Antonio Tapiador, and Javier Arroyo (Universidad Complutense de Madrid).

The public showed a strong interest in this topic, with a presence of about 300 people, it was broadcasted on live streaming and followed by a lively social networking event.

Catalan television broadcasted a short report: (in Catalan)

Event organised by P2Pvalue project (funded by the European Commission CAPS call), and P2PFoundation, and the support of CCCB.

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