Interactive Business Communication

What is Commons-based peer production?

Yokai Benkler summaries commons-based peer production with the analogy of the software developer who contributes their programming skills to open software. They are someone how are contributing to a collaborative effort of their own accord without apparent motivation. This type of collaboration is the basis of what he calls commons-based peer production. Benkler explains how this commons is an economic form with no driving factor and reasonably should not exist, yet does. Furthermore, it ends up producing economic value.

This model can be seen all across Web 2.0 technologies. In a McKinsey Global Survey on how business are are using web 2.0 services a clear picture can been seen. That is that this model of peer to peer based commons is a highly important model to be a part of. Growing businesses are realizing the importance of adapting their services digitally both to keep up with the market and also because of its network of efficiency.

This concept is much like Axel Bruns term ProdusageHis term describes the creation of a space based on collaborative sharing much like what is done through digital technology. Similarly to Benkler, Bruns sees how this collaborative effort can be useful beyond the digital world. Benkler is seeming to suggest that this model of space where peers create a network to enhance and collaborate on each other ideas be used in the physical world as well as the digital.

This idea seems to heavily contrast that of Bonnie A. Nardi & Vicki L. O’Day’s as discussed in their book Information Ecologies. The crux of their argument is that the digital world act as an extension of the physical world but not eliminate it. While they don’t deny the value to the digital world they see it as a separate ecosystem that act within the physical world but does not overwhelm it.

In a way I feel as though Benkler’s explanation of commons-based peer production is exactly the concept that made me bothered with Nardi & O’Day’s argument. There is an extreme amount of value in this type of model and the economy it creates. Following this model in physical working environments could only be an enhancement.

What do you think of Benkler’s Commons-based peer production? Comment below!


Benkler, Yochai. “The Political Economy of Commons.”Upgrade . IV.3 (2003): 1-9. Web. 14 Feb. 2012.

Bughin, Jacques, and James Manyika.How businesses are using web 2.0. San Francisco: McKinsey and Company, 2007. Print.

Axel Bruns – Produsage –

Nardi, Bonnie A., and Vicki O’Day. Information Ecologies: Using Technology with Heart. London: The MIT Press, 1999. Print.

This entry was published on February 15, 2012 at 11:57 AM and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “What is Commons-based peer production?

  1. Jim Porter on said:

    How can a business make money giving away “free content”? How exactly does that economic model work?

  2. Meredith,

    What an interesting comparison between some of the major works we have read! I really didn’t consider comparing any of these, but you did it in such a great way!

    I completely agree with you about the positive effects commons-based peer production can have on every day aspects of life. Benkler discussed several successes by both Wikipedia and other lesser known projects that have been worked on by collaborating amongst the public, rather than experts in the area and how the material that has come about has been extremely comparable to that of the experts, but was produced in a shorter time period.

    Your connection to Produsage is also a good similarity to find. This commons-based peer production seems like it would interact well with the co-working environment discussed. Although the peer production is in the cloud and online, an addition of a co-working environment could add (or possibly detract) to the efficiency of commons projects!

    Overall, great post!


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