Teamwork, also called peer production or mass collaboration, is a way of producing goods and services that relies on communities of self-organized individuals. In such communities, the work of many people is coordinated towards a shared outcome. Peer-to-peer production is a process that takes advantage of the new possibilities of collaboration offered by the Internet and has become a widespread way of working. This collaborative mass work is carried out thanks to the existence of a socio-technical system that allows thousands of people to cooperate effectively to create a result that belongs to everyone, that does not recognize an exclusive author and that can be used, regardless of whether or not there has been collaboration in its creation. These collective efforts are carried out without formal obligations between the collaborators, nor between them and the project.
The effort is sustained by a combination of volunteerism and goodwill, technology and some mostly licensing law such as the GNU General Public License, which governs most of the free software developed and a good part of the self-service participation. For example, in the case of Wikipedia, its texts are generally available under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 License; and on all its pages it is clarified that Wikipedia is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization.
Sometimes, some institutions, as IBM did, finance part of the collaborative work, without that implying that they claim it as their property or that they limit access to those who wish to have it. These institutions often benefit from the development of the project by selling project-related services or equipment.
Free and open source software and open source hardware are two examples of peer-to-peer production. One of the first instances of peer-to-peer networked production is Project Gutenberg, a project in which volunteers make royalty-free works available online. Examples include Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, and Linux, a computer operating system. For-profit companies primarily use partial peer-to-peer production implementations, on sites like Flickr, Etsy, Digg, and Delicious, among others. Peer-to-peer production can also be used by sharing open-source hardware designs to replicate with digital fabrication technologies such as RepRap 3D printers. Peer-to-peer production refers to the production process on which the above examples are based. Commons-based peer production is a subset of peer-to-peer production.
Crowdsourced products, such as community cookbooks, are a form of peer-to-peer production. Peer-to-peer production is also expanding beyond knowledge production, in the realm of manufacturing. 8For example, there are now several types of appropriate open source technology such as the use of biomaterials.
Peer-to-peer production has also been used in the collaborative production of open educational resources (OER). Massive open online course (MOOC) platforms have also generated interest in building online e-books. Peer to Peer University has applied peer-to-peer production principles to open online learning communities and peer-to-peer learning.
Criticism of Peer Production
Several criticisms have challenged the prevailing optimism with which peer production is viewed. Many criticize the consensus perspective on peer-to-peer production as utopian. By claiming that this new mode of production challenges the traditional form of bureaucracy, they refer to Max Weber’s analysis of modern bureaucracy and urge that this analysis be applied to peer-to-peer production. They argue that bureaucracy is better equipped to handle social problems than peer-to-peer production, which they consider unsustainable. As bureaucracy promotes a rationally organized and rules-oriented functioning of society, Kreiss, Finn, and Turner claim that peer-to-peer production undermines this aspect because of its tendency to encourage individual behavior based on private morality.
Other critics claim that the participatory nature of peer-to-peer production can lead to misinformation and substandard products.
In addition to these views, some critics claim that peer-to-peer production works better in some contexts than in others. Some indicate that it is less efficient outside of software development, and that it will require a search for new ways to ensure quality. Peer-to-peer production can produce functional works such as encyclopedias more competently than creative works. Despite the valuable potential of peer-to-peer production, several critics continue to doubt broad collaboration and its ability to produce high-quality results.