Chapter 1 - The Duality of Peer Production: Infrastructure for the Digital Commons, Free Labor for Free-Riding Firms

Mathieu O'Neil, Sophie Toupin, Christian Pentzold

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This introductory chapter examines a series of productive tensions located in and around peer production. We begin by interrogating the meaning of infrastructure for peer-to-peer models, and find that some forms of peer infrastructure have thrived, whilst others were effectively banned. We review Yochai Benkler’s influential theorization of “commons-based peer production,” and examine to what extent it embodies Western, first-world assumptions. Our next section explores at length the relationship of peer production to the dominant economy. It begins by reviewing the rich scholarship on peer production’s transformational potential, which was inspired by Benkler’s model and is often imbued with utopian overtones. It then focuses on the organizational formation which facilitated the emergence of hybridization between commercial firms and communal projects. We conclude this central section on peer production’s political economy by reviewing the literature which suggests that peer production, despite its alleged utopian potential, has been recuperated by capitalism and enabled new forms of labor-exploitation. Our final section explains the aims of this Handbook and summarizes its structure and content.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Peer Production
EditorsMathieu O'Neil, Christian Pentzold, Sophie Toupin
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
Number of pages15
EditionFirst Edition
ISBN (Electronic)9781119537090
ISBN (Print)9781119537106
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Publication series

NameHandbooks in Communication and Media


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