Kategorie: English

Transformation and ownership

Fourier transform (cc-by-nc: xkcd.com/26/)[Es gibt eine deutsche Übersetzung dieses Artikels]

On the Oekonux-Mailinglist there is an interesting debate about the relationship between private ownership and societal change, especially when it comes to commons based production of physical goods. Raoul Victor from France wrote:

The original question is how to deal with the ownership transformation when it concerns material means of production. I insisted on the fact that, at one moment or another (probably many years ahead), this will lead to a general social confrontation with capitalism, where „the workers of the world“ will play a major role, the germs of peer production practices, mainly in the freely reproducible goods domain, having played an important role in the evolution of their consciousness. This confrontation is inevitable because of the nature of capitalism itself.

This is my answer:

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Material peer production—Part 4: What Difference Does It Make?

'From Exchange to Contributions' Cover[Diesen Artikel gibt es noch nicht auf Deutsch. Wenn du dazu beitragen willst, das zu ändert, beteilige dich bitte an der Übersetzungs-Werkstatt.]

Previous part: Commons and Possession

We have seen that it is indeed possible to generalize peer production to material production in such a way that its essential traits—it is based on contributions, on free cooperation, and on commons and possession—are preserved. So far, peer production has been largely limited to the immaterial sphere of information goods, but this limitation is not essential and might sooner or later disappear.

At this point, the reader might be inclined to ask: So what? So we can either have an economy based on markets (a market economy, a.k.a. capitalism) or an economy based on peer production (a peer economy), but, in the end: what difference would it make?

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Material peer production—Part 3: Commons and Possession

Book Cover[Diesen Artikel gibt es noch nicht auf Deutsch. Wenn du dazu beitragen willst, das zu ändert, beteilige dich bitte an der Übersetzungs-Werkstatt.]

Previous part: Free Cooperation.

Peer production is based on commons and possession, not on property. As long as you use something (by yourself), there is no obvious difference between possession and property. The difference only becomes visible when you stop using it: your property still remains your property, allowing you to sell it to someone else (in return for money or some other equivalent). But possession is bound to usage—if you no longer need something, you cease possessing it and somebody else can start possessing it.

One issue where this becomes relevant is the question of long-term vs. short-term usage. When projects expect people to make contributions in order to get the things they want, there are cases where the length of usage should be taken into account. Otherwise, people who want to use something for a limited period of time would be put at a serious disadvantage, since they would have to contribute just as much as if they wanted to use it “forever.” When the expected “lifespan” of a good exceeds the expected time of usage by any given person, it might thus be appropriate to tie the required contributions to the length of usage, sharing the overall effort between all who use it over time. For example, a project or local association organizing housing for its members might prefer to require contributions for living in a house or apartment for a certain amount of time (instead of for living there forever), thus spreading the effort necessary for building and maintaining houses among all the people who live there over time.

The difference between property and possession is also relevant for the problem of resource allocation. In an economy where everything is based on commons and possession instead of property, it would not make sense to treat natural resources as property—to rely on buying and selling to allocate them. In fact, it would not even be possible: if nothing apart from resources is sold, how should those who lack them be able to buy them?

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Material peer production—Part 2: Free Cooperation

'From Exchange to Contributions' Cover[Diesen Artikel gibt es noch nicht auf Deutsch. Wenn du dazu beitragen willst, das zu ändert, beteilige dich bitte an der Übersetzungs-Werkstatt.]

Previous part: Effort Sharing.

Cooperation Between Projects

In the previous part, I have discussed how a project can distribute the effort required for production among those who want to benefit. With these effort sharing models, it is not necessary for participants to produce by themselves what they want to consume—if a project produces different goods (bicycles, cars, etc.), you can take part in producing a good A, and in return get access to any other good(s) B produced by the same project. This allows you to get access to various goods without having to get involved in the production of all of them.

But so far these models have only been considered in the context of a single project, which poses a problem: as consumers, people generally have many diverse needs and desires. In order to satisfy them all, you would either need a project that produces a lot of very different goods, and such a huge project might become inflexible and hard to maintain. Or you would have to contribute to lots of different projects, which would complicate your life enormously.

We can understand this problem better by regarding the different aspects which the participants of a project need to handle:

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Material Peer Production — Part 1: Effort Sharing

Book Cover[Es gibt eine deutsche Übersetzung dieses Artikels.]

Previous part: Traits of Peer Production.

The first characteristic of peer production is that the effort required to reach the goals of a project is shared among those who care enough to contribute. How this sharing is organized depends on the kind of project.

Projects creating free software or open knowledge use a style which Francis Heylighen [2007] describes as „stigmergic“ (hint-based). The work done in such projects leaves „stimuli“ or hints motivating others to continue. Examples of such hints are to-do lists, bug reports, and feature requests in free software projects; or „red links“ to missing articles and listings of „most wanted articles“ in the Wikipedia. They point participants and potential participants to the tasks that are worth doing.

This hinting system also serves as an informal mechanism for prioritizing tasks: the more people care for a task, the more likely it is to be picked up by somebody (since the corresponding hints tend to become more visible and explicit, and since people are more likely to pick up a task they wish to be done). And since everybody is free in choosing the tasks they want to do, participants will generally be more motivated than in a market-based system, where they have to follow the orders of their boss or customer. They also tend to pick up those tasks they think they are good at, ensuring that the different talents and skills of people are applied in the best possible way.

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Material Peer Production — Part 0: Traits of Peer Production

'From Exchange to Contributions' Cover[Update: es gibt jetzt auch eine komplette deutsche Übersetzung dieses Artikels — danke, Stefan!]

Is it possible to generalize peer production into the physical world and to produce material goods and services in the same way as free software and open knowledge? Is it possible for peer production to become the primary mode of production, obsoleting markets and capitalism? In my „Peerconomy“ book, I argue that it is indeed possible and discuss how it can be done. This is the first part of a short series explaining my core ideas. It was triggered by discussion on the English Oekonux list. This article documents my first mail.

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Copyfarleft — a Critique

[Update 2008-06-04: A revision of the draft paper below was published in Mute-Online Magazine]

This is a translation of the corresponding german blog post »Copyfarleft — eine Kritik«.

The following critique of Dmytri Kleiners paper »Copyfarleft und Copyjustright« (published in Mute-Magazine) has got three parts. First I discuss the general theoretical principles, then the transformation of these principles to the field of information goods, and finally the concept of copyfarleft. A concluding critique closes this article.

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