<apologies for multiple posts>
PEER PRODUCTION AND OUR CRISES
Peer producers are people who create and manage common-pool resources together. It
sometimes seems as if “peer production” and “digital commons” can be used interchangeably.
Digital commons such as free and open source software and Wikipedia are non-rivalrous
(they can be reproduced at little or no cost) and non-excludable (no-one can prevent
others from using them, through property rights for example). So, practically speaking,
proprietary objects could be produced by equal “peers”. We argue that peer production has
a normative dimension so that what chiefly characterizes this mode of production is that
“the output is orientated towards the further expansion of the commons; while the
commons, recursively, is the chief resource in this mode of production” (Söderberg &
O'Neil, 2014, p. 2). The Journal of Peer Production has tracked the evolution of peer
production from open knowledge to open design and manufacturing. It approaches its
ten-year anniversary in the time of the global pandemic, and of the continuing
environmental crisis. The impacts of Covid-19 are profound, but will not last forever,
though local infection pools may subsist in poorer countries for much longer than in the
Global North. In contrast, the environmental crisis is here to stay.
THE ROLE OF THE JOURNAL OF PEER PRODUCTION
Significant social change is required to stave off climate destruction, and principles
such as cooperation and trust, transparency in production, collective democratic
decision-making, etc., can usefully contribute to necessary processes of “relocalization”
and “degrowth”.* What should be done to develop the digital and physical commons? What
role should the Journal of Peer Production play in this development? And what shape should
it take? It is clear that in addition to maintaining its uniquely transparent curation and
dissemination of academic research, the Journal of Peer Production needs to expand its
work in several ways:
-Should it feature more practical advice to develop commons, such as toolkits and how-to
-Should it comprise policy proposals to help grow the infrastructure which supports the
-In other words, should it combine research and action?
The answer is "yes" in all three cases. To this end we seek creative, practical
and policy-oriented ideas to help invent a new type of scientific journal that both
fulfills strict academic criteria, and brings research work closer to practice. Our next
issue, JOPP #15 will thus be a "TRANSITION" issue featuring, in addition to
peer-reviewed research, experimental formats and "meta" articles.
JOPP #15 TRANSITION - Call for Papers
We seek investigations into societal transition (how can we move towards a society where
contributions to the commons are valued and recognised?), into the journal's editorial
transition (how should the Journal of Peer Production change to assist this societal
transition), as well as idiosyncratic understandings of scientific and political
JOPP #15 TRANSITION - Peer-reviewed articles + Complement
We invite submissions of peer-reviewed academic papers from multiple fields on how
"things can change". What are the sociological and historical conditions for
transition to occur? For example: what is the impact of manifestos? When is innovation
socialised? How can allies be enrolled? etc.
Editorial guidelines for peer-reviewed articles: max 8000 words; peer-reviewed in
accordance with the JOPP peer review process
For this TRANSITION issue, academic papers must be complemented by a shorter piece in
which the contents of the academic paper are transformed into a different format. The
nature of this transformation is up to the authors.
We can suggest the following: policy guidelines; practical toolkits; comic-books; etc.
Other authors may be enlisted to assist in the article's transition.
Editorial guidelines for complementary pieces: max 2000 words; reviewed by the editors.
JOPP #15 TRANSITION - Non peer-reviewed articles
We also invite submissions of non-peer reviewed academic papers dealing with transition.
These will be reviewed by the editors.
Papers "following-up" on previous issues of JOPP, or on specific articles by the
authors or others.
What has changed since this article was published?
B-Policy and strategic papers
Papers bringing together academics and policy makers.
Strategies for connecting to actors in government and/or civil society.
Papers on the question of impactful academic publishing: how can academics pursue a career
and have social impact at the same time?
Papers on the transition of research fields: how do research fields evolve to better meet
Rewriting influential papers, or a chapter of a classic book, or revisiting one's own
past paper: what has changed?
Editorial guidelines for A, B, and C: max 4000 words.
CFP released 30 June 2020
EOI peer-reviewed articles deadline (500-words max. extended abstract + 100-words max.
complementary paper abstract) 30 July 2020
EOI non peer-reviewed articles deadline (250-words max. abstract) 30 July 2020
Authors advised 30 August 2020
First submission sent out for review 30 November 2020
Reviews due 30 January 2021
Revised submissions due 30 March 2021
Signals due 30 May 2021
JOPP # 15 released 30 June 2021
*The following is an excerpt from the final chapter of the forthcoming Handbook of Peer
Production (Wiley, 2021), “Be Your Own Peer! Principles and Policies for the Commons”
(O’Neil, Toupin, Pentzold):
The governance of peer produced projects, one of the central aspects of the studies of
peer production, aspires to the self-regulation of participants in autonomous collectives.
This governance raises the broader issue of political sovereignty. The appeal of
self-governance for peer production participants can perhaps be explained by the amount of
strategic control most citizens in liberal democracies have over their lives and
environment. This control has been drastically reduced by unaccountable global actors –
e.g. financial markets, extractive industrial interests, supranational trade agreements,
and the list goes on – who influence and constrain the policy options of notionally
democratic nation-states. In the early 2020s, racist nativism and authoritarianism are
being embraced by some people in reaction to the failures of export-oriented, deregulated,
and globalized neoliberalism. A way out of this political crisis is linked to a solution
to the environmental crisis: we must head toward more democracy by relocalizing or
deglobalizing, and towards more sustainability by degrowing, our economies.
As engaged researchers, we believe the Handbook of Peer Production needs to offer a
response, however modest, to these political and ecological challenges. Addressing the
macro-economic aspects of “deglobalization” would lead us far away from peer production,
towards issues which would probably require a Handbook of their own. Accordingly, we
focus here on relocalization as it relates to degrowth (décroissance), the downscaling of
over-production and over-consumption (Kallis, 2019; Latouche, 2006). In a nutshell:
unlimited growth and consumption are not sustainable, so we need more access to free
public services, a shorter work week, and a turn towards climate-friendly industries. In
this context, Stefania Barca (2019) suggests that the one question that matters is that
posed by self-governing workers: “should surplus value be reinvested in production, or
not”? Yet since only a handful of firms and industrial sectors are run following so-called
“holacratic” (i.e., communal or participatory) principles, degrowth must – in a first
stage at least – be deployed in a piecemeal, hybrid manner.
In the context of discussing the cooperative sector, Gibson-Graham (2003) suggest that if
we perceive economic relations as already plural, then the revolutionary “project of
replacement” can be modified into one of “strengthening already existing non-capitalist
economic processes and building new non-capitalist enterprises,” of establishing “communal
subjects” (p. 157). Several chapters in the Handbook of Peer Production [...] have
discussed ways in which this “strengthening” has begun to occur at the municipal level.
However, as noted by Adrian Smith (2014) in his account of London’s early-1980s Technology
Networks (community-based workshops which provided open access to shared machine tools,
technical advice, and prototyping services), a “key lesson from this history is that
“radical aspirations invested in workshops, such as democratizing technology, will need to
connect to wider social mobilizations capable of bringing about reinforcing political,
economic and institutional change” (Smith, 2014, online). In other words, the ecology
around peer production must be nurtured. Further, adopting strictly local settings leaves
the public policy terrain open to neoliberal and/or reactionary perspectives.
Barca, S. (2019) The labor(s) of degrowth. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 30(2), 207–216.
Gibson-Graham, J.K. (2003). Enabling ethical economies: Cooperativism and class. Critical
Sociology. 29(2): 123-164.
Kallis, G. (2019) Socialism without growth. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 30(2): 189-206.
Latouche, S. (2006) The globe downshifted. Le monde diplomatique. January.
Smith, A. (2014) Technology Networks for socially useful production. Journal of Peer
Production, 5: Shared Machine Shops.
Söderberg, J., & O’Neil, M. (2014). Introduction. In: Söderberg, J., & Maxigas
(Eds.), Book of Peer Production (pp. 2-3). Göteborg: NSU Press.