Ethics and Peer Production

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From Humanitarian-FOSS Project Development Site

The Ethics Behind the Operation

The common based peer production realm promotes and brings forth virtues within individuals. As stated by Benkler and Nissenbaum virtue leads people to participate in commons-based peer projects and participation gives rise to virtue, also known as a positive feedback loop. [1] When individuals use their time and effort to contribute and work with complete strangers, their most virtuous characteristics are developed. In the present world where everyone is competing against everyone else to succeed, a simple but influential online society can inspire the most instinctual and inner virtues to develop and foster within individuals. This world provides an escape from the corporate - money driven society to the most basic instinctual and ethical sides of the human race. It is instinctual for humans to want to help others but our present society’s rules make contributions difficult without attaining or wanting personal gain, altering the focus from societal aid to personal. The fact that individuals can break the bounds that developed within our society as they begin to work with strangers over the internet, demonstrates that it is in human nature to want to help others and most of all to work together for a larger global benefits. People who choose to participate within the new scope are all volunteers who are using their free time to contribute to global efforts are using their own judgment of where their input would be beneficial and exercise independence and promote sharing of thoughts, knowledge and creativity. Most of all when strangers participate together they can produce something that can be valuable to all.

Virtuous Society

Wikipedia and Linux are some examples of virtuous projects that promote virtue within the individuals participating within them. These projects indeed develop a more virtuous society. Only the people who want to participate in the projects have the ability to participate, it is all based on choice, and participation is not required nor is it rewarded in any way other than personal satisfaction. This way those who do not feel the need or urge to participate do not have to contribute, selecting only individuals who are motivated and usually are therefore educated in some form on the subject that they are participating in because otherwise they might not have the motivation to work for free during their free time. Both projects demonstrated that people are generally interested in global participation, considering that Wikipedia has 25,000 participants in English and 30,000 in other languages, this is a global phenomenon [2]. These projects are means for people to share their knowledge but unlike other medians, the common-based peer production does not provide any means for anyone to attain fame, money or even credit for their contribution. However, the only gain is simply the personal satisfaction that people feel knowing that they contributed to a global cause and the knowledge that they have the ability to learn from a wider community. Other examples are The Synaptic Leap, a biological research website that allows researchers to peer analyze data and develop treatments against diseases that are not profitable to the pharmaceuticals. These scientists do not secure any financial gain, they do not have the possibility to publish their research or receive grants. The only reward they receive is the sheer satisfaction of knowing that they created a treatment that would save lives. Furthermore, other projects different from the scientific realm such as Open Source Food provide an environment for people who are interested in posting their recipes, commenting on others and overall inspire each other. However, what all of these projects have in common is the ethics behind their success and popularity: individuals are virtuous if a medium is presented for them where they can practice the virtuous of generosity and charity and thereby influence others to do the same.

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