Notes on Commons based peer production

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From Humanitarian-FOSS Project Development Site

These are notes on " Benkler and Nissenbaum, Commons-based peer production and virtue, JPP 14(4), 494-419, November 2006

Commons-based peer production (CBPP) is a socio-economic system of production that is emerging in the digitally networked environmnet.

CBPP Examples: GNU/Linux, Apache, Perl, SETI@home, NASA Clickworkers, Wikipedia, Slashdot.


Ethical questions

  • What does it mean ethically that many individuals can find themselves cooperating productively with strangers on an unprecedented scale?
  • Would would CBPP affect human action and affection and how would it affect our capacity to be virtuous human beings?


  • A social production model (others: contract-based, market-based, managerial-firm-based, state-based).
  • Decentralization.
  • Driven by social cues and motivations (not prices or commands).
  • Products are modular, fine-grained (small), integration is low-cost.
  • Advantages: information gain and variability of fit between people and projects.


  • Cluster 1 (Self-regarding): Autonomy, Independence, Liberaation: Individuals freely choose what to work on.
  • Cluster 2 (Self-regarding): Creativity, Productivity, Industry: The work is more creative and personally productive. It rewards personal initiative and engagement.
  • Cluster 3 (Other-regarding): Benevolence, Charity, Generosity, Altruism: Participants benefit others with their contributions.
  • Cluster 4 (Other-regarding): Sociability, Camaraderie, Friendship, Cooperation: Participants are contributing to a commons. Their contributions lead to good fellowship.


  • Virtue leads people to participate in CBPP.
  • Participation in CBPP may give rise to virtue.
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