The Effects of Collaborative Work

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From Humanitarian-FOSS Project Development Site

Response to "What does it mean in ethical terms that many individuals can find themselves cooperating productively with strangers and acquaintances on a scope never before seen?"

Common based peer production is a system in which, rather than having a centralized executive or group of executives making design and organizational decisions, regular users – regular people, that is – work collaboratively to produce a product. Because of the nature of peer production, these projects are constantly: Wikipedia, for example, is updated constantly (some articles are even updated every minute). Collaborative work, in addition to producing large-scale projects such as Wikipedia and Linux, leads to a more ethical society. Whereas in a corporation model where competitive and cutthroat work strategies are implicitly encouraged, the open source production model encourages collaboration for the greater good. Psychologically, a person’s actions dictate his or her own self image, which in turn influences future actions. Contributing to open source projects, therefore, breaks people out of a cycle of competition. Knowing that one’s contribution – no matter how small - is being used in a large project, even if one’s name is on it, provides a feeling of self-worth and accomplishment. In an ultra-competitive society like America, any progress towards collaboration is a step forward, and common based peer production represents a figurative leap forward.

Example of Virtuous Collaboration

An interesting and often overlooked commons based effort is file sharing. Although a large portion of it is illegal, it promotes collaboration and self-less contribution. For example, every day people upload TV shows and movies to popular websites or share them with peer to peer programs such as LimeWire or Bittorrent. Although detrimental to the companies who produce the media, the virtuous nature of the contribution remains. If a user already has a TV show taped or a movie on DVD, it does not benefit them at all to convert it to a different format and then run the risk of being sued by sharing it, and yet millions of files are shared daily.

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