Translating Commons-based Peer Production Values into Metrics

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* Article: De Filippi, P. (2014). [[Translating Commons-based Peer Production Values into Metrics: towards Commons--based Crypto-Currencies, in Lee Kuo Chen D. (ed.), The Handbook of Cryptocurrency. Elsevier



Commons-based peer-production (CBPP) constitutes today an important driver for innovation, social and cultural development, both online and offline, through the establishment of an alternative, commons-based ecosystem, relying on peer-production and collaboration amongst peers contributing towards a common good. Yet, to the extent that it operates outside of the market economy, the value of CBPP cannot be understood by relying exclusively on traditional market mechanisms (such as pricing). Based on empirical research on emerging value forms in the context of CBPP, we seek to achieve a better understanding of the value produced by CBPP communities, so as to come up with an alternative, universal, denominator of value that could act as an interface between the commons-based ecosystem and the market economy.



"Since the 1990s, increasing reliance on socialised forms of collaborative knowledge production (Florida, 2002, Peck, 2005), user-driven innovation (von Hippel, 2005) and shared, open, free forms of productive relations (Bauwens, 2005; Kelty, 2007; O’Neil, 2008) has raised questions about the meaning and measurement of value in Commons-based peer-production (CBPP) communities.

Academic theory is still young in this field. Scholars have looked at the values that structure online forms of CBPP (Benkler, 2006), such as Free and Open Source software (Coleman, 2012; Kelty, 2008, O’Neil, 2009), and many researchers have underlined the growing and important role of value and reputation metrics (Arvidsson, 2012, cf. Lury & Atkins, 2012). Yet - given the multi-faceted notion of “value” (discussed in section II.C) - there is, to date, no consolidated analytical framework capable of measuring the overall value of CBPP outside of the market economy.

Over the past centuries, market mechanisms have been used to evaluate the market value of a large variety of resources, and price-tag them into goods to be exchanged. The market is, however, incapable of understanding the value of non-market resources (Shiller, 2012). While such an indicator might not be necessary for the successful operation of the CBPP ecosystem, it might, nonetheless, be useful to identify a new proxy for value - other than price - so as to be able to better evaluate (and compare) the value generated by CBPP communities.

At present, a number of value metric systems have been proposed, including a diversity of reward systems and reputational rewards (see Table below). However, these systems do not stem from any systematic research on the different conceptions of value in CBPP. Conversely, considerable research has been done on reputation economies and reputation systems (Marwick et al., 2010; Castells et al., 2012), but this research has generally not been married to the practical development of any useable tools."