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Anti-credentialism = the absense of formal requirements to participate in peer projects ; it has been suggested to replace this concept with that of post-credentialism


Modern knowledge exchange is based on a priori institutionalized filtering, i.e. on 'credentials', such as in the process of Peer Review.

Knowledge production and exchange in peer production is based on Anti-Credentialism, on the self-selection of individuals, and on a posteriori Communal Validation of their contributions.

It is difficult to marry anti-credentialism with any privileged position for experts because of its Crowding Out effect.

Anti-credentialism and general participation

Here's a quote by Jimmy Wales, founder of the Wikipedia project:

“And if a person‘s really smart and they‘re doing fantastic work I don‘t care if they‘re a high school kid or a Harvard professor, it‘s the work that matters. And you can‘t coast on your credentials on Wikipedia. You have to – you have to enter the marketplace of ideas and engage with people.? ( )

Anti-credentialism and leadership roles

Stefan Merten, Oekonux mailing list, November 2006:

He says that management roles in Doubly Free Software Projects (i.e. peer production projecst) are characterized by 2 features:

!) Roles suited to the project's need rather than a fixed set of roles

2) No formal qualification needed

"The roles are not bound to certain persons or formal qualifications. In principal everybody can become a maintainer or something else. She doesn't need any formal qualification for this.

As far as the definition of roles are concerned I'd agree with you that there can be and sometimes are roles with a rather clear definition. This involves more technical roles as well as governance roles such as a maintainer. However, it seems to me that they are not fixed but come into being as each projects needs them.

Official appointments are rare. And if there are such appointments then they are usually only publicly acknowledging something which is already a practical fact in the project. For instance I understood that Linus appoints lieutenants after they are already doing the job. I'd see this as a major difference to comemrcial jobs where the hierarchy often is coming from outside the respective corporation and receives their positions by appointment through higher management positions.

For founders there even can not be some appointment procedure - they appoint themselves by doing things and by living to a role in practice. It seems to me that this is a general tendency."


The difference between peer to peer processes and academic peer review

“One of the early precedents of open source intelligence is the process of academic peer review. As academia established a long time ago, in the absence of fixed and absolute authorities, knowledge has to be established through the tentative process of consensus building. At the core of this process is peer review, the practice of peers evaluating each other's work, rather than relying on external judges. The specifics of the reviewing process are variable, depending on the discipline, but the basic principle is universal. Consensus cannot be imposed, it has to be reached. Dissenting voices cannot be silenced, except through the arduous process of social stigmatization. Of course, not all peers are really equal, not all voices carry the same weight. The opinions of those people to whom high reputation has been assigned by their peers carry more weight. Since reputation must be accumulated over time, these authoritative voices tend to come from established members of the group. This gives the practice of peer review an inherently conservative tendency, particularly when access to the peer group is strictly policed, as it is the case in academia, where diplomas and appointments are necessary to enter the elite circle. The point is that the authority held by some members of the group- which can, at times, distort the consensus-building process - is attributed to them by the group, therefore it cannot be maintained against the will of the other group members." ( )

The problem with expertise

Clay Shirky makes very valid claims countering the belief in expertise underlying the Citizendium project of Larry Sanger, which aims to compete with Wikipedia.

According to Shirky the belief in the power of experts is based on the following 3 points:

"1. Experts are a special category of people, who can be readily recognized within their domains of expertise.

2. A process of open creation in which experts are deferred to as of right will be superior to one in which they are given no special treatment.

3. Once experts are identified, that deference will mainly be a product of moral suasion, and the only place authority will need to intrude are edge cases."

Read here why All three beliefs are false.

More Information

  1. See also Equipotentiality, the Maintainer Model of Management
  2. Wikipedia entry: Credentialism