Commons-Based Peer Production

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= Peer production which is based upon commons and which creates new commons or maintains and fosters the existing ones. [1]

For extensive treatment, see our entry on Peer Production


1. From the Wikipedia [Commons-based peer production]:

"Commons-based peer production is a term coined by Harvard Law School professor Yochai Benkler to describe a new model of economic production in which the creative energy of large numbers of people is coordinated (usually with the aid of the internet) into large, meaningful projects, mostly without traditional hierarchical organization or financial compensation. He compares commons-based peer production to firm production (where a centralized decision process decides what has to be done and by whom) and market-based production (when tagging different prices to different jobs serves as an attractor to anyone interested in doing the job).

The term was first introduced in Benkler's seminal paper Coase's Penguin. His 2006 book, The Wealth of Networks expands significantly on these ideas.

"People participate in peer production communitites for a wide range of intrinsic and self-interested reasons....basically, people who participate in peer production communities love it. They feel passionate about their particular area of expertise and revel in creating something new or better."

Another definition, by Aaron Krowne (Free Software Magazine): commons-based peer production

- "refers to any coordinated, (chiefly) internet-based effort whereby volunteers contribute project components, and there exists some process to combine them to produce a unified intellectual work. CBPP covers many different types of intellectual output, from software to libraries of quantitative data to human-readable documents (manuals, books, encyclopedias, reviews, blogs, periodicals, and more)"." (

Source: Krowne, Aaron (March 1, 2005). "The FUD based encyclopedia: Dismantling the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt aimed at Wikipedia and other free knowledge sources". Free Software Magazine. [2]

2. Yochai Benkler:

The term “commons-based” is intended to underscore that what is characteristic of the cooperative enterprises I describe in this chapter is that they are not built around the asymmetric exclusion typical of property. Rather, the inputs and outputs of the process are shared, freely or conditionally, in an institutional form that leaves them equally available for all to use as they choose at their individual discretion. (Benkler, 2005:62)


"The distinction between commons-based peer production and just peer production is the co-ownership or communal stewardship of resources and platform.

A mode of production that is open (access to participation), transparent (access to information), decentralized (allocation of resources) and horizontal (autonomy), involving many actors who use p2p communications (e.g. the Internet) to coordinate. These actors are both independent and interdependent. They may freely share material resources and the platform (infrastructure), their knowledge, and collaborative effort to provide solutions to problems." (


Mathieu O'Neill:

"As explained in the main text, treating inputs and outputs of these production processes as the same thing is not entirely correct because, in fact, in many cases -if not almost all- the inputs of the commmons based peer production are not “commons based”. In turn, as Benkler addresses, peer production represents only one of the options.

-The term “peer production” characterizes a subset of commons-based production practices. It refers to production systems that depend on individual action that is self-selected and decentralized, rather than hierarchically assigned.(Benkler, 2005:74)

Moreover, Benkler appoints two features related to the organization of the Commons-Based Peer Production which have to be mentioned: “Modularity” and “Granularity”.

“Modularity” is a property of a project that describes the extent to which it can be broken down into smaller components, or modules, that can be independently produced before they are assembled into a whole. If modules are independent, individual contributors can choose what and when to contribute independently of each other. This maximizes their autonomy and flexibility to define the nature, extent, and timing of their participation in the project.

“Granularity” refers to the size of the modules, in terms of the time and effort that an individual must invest in producing them. The five minutes required for moderating a comment on Slashdot, or for metamoderating a moderator, is more fine-grained than the hours necessary to participate in writing a bug fix in an open-sourceproject. (Benkler, 2005: 100-101)

These two features are undoubtedly very important to understand the collaborative production. However, we must stress that they do not arise from purely organizational characteristics but largely from the potential of the Internet and digital information." (

More Information

Related definitions:

See also: