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Ezio Manzini:

"In the last decades the adjective “distributed” has been increasingly used in relation to several different socio-economic systems: information technologies, and the distributed computing. Energy systems and the distributed generation. Production and the possibilities of the distributed manufacturing. The processes of change and distributed innovation, distributed creativity, distributed knowledge. And, finally, in relation to the overall socio-technical systems, the rise of new, more effective economic models: the distributed economies.

Some of these concepts became mainstream two decades ago (the “classic” distributed computing). Some of them have a strong position in the international arena (as the concepts of distributed generation and distributed manufacturing). Some of them have emerged, and are emerging, in these years and present a wide and growing audience (distributed innovation, distributed creativity, distributed intelligence and distributed economy).

In all these cases, what the term distributed adds to the substantive to which it is related, is the idea that it has to be considered as a web of interconnected, autonomous elements, i.e. elements that are capable to operate autonomously, being, at the same time, highly connected with the other elements of the system.

In different words: what the adjective “distributed” indicated is the existence of an horizontal system architecture where complex activities are accomplished in parallel by an high number of connected elements (technological artefacts and/or human beings)." (http://www.dis.polimi.it/manzini-papers/06.01.06-Creative-communites-collaborative-networks-distributed-economies.doc)