Gregers Petersen on the Anthropology of Open Source and the Market

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(re-)Organizing and (non-)transactions

Google Tech Talk by Gregers Petersen.


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"The world of open source software (OSS) is a social system, and all such socialities are based on particular assumptions. The everyday life of OSS has been explained in terms of a gift-economy, a complex system based on the cyclic exchange of gifts and reciprocity. Though, when you start looking closer at the daily practice of OSS it becomes increasingly difficult to identify the processes of exchange between partners; the actual transactions seem somehow to disappear.

This talk will take a look at an alternative explanation for the underlying social system of OSS and explore some of the implications. The focus will be on cultures of sharing and how such structures actively, as new kinds of actors, are (re-)organizing relations of the market.


Gregers Petersen is an anthropologist who presently explores notions of ownership and property in the boundary location between a free software project ( and commercial companies. This research is part of a large project focused on the intersection between open source software development, commercial interests and institutional entrepreneurs. Gregers Petersen has a long lasting engagement in the world of free wireless networks, especially with strong ties to the Freifunk movement in Europe ( ) and the global WSFII network."