Wednesday, February 05, 2014

What Is P2P? Michel Bauwens Interviewed by Julie Tran from MakeChangeTV

Nice interview with Michel Bauwens, and a nice introduction to P2P for those not familiar with the peer-to-peer movement, which now incorporates nearly every human field. Below the video I am including some material from the P2P Foundation website as an additional source of information for those interested in a deeper understanding of P2P - I encourage you to explore the P2P Foundation website, as there is a literal ton of useful information there.

Openness, a necessary revolution into a smarter world

Our current political economy has the weirdest DNA. It considers nature to be a perpetually abundant resource, i.e. it is based on a false notion of material abundance; on the other hand, it believes that intellectual, scientific and technical exchange should be subject to strong proprietary constraints, and subjects innovation to internet restrictions. Thus the paradoxical but also dramatic contradiction of the present system: while it is rapidly overburdening the carrying capacity of the planet, at the same time it inhibits the solutions that humanity might find for it.

Luckily, the emergence of peer producing communities that share knowledge, code and design for the common good of humanity using open licensing arrangements that enable and facilitate universal sharing are showing the way for a fundamental reorganisation into a smarter world.

First, the value is created in global open design communities that easily outcooperate and outcompete single corporations, no matter how big or rich they are, as no isolated can be smarter than a globally networked collective intelligence. Second, this collaborative value creation is enabled and protected by for-benefic organisations, the FLOSS Foundations such as the Apache Foundation and many others. These are mostly democratically run by contributors to the common pool. Thirdly, entrepreneurial coalitions make and sell the products, improving them in the process, which have been designed (and are perpetually and continuously improved) by the contributor communities, creating a vibrant economy around the commons (think of the free software economy, or the Arduino economy as examples).
«Global open communities can outcooperate and outcompete single corporations, as no isolated can be smarter than a globally networked collective intelligence»
This new way does not only enable perpetual sharing of innovation, but also ensures sustainability, as communities do not have vested interests in artificial scarcity. Hence, if you design as a corporation for the market, you design for scarcity, but if you design as a community, you naturally design for sustainability. If you build and sell sustainable designs, then you are becoming a sustainable market players, abandoning the pernicious pursuit of planned obsolescence.

There is one missing player in this picture, the overall society, i.e. the polis. This polis must transform from the current market state — which privileges extractive corporations that deplete the commons, endanger the biosphere and oppose innovation sharing ? into a partner state which enables and empowers the social production of sustainable value by creating civic infrastructures that facilitate its emergence in strong ecosystems. Through public-commons partnerships and the commonification of public services, a new productive matrix is created, which guarantees a smarter planet that combines the recognition of the necessarily sustainability of material resources with the infinite innovation capabilities of global knowledge commons.

So here is some info on P2P for those who are interested.
1.A. What this essay is about

The following essay describes the emergence, or expansion, of a specific type of relational dynamic, which I call peer to peer. It’s a form of human network-based organization which rests upon the free participation of equipotent partners, engaged in the production of common resources, without recourse to monetary compensation as key motivating factor, and not organized according to hierarchical methods of command and control. It creates a Commons, rather than a market or a state, and relies on social relations to allocate resources rather than on pricing mechanisms or managerial commands.

Thus we have three important aspects that are essential for P2P processes to occur in a full-blown manner: 1) peer production as a mode of production; 2) peer governance as a mode of governance; 3) universal common property as a mode of distribution and access. But P2P can also occur in a partial manner wherever resources are distributed.

Thus underlying our description of P2P processes, it will be useful to distinguish between four different levels.
- One level is the phenomenological level, i.e. the different ways in which the P2P forms emerges in different social fields. Here we get the peer to peer relational dynamic in distributed systems, and how it expresses itself in the internet structure, the writeable Web 2.0, peer circles or what have you. This I propose to call ‘diffuse P2P’. Such P2P emergence is easy to integrate within the existing system, and can be instrumentalised by authoritarian social forces, as in Al Qaeda using the internet. It is ‘immanent’ to the system.

- The second level is when integration occurs. The different P2P forms in this case do not exist independently, but start reinforcing one another. This ‘integrated P2P’ involving such social processes as peer production, peer governance, and universal common property regimes, become transcendent to the system, because they cannot be contained within the current production schemes (market pricing and corporate hierarchy), governance schemes (corporate hierarchy or state bureaucracy or even representational democracy), or property regimes. They create an emerging new social reality, which is today dominated by the existing social economy, but that is a contingent situation which could change in the future. I’m not saying “it will happen", but definitely “it can happen" and whether it happens also depends on our human intentionality.

- Now, why is all this happening. Because, before social practices and technological artifacts are invented or emerge, it must be conceived in the human mind, and it must become acceptable as a social practice. Thus P2P emerges out of changes in the ‘ground state’ of humanity, i.e. deep changes in the ontology/epistemology/axiology, or in easier words: new ways of feeling and being, of knowing, and new constellations of values. That is the third level which occurs as a spontaneous social process, not directed, not necessarily consciously desired but part of the evolution of the ‘social imaginary’. It is this level which has been so beautifully captured by John Heron’s recapitulation of the evolution of participation, which I have cited on occasion. Broadly conceived, such a deep level of human change is also outside the scope of recuperation.

- The fourth level occurs when we become conscious of these changes, and make it an object of our human intentionality: in other words, we not only see it happening (level 1 to 3), but we want it to happen and seek out others with similar values in the hope of interconnecting our efforts. This is the object of my own work, and I hope it can become the basis of a broad social and political movement as more and more people, from their own particular perspective, come to their own conclusions. At this point, P2P becomes a normative ethos for a new kind of life on earth, and definitely outside the scope of any recuperation, though there is no guarantee of its success.

At the diffuse format of level 1, the P2P format is emerging throughout the social field: as a format of technology (the point to point internet, filesharing, grid computing, the Writeable Web initiatives, blogs), as a third mode of production which is also called Commons-based peer production (neither centrally planned nor profit-driven), producing hardware, software (often called Free Libre Open Sources Software or FLOSS) and intellectual and cultural resources (wetware) that are of great value to humanity (Wikipedia), and as a general mode of knowledge exchange and collective learning which is massively practiced on the internet. It also emerges as new organizational formats in politics, spirituality; as a new ‘culture of work’. This essay thus traces the expansion of this format, seen as a “isomorphism" (= having the same format), in as many fields as possible. The common format in which the peer to peer dynamic emerges is the format of the "distributed network", which, according to the definition of A. Galloway in his book Protocol, differs both from the centralized network (all nodes have to pass through one single hub), and from the decentralized network (all nodes have to pass through hubs). In a distributed network the nodes, as autonomous agents, can connect through any number of links. Hubs may exist, but are not obligatory.

The essay tries not only to describe, but attempts to provide an explanatory framework of why it is emerging now, and how it fits in a wider evolutionary framework (not in the sense of an inevitable natural evolution, but as an intentional moral breakthrough).

The underlying logic of development in which the emergence of P2P is best understood, may be by viewing 'participation' as the key variable, seeing how it intensifies historically in various social formations.

This idea was best expressed by John Heron in a personal communication:

"There seem to be at least four degrees of cultural development, rooted in degrees of moral insight and not in an evolutionary logic:

(1) autocratic cultures which define rights in a limited and oppressive way and there are no rights of political participation;

(2) narrow democratic cultures which practice political participation through representation, but have no or very limited participation of people in decision-making in all other realms, such as research, religion, education, industry etc.;

(3) wider democratic cultures which practice both political participation and varying degree of wider kinds of participation;

(4) commons p2p cultures in a libertarian and abundance-oriented global network with equipotential rights of participation of everyone in every field of human endeavour".
Note that within the first four sections, the organization is as follows: the first subsection is descriptive, the second is explanatory, and the third is historical. In the latter, I use the triune distinction premodernity/modernity/postmodernity, well aware that it is a simplification, and that it collapses many important distinctions, say between the tribal and the agrarian era. But as an orienting generalization that allows the contrasting of the changes occurring after the emergence of modernity, it remains useful. Thus, the concept of ‘premodern’, means the societies based on tradition, before the advent of industrial capitalism, with fixed social roles and a social organization inspired by what it believes to be a divine order; modern means essentially the era of industrial capitalism; finally, the choice of the term postmodern does not denote any specific preference in the ‘wars of interpretation’ between concepts such as postmodernity, liquid modernity, reflexive modernity, transmodernity etc.. It simple means the contemporary period, more or less starting after 1968, which is marked by the emergence of the informational mode of capitalism. I will use the term cognitive capitalism most frequently in my characterization of the current regime, as it corresponds to the interpretation, which is the most convincing in my view. The French magazine Multitudes is my main source for such interpretations. It's essential meaning is the replacement of an older 'regime of accumulation', centered on machines and the division of labor corresponding to them; and one centered on being part of a process of accumulation of knowledge and creativity, as the new mainspring of power and profit. Finally, note that in the accompanying graphs of figures, I sometimes use the "early modern/late modern/P2P era" framework. In this way, the current time frame can be distinguished from a hypothetical coming situation where P2P is more dominant than it is today, and what that would change in the characteristics of such a society.

I will conclude my essay with the conclusion that P2P is nothing else than a premise of a new type of civilization that is not exclusively geared towards the profit motive. 

What I have to convince the user of is that

- 1) a particular type of human relational dynamic is growing very fast across the social fields, and that such combined occurrence is the result of a deep shift in ways of feeling and being (ontology), of knowing (epistemology), and of core value constellations (axiology)

- 2) That it has a coherent logic that cannot be fully contained within the present ‘regime’ of society.

- 3) that it is not an utopia, but, as ‘an already existing social practice’, the seed of a likely major transformation to come. I will not be arguing that there is an 'inevitable evolutionary logic at work', but rather that a new and intentional moral vision, holds the potential for a major breakthrough in social evolution, leading to the possibility of a new political, economic, and cultural 'formation' with a new coherent logic.

Implicit in my interpretation of peer to peer as a social formation, is that it is accompanied by a nascent socio-political movement, much as industrial class relations triggered a labor movement. In the case of the 'peer to peer movement' this movement concerns itself with the promotion and defense of the Commons, i.e. the existence of a common-property regime that exists alongside the state and the market, but which is also under threat by a frenetic movement to privately appropriate common resources. This P2P movement has three components: first, the participatory movement, which is not necessarily political in the old sense, and includes all efforts to widen participation in human processes (for example Web 2.0 engineering efforts); second, the "open" movement in its various guises: open sources, open access, open money. This movement works on the conditions necessary for P2P processes to occur: without free access to information, i.e. the distribution of information, no P2P can occur; third, the Commons movement, which is concerned by protecting and developing the institutional format for P2P to thrive in: by avoiding private appropriation of commonly produced knowledge products, the motivation for P2P behaviour is strengthened. These are the explicit P2P movements in my mind, respectively focusing on peer governance, peer production, and peer property modes, but the movement is larger than that, as I will argue in the political section.

Such a large overview will inevitably bring errors of interpretation concerning detailed fields. I would appreciate if readers could bring them to my attention. But apart from these errors, the essay should stand or fall in the context of its most general interpretative point: that there is indeed a isomorphic emergence of peer to peer throughout the social field, that despite the differences in expression, it is the same phenomena, and that it is not a marginal, but a 'fundamental' development. It is on this score that my effort should be judged. If the effort is indeed judged to be successful, I then would hope that this essay inspires people from these different fields to connect, aware that they are sharing a set of values, and that these values have potential in creating a better, but not perfect or ideal, society.

How does the explanatory framework which I will provide for P2P, differ from the use of the earlier metaphor of the network society, described by Manuel Castells and many others, and lately in particular by the network sociality concept proposed by Andreas Wittel? The best way to differentiate the approaches is to see P2P as a subset of network conceptions.

If you would have been a social scientist during the lifetime of Marx and witnessed the emergence and growth of the factory-based industrial model, and you would then have arrived at the equivalent of what social network theory is today, i.e. an analysis of mainstream society and sociality. This is what the network sociality model of Andreas Wittel provides. But at the same time that the factory system was developing, a reaction was created as well. Workers were creating cooperatives and mutualities, unions and new political parties and movements, which would go on to fundamentally alter the world. Today, this is what happens with peer to peer. Whereas Castells and Wittel focus on the general emergence of network society and society, and describes the networks overall and the dominant features of it, I want and tend to focus on the birth of a counter-movement, centered around a particular format of sociality based in distributed networks, where the focus is on creating participation for all, and not the buttressing of the 'meshworks of exploitation'. As the dominant forces of society are mutating to networked forms of organizing the political economy (called Empire by Toni Negri), a bottom-up reaction against this new alienation is occurring (alienated, because in Empire, the meshwork are at the service of creating ever more inequality), by the forces of what Negri and Hardt call the multitude(s). These forces are using peer to peer processes, and a peer to peer ethos, to create new forms of social life, and this is what I want to document in this essay. 

* * * *

2.1.A. Defining P2P as the relational dynamic of distributed networks

Alexander Galloway in his book Protocol makes an important and clear distinction between centralized networks (with one central hub where everything must pass and be authorized, as in the old telephone switching systems), decentralized systems, with more than one center, but these subcenters still being authorative (such as the airport system in the U.S. centered around hubs where planes must pass through), from distributed systems, where hubs may exist, but are not obligatory (such as the internet). In distributed networks, participants may freely link with each other, they are fully autonomous agents. Hence the importance to clearly distinguish between our usage of the concepts 'decentralized' vs. 'distributed'. Peer to peer is specifically the relational dynamic that arises in distributed networks.

So: what is peer to peer? Here’s a first tentative definition: It is a specific form of relational dynamic, is based on the assumed equipotency of its participants, organized through the free cooperation of equals in view of the performance of a common task, for the creation of a common good, with forms of decision-making and autonomy that are widely distributed throughout the network. This is of course a strong definition and statement, subject to a lot of refining and caveats.

P2P processes are not structureless, but are characterized by dynamic and changing structures which adapt themselves to phase changes. It rules are not derived from an external authority, as in hierarchical systems, but generated from within. It does not deny ‘authority’, but only fixed forced hierarchy, and therefore accepts authority based on expertise, initiation of the project, etc… P2P may be the first true meritocracy. The threshold for participation is kept as low as possible. Equipotency means that there is no prior formal filtering for participation, but rather that it is the immediate practice of cooperation which determines the expertise and level of participation. Communication is not top-down and based on strictly defined reporting rules, but feedback is systemic, integrated in the protocol of the cooperative system. Techniques of 'participation capture' and other social accounting make automatic cooperation the default scheme of the project. Personal identity becomes partly generated by the contribution to the common project. As we will see, this is part and parcel of a widespread transformation to a mode of being which we call 'cooperative individualism'. P2P is not a return to earlier forms of community, but something new.

P2P is a network, not a pyramidal hierarchy (though it may have elements of it); it is 'distributed', though it may have elements of hierarchy, centralization and 'decentralization'; intelligence is not located at any center, but everywhere within the system. Assumed equipotency means that P2P systems start from the premise that ‘it doesn’t know where the needed resource will be located’, it assumes that ‘everybody’ can cooperate, and does not use formal rules in advance to determine its participating members. Acceptance in P2P projects is not based on formal credentials, since it is no longer believed that skills can be reflected in such formal documents, and they are therefore 'anti-credentialist'. Equipotency, i.e. the capacity to cooperate, is verified in the process of cooperation itself. Such an equipotency is widely differentiated, as complex projects need a vastly differentiated skillset. Thus, competition is limited, and replaced by complementarity. This is also why authority is widely distributed and subject to change. Validation of knowledge, acceptance of processes, are determined by the collective. Cooperation must be free, not forced, and not based on neutrality (i.e. the buying of cooperation in a monetary system). It exists to produce something. It enables the widest possible participation. These are a number of characteristics that we can use to describe P2P systems ‘in general’, and in particular as it emerges in the human lifeworld. Whereas participants in hierarchical systems are subject to the panoptism of the select few who control the vast majority, in P2P systems, participants have access to holoptism, the ability for any participant to see the whole. Further on we will examine more in depth characteristics such as de-formalization, de-institutionalization, de-commodification, which are also at the heart of P2P processes.

Whereas hierarchical systems are based on creating homogeneity amongst its 'dependent' members, distributed networks using the P2P dynamic regulate the 'interdependent' participants preserving heterogeneity. It is the 'object of cooperation' itself which creates the temporary unity. Culturally, P2P is about unity-in-diversity, or 'difference-in-unity': it is concrete 'post-Enlightenment' universalism predicated on common goals and projects; while hierarchy is predicated on creating sameness through identification and exclusion, and is associated with the abstract universalism of the Enlightenment.

To have a good understanding of P2P, I suggest the following mental exercise, think about these characteristics, then about their opposites. So doing, the radical innovative nature of P2P springs to mind. Though P2P is related to earlier social modes, those were most in evidence in the early tribal era, and it now emerges in an entirely new context, enabled by technologies that go beyond the barriers of time and space. After the dominance during the last several millennia, of centralized and hierarchical modes of social organization, it is thus in many ways now a radically innovative emergence, and also reflects a very deep change in the epistemological and ontological paradigms that determine behavior and worldviews.

An important clarification is that when we say that peer to peer systems have no hierarchy or are not centralized, we do not necessarily mean the complete absence of such characteristics. But in a P2P system, the use of hierarchy and centralization, serve the goal of participation and many-to-many cooperation, and are not used to prohibit or dominate it. This means that though P2P arises in distributed networks, not all distributed networks exhibit P2P processes. Many distributed bottom-up processes, such as the swarming behavior of insects, of the behavior of buyers and sellers in market, are not true P2P processes, to the degree that they lack holoptism, or do not promote participation. Insects in a swarm, do not have information about the whole, they follow markers that determine their individual behaviour. And a market is not equipotent since it excludes those without purchasing power. P2P, as a uniquely human phenomenon integrates moral and intentional aspects. When distributed meshworks, for example interlinking boards of directors, serve a hierarchy of wealth and power, and are based on exclusion rather than participation, this does not qualify as a full P2P process.

P2P can be a partial element of another process; or it can be a full process. For examples, the technological and collaborative infrastructure build around P2P principles, may enable non-P2P processes. In the example just above, it is the infrastructure of Empire, but it can also enable new types of marketplaces, gift/sharing economy practices. Where P2P is a full process, we will argue that it is a form of communal shareholding producing a new type of Commons.

* * * *

3.3.C. Beyond Formalization, Institutionalization, Commodification

Observation of commons-based peer production and knowledge exchange, unveils a further number of important elements, which can be added to our earlier definition and has to be added to the characteristic of holoptism just discussed in 3.4.B.

In premodern societies, knowledge is ‘guarded’, it is part of what constitutes power. Guilds are based on secrets, the Church does not translate the Bible, and it guards its monopoly of interpretation. Knowledge is obtained through imitation and initiation in closed circles.

With the advent of modernity, and let’s think about Diderot’s project of the Encyclopedia as an example, knowledge is from now on regarded as a public resource which should flow freely. But at the same time, modernity, as described by Foucault in particular, starts a process of regulating the flow of knowledge through a series of formal rules, which aim to distinguish valid knowledge from invalid one. The academic peer review method, the setting up of universities which regulate discourse, the birth of professional bodies as guardians of expertise, the scientific method, are but a few of such regulations. An intellectual property rights regime also regulates the legitimate use one can make of such knowledge, and which is responsible for a re-privatization of knowledge. If original copyright served to stimulate creation by balancing the rights of authors and the public, the recent strengthening of intellectual property rights can be more properly understood as an attempt at ‘enclosure’ of the information commons, which has to serve to create monopolies based on rent obtained through licenses. Thus at the end of modernity, in a similar process to what we described in the field of work culture, there is an exacerbation of the most negative aspects of the privatization of knowledge: IP legislation is incredibly tightened, information sharing becomes punishable, the market invades the public sphere of universities and academic peer review and the scientific commons are being severely damaged.

Again, peer to peer appears as a radical shift. In the new emergent practices of knowledge exchange, equipotency is assumed from the start. There are no formal rules to prohibit anyone from participation, a characteristic that could be called 'anti-credentialism' . (unlike academic peer review, where formal degrees are required ). Validation is a communal intersubjective process. It often takes place through a process akin to swarming, whereby large number of participants will tug at the mistakes in a piece of software or text, the so-called 'piranha effect', and so perfect it better than an individual genius could. Many examples of this kind are described in the book 'The Wisdom of Crowds', by James Surowiecki. Though there are constraints in this process, depending on the type of governance chosen by various P2P projects, what stands out compared to previous modes of production is the self-selection aspect. Production is granular and modular, and only the individuals themselves know exactly if their exact mix of expertise fits the problem at hand. We have autonomous selection instead of heteronomous selection.

If there are formal rules, they have to be accepted by the community, and they are ad hoc for particular projects. In the Slashdot online publishing system which serves the open source community, a large group of editors combs through the postings, and there’s a complex system of ratings of the editors themselves; in other systems every article is rated creating a hierarchy of interest which pushes the lesser-rated articles down the list. As we explained above, in the context of knowledge classification, there is a move away from institutional categorization using hierarchical trees of knowledge, such as the bibliographic formats (Dewey, UDC, etc..), to informal communal ‘tagging’, what some people have termed folksonomies. In blogging, news and commentary are democratized and open to any participant, and it is the reputation of trustworthiness, acquired over time, by the individual in question, which will lead to the viral diffusion of particular ‘memes’. Power and influence are determined by the quality of the contribution, and have to be accepted and constantly renewed by the community of participants. All this can be termed the de-formalization of knowledge.

A second important aspect is de-institutionalization. In premodernity, knowledge is transmitted through tradition, through initiation by experienced masters to those who are validated to participate in the chain mostly through birth. In modernity, as we said, validation and the legitimation of knowledge is processed through institutions. It is assumed that the autonomous individual needs socialization, ‘disciplining’, through such institutions. Knowledge has to be mediated. Thus, whether a news item is trustworthy is determined largely by its source, say the Wall Street Journal, or the Encyclopedia Brittanica, who are supposed to have formal methodologies and expertise. P2P processes are de-institutionalized, in the sense that it is the collective itself which validates the knowledge.

Please note my semantic difficulty here. Indeed, it can be argued that P2P is just another form of institution, another institutional framework, in the sense of a self-perpetuating organizational format. And that would be correct: P2P processes are not structureless, but most often flexible structures that follow internally generated rules. In previous social forms, institutions got detached from the functions and objectives they had to play, became 'autonomous'. In turn because of the class structure of society, and the need to maintain domination, and because of 'bureaucratization' and self-interest of the institutional leaderships, those institutions turn 'against society' and even against their own functions and objectives. Such institutions become a factor of alienation. It is this type of institutionalization that is potentially overcome by P2P processes. The mediating layer between participation and the result of that participation, is much thinner, dependent on protocol rather controlled by hierarchy.

A good example of P2P principles at work can be found in the complex of solutions instituted by the University of Openness. UO is a set of free-form ‘universities’, where anyone who wants to learn or to share his expertise can form teams with the explicit purpose of collective learning. There are no entry exams and no final exams. The constitution of teams is not determined by any prior disciplinary categorization. The library of UO is distributed, i.e. all participating individuals can contribute their own books to a collective distributed library . The categorization of the books is explicitly ‘anti-systemic’, i.e. any individual can build his own personal ontologies of information, and semantic web principles are set to work to uncover similarities between the various categorizations .

All this prefigures a profound shift in our epistemologies. In modernity, with the subject-object dichotomy, the autonomous individual is supposed to gaze objectively at the external world, and to use formalized methodologies, which will be intersubjectively verified through academic peer review. Post-modernity has caused strong doubts about this scenario. The individual is no longer considered autonomous, but always-already part of various fields, of power, of psychic forces, of social relations, molded by ideologies, etc.. Rather than in need of socialization, the presumption of modernity, he is seen to be in need of individuation. But he is no longer an ‘indivisible atom’, but rather a singularity, a unique and ever-evolving composite. His gaze cannot be truly objective, but is always partial, as part of a system can never comprehend the system as a whole. The individual has a single set of perspectives on things reflecting his own history and limitations. Truth can therefore only be apprehended collectively by combining a multiplicity of other perspectives, from other singularities, other unique points of integration, which are put in ‘common’. It is this profound change in epistemologies which P2P-based knowledge exchange reflects.

A third important aspect of P2P is the process of de-commodification. In traditional societies, commodification, and ‘market pricing’ was only a relative phenomenon. Economic exchange depended on a set of mutual obligations, and even were monetary equivalents were used, the price rarely reflected an open market. It is only with industrial capitalism that the core of the economic exchanges started to be determined by market pricing, and both products and labor became commodities. But still, there was a public culture and education system, and immaterial exchanges largely fell outside this system. With cognitive capitalism, the owners of information assets are no longer content to live any immaterial process outside the purview of commodification and market pricing, and there is a strong drive to ‘privatize everything’, education included, our love lives included Any immaterial process can be resold as commodities. Thus again, in the recent era the characteristics of capitalism are exacerbated, with P2P representing the counter-reaction. With ‘commons-based peer production’ or P2P-based knowledge exchange more generally, the production does not result in commodities sold to consumers, but in use value made for users. Because of the GPL license, no copyrighted monopoly can arise. GPL products can eventually be sold, but such sale is usually only a credible alternative (since it can most often be downloaded for free), if it is associated with a service model. It is in fact mostly around such services that commercial open source companies found their model (example: Red Hat). Since the producers of commons-based products are rarely paid, their main motivation is not the exchange value for the eventually resulting commodity, but the increase in use value, their own learning and reputation. Motivation can be polyvalent, but will generally be anything but monetary.

One of the reasons of the emergence of the commodity-based economy, capitalism, is that a market is an efficient means to distribute ‘information’ about supply and demand, with the concrete price determining value as a synthesis of these various pressures. In the P2P environment we see the invention of alternative ways of determining value, through software algorhythms. In search engines, value is determined by algorhythms that determine pointers to documents, the more pointers, and the more value these pointers themselves have, the higher the value accorded to a document. This can be done either in a general matter, or for specialized interests, by looking at the rankings within the specific community, or even on a individual level, through collaborative filtering, by looking at what similar individuals have rated and used well. So in a similar but alternative way to the reputation-based schemes, we have a set of solutions to go beyond pricing, and beyond monetarisation, to determine value. The value that is determined in this case is of course an indication of potential use value, rather than ‘exchange value’ for the market.

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