For anyone scratching their head about how to understand the deeper social and economic dynamics of online networks, a terrific new report has been released by Michel Bauwens called Synthetic Overview of the Collaborative Economy. Michel, who directs the Foundation for Peer to Peer Alternatives and works with me at the Commons Strategies Group, is a leading thinker and curator of developments in the emerging P2P economy.
The report was prepared for Orange Labs, a division of the French telecom company, as a comprehensive survey and analysis of new forms of collaborative production on the Internet. The report is a massive 346 pages (downloadable as a pdf file under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license) and contains 543 footnotes. But it is entirely clear and accessible to non-techies. Unlike so many popular books on this subject that are either larded with colorful hyperbole and overly long anecdotes, or arcane technical detail, the Bauwens report cuts to the chase, giving tightly focuses analyses of the key principles of online cooperation. The report is meaty, informative, comprehensive and well-documented.
Two paragraphs from the Introduction give a nice overview:
Two main agents of transformation guide this work. One is the emergence of community dynamics as an essential ingredient of doing business. It is no longer a matter of autonomous and separated corporations marketing to essentially isolated consumers, it is now a matter of deeply inter-networked economic actors involved in vocal and productive communities. The second is that the combined effect of digital reproduction and the increasingly 'socialized' production of value, makes the individual and corporate privatization of 'intellectual' property if not untenable, then certainly more difficult , and in all likelihood, ultimately unproductive. Hence the combined development of community-oriented and 'open' business models, which rely on more 'social' forms of intellectual property.
In this work, we therefore look at community dynamics that are mobilized by traditional actors (open innovation, crowdsourcing), and new models where the community's value creation is at its core (the free software, shared design and open hardware models). We then look at monetization in the absence of private IP. Linked to these developments are the emergence of distributed physical infrastructures, where the evolution of the networked computer is mirrored in the development of networked production and even financing. Indeed the mutualization of knowledge goes hand in hand with the mutualization of physical infrastructures, such as collaborative consumption and peer to peer marketplaces, used to mobilize idle resources and assets more effectively.