Commons-based peer production is a term coined by Harvard Law School professor Yochai Benkler. It describes a new model of socio-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. These projects are often, but not always, conceived without financial compensation for contributors. The term is often used interchangeably with the term social production.
Yochai Benkler contrasts commons-based peer production with firm production (in which tasks are delegated based on a central decision-making process) and market-based production (in which tagging different prices to different tasks serves as an incentive to anyone interested in performing a task).
The term was first introduced and described in Yochai Benkler's seminal paper "Coase's Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm". Yochai Benkler's 2006 book, The Wealth of Networks, expands significantly on these ideas. In the book, Benkler makes a distinction between commons-based peer production and peer production. The former is based on sharing resources among widely distributed individuals who cooperate with each other. The latter term is a subset of commons-based production practices. It refers to a production process that depends on individual action that is self-selected and decentralized. YouTube and Facebook, for example, are based on peer production.
In Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams suggest an incentive mechanism behind common-based peer production. "People participate in peer production communities," they write, "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."
Aaron Krowne (Free Software Magazine), offers another definition:
"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)."
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