Despite the growing popular and academic recognition of the importance of commons-based, cooperative, and peer production, there is still relatively little sustained academic work that studies both the scope and micro-foundations of these phenomena. Together, the rise of commons-based collaboration and production encompasses a class of innovative and creative practices whose outputs could be freely available to support human development in a global, networked information economy and society.
The study was conceived to extend the work initially outlined in Wealth of Networks - which is currently being pursued as part of the Berkman Center's Cooperation Project - to provide a map of commons-based production and cooperative peer production today. The initial task proposed was to look systematically at a wide range of information and knowledge production sectors, to identify commons-based and peer production practices, list them, describe them, and categorize them.
The Wealth of Networks began the task of looking at various “verticals” or industry sectors that had a major impact on development, like educational materials, biological innovation around both health and food, and software and information technology, and outlined then-present practices aimed at provisioning these goods on commons-based models. The study began partly by taking that approach and mapping presently-practiced commons-based production into these verticals. The practices were not limited directly to development, because the objective is to learn about the range of feasible practices, rather than to identify direct inputs to development today.
In addition to searching in development-related verticals, the study also sought to identify commons-based and peer-production practices that reflect different types cooperative production. There is at present very little serious work on mapping and categorizing the wide range of practices of cooperation, peer production, and large-scale coordinate productive behavior observed. One aspect of the study required the creation of the first elements of such an intellectual mapping.
Finally, the project explored the construction of an experimental, web-based platform for enabling participants in, and observers of, collaborative and commons-based practices to describe their own experiences and communities, and to comment on and annotate the descriptions of others.
Outputs of the ICP
There are two outputs to the project. One is the synthesis of the research - the ICP Synthesis - , which pulls together the high-level results, examines some trends identified by the research, and identifies questions for additional research. We created a broad map of cooperation across the fields of educational materials, biotechnology, alternative energy, and telecommunications, and we found some interesting preliminary trends about commons-based production and industrial cooperation that emerge in and across those fields. The canonical version of this synthesis is found on the Industrial Cooperation Wiki - ICP Wiki
The second is the wiki itself - rather than pursue a more traditional path of data collection into a private archive, we collected the vast majority of our work into this public commons. The wiki is the collective memory of the project. It is where the research assistants and fellows kept their notes, where reading was summarized, where hypotheses were examined and evaluated (and often discarded). As such, it is a rich resource for future work but it is not a polished resource. We hope that future researchers not only mine the wiki but improve it through cross-linking, editing, adding citations, translating text into other languages, and more. Using the wiki for this purpose was part of the experiment of the research, to try novel methods for research collaboration as we examined industrial collaboration. The ICP Wiki also hosts the ICP Parking Lot for fascinating ideas that emerged but could not be studied in depth.