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Episodes of Collective Invention

  • Peter B. Meyer

    ()

    (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

The process of developing technology through open discussion has been called collective invention. Open source software projects have this form. This paper documents two earlier episodes of collective invention and proposes a general model based on search theory. One episode was the development of mass production steel in the U.S. (1866-1885), and the second with early personal computers (1975-1985). Technical people openly discussed and shared these developing technologies between firms. Collective invention episodes begin with an invention or a change in legal restrictions. Hobbyists and startup firms experiment with practical methods of production and share their results through a social network whose members gradually form a new industry. The network itself may disappear if the firms then keep their R&D secret. A model of an innovation search can describe this process if it is expanded to include independent hobbyists and consultants as well as profit-seeking firms.

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File URL: http://www.bls.gov/ore/pdf/ec030050.pdf
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Paper provided by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in its series Working Papers with number 368.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bls:wpaper:ec030050
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  1. Schrader, Stephan, 1991. "Informal technology transfer between firms: Cooperation through information trading," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 153-170, April.
  2. Boyan Jovanovic & Rafael Rob, 1990. "Long Waves and Short Waves: Growth Through Intensive and Extensive Search," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2082, David K. Levine.
  3. Harhoff, Dietmar & Henkel, Joachim & von Hippel, Eric, 2003. "Profiting from voluntary information spillovers: how users benefit by freely revealing their innovations," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(10), pages 1753-1769, December.
  4. Nuvolari, A., 2001. "Collective Invention during the British Industrial Revolution: The Case of the Cornish Pumping Engine," Working Papers 01.04, Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies.
  5. Weber, Steven, 2000. "The Political Economy of Open Source Software," UCAIS Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy, Working Paper Series qt3hq916dc, UCAIS Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy, UC Berkeley.
  6. Cowan Robin & Jonard Nicolas, 2000. "The Dynamics of Collective Invention," Research Memorandum 018, Maastricht University, Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
  7. Allen, Robert C., 1983. "Collective invention," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 1-24, March.
  8. Lerner, Josh & Tirole, Jean, 2002. "Some Simple Economics of Open," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(2), pages 197-234, June.
  9. Julia Porter Liebeskind & Amalya Lumerman Oliver & Lynne G. Zucker & Marilynn B. Brewer, 1995. "Social Networks, Learning, and Flexibility: Sourcing Scientific Knowledge in New Biotechnology Firms," NBER Working Papers 5320, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Nelson, Richard R, 1982. "The Role of Knowledge in R&D Efficiency," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 97(3), pages 453-70, August.
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