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Network of Tinkerers: A Model of Open-Source Technology Innovation

Author

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  • Meyer, Peter B.

    (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Abstract

Airplanes were invented by hobbyists and experimenters, and some personal computers were as well. Similarly, many open-source software developers are interested in the software they make, and not focused on profit. Based on these cases, this paper has a model of agents called tinkerers who want to improve a technology for their own reasons, by their own criteria, and who see no way to profit from it. Under these conditions, they would rather share their technology than work alone. The members of the agreement form an information network. The network's members optimally specialize based on their opportunities in particular aspects of the technology or in expanding or managing the network. Endogenously there are incentives to standardize on designs and descriptions of the technology. A tinkerer in the network who sees an opportunity to produce a profitable product may exit the network to create a startup firm and conduct focused research and development. Thus a new industry can arise.

Suggested Citation

  • Meyer, Peter B., 2007. "Network of Tinkerers: A Model of Open-Source Technology Innovation," Working Papers 413, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bls:wpaper:ec070120
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Peter B. Meyer, 2003. "Episodes of Collective Invention," Working Papers 368, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    2. Nathan Rosenberg, 2009. "Uncertainty and Technological Change," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Nathan Rosenberg (ed.), Studies On Science And The Innovation Process Selected Works of Nathan Rosenberg, chapter 8, pages 153-172, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    3. Schrader, Stephan, 1991. "Informal technology transfer between firms: Cooperation through information trading," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 153-170, April.
    4. Nuvolari, A., 2003. "Open source software development: some historical perspectives," Working Papers 03.01, Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies.
    5. David, Paul A, 1998. "Common Agency Contracting and the Emergence of "Open Science" Institutions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 15-21, May.
    6. 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.
    7. E. Roy Weintraub, 1993. "Editor's Introduction," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 25(1), pages 117-119, Spring.
    8. James Bessen & Eric Maskin, 2009. "Sequential innovation, patents, and imitation," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 40(4), pages 611-635, December.
    9. Allen, Robert C., 1983. "Collective invention," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 1-24, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. James Bessen, 2010. "Communicating Technical Knowledge," Working Papers 1001, Research on Innovation.
    2. John T. Scott, 2016. "Creativity for invention insights: corporate strategies and opportunities for public entrepreneurship," Economia e Politica Industriale: Journal of Industrial and Business Economics, Springer;Associazione Amici di Economia e Politica Industriale, vol. 43(4), pages 409-448, December.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Technological Change; Open Source Software; Uncertainty; Innovation; Invention; Collective Invention; Hackers; Hobbyists; Experimenters; Airplane;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O34 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Intellectual Property and Intellectual Capital
    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D85 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Network Formation

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