Institutional Change and Information Production
The organization of information production is undergoing a deep transformation. Alongside media corporations, which have been for long time the predominant institutions of information production, new organizational forms have emerged, e.g. free software communities, open-content on-line wikis, collective blogs, distributed platforms for resource sharing. The paper investigates the factors that favoured the emergence of these alternative systems, called peer production. Differently from most of the previous literature, the paper does so by considering technology (i.e. digital code) as an endogenous variable in the process of organizational design. On this basis the paper argues that the diffusion of digital technology is a necessary but not sufficient condition to explain the emergence of peer production. A similarly important role has been played by the specific set of ethics that motivated the early adherents to the free software movement. Such an ethics indeed operated as a sort of “cultural subsidy” that helped to overcome the complementarities existing among distinct institutional domains, and let a new organizational species to emerge.
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