Adam Arvidsson on P2Pvalue and the role of reputation in collaborative communities


P2Pvalue is an EU funded research project investigating value creation in P2P communities and exploring what powers P2P collaboration. The P2P Foundation is a partner in the project. Each month we feature an interview with members of the research team. This month we feature Adam Arvidsson whose work on the Ethical Economy and Digital Ethnography looks at the role of reputation in collaborative communities.

Last month we feature Ignasi Capdevila on surveying P2P communities and previous to that Karthik Iyer spoke with us about how notions of value in collaborative communities differ from more traditional conceptions of value as measured in monetary terms.

Michel Bauwens: Can you give us a backgrounder of your work on the Ethical Economy and its value regime, and how this is related to this research project on P2P Value.

Adam Arvidsson: The work on ‘the ethical economy’ went on for a long time, too long a time actually. I had been interested in peer production ever since dabbling in the web2.0 start up scene in 2004, I met Michel in 2006 and got in touch with he P2P Foundation. I was always a bit suspicious of the idea of peer production as a separate reality that followed its own, often fairly idealistic rules, a la Benkler and (the early) Bauwens and I always suspected that this was a wider phenomenon, cutting across the information economy. Indeed the argument in The Ethical Economy is that peer production is just one aspect of a wider transformation of value creation that takes place inside as well as outside of or in opposition to the corporate economy and that this new mode of production has yet to find its value regime. I use my work on the Ethical Economy as a sort of theoretical preamble for this project where we have the chance to investigate questions about value empirically.

Michel Bauwens: If you look at the preliminary results of your research, does it confirm your thesis, or did you already make some adjustments to your theoretical understandings?

Adam Arvidsson: There are always adjustments. However it looks to me as if my early hypothesis about reputational value stands pretty well.
Clearly there are other value horizons that people consider, like social impact, following their ideals etc, but this seems to be subsumed under or in any case hegemonized when some concept of reputational peer productions systems gets established and rationalised. I would like to explore this process of ‘becoming repetitional’ of alternative value horizons.

Michel Bauwens: What do you mean by ‘repetitional’ values and ethics?

Adam Arvidsson: The idea is that people might initially care more about  pursuing their personal values and having an impact and such but as collaboration systems get more mature, they begin to care more about their reputation. Indeed, they perceive the extent to which they are able to pursue their values and have impact as measured in terms of their reputation. Having a good reputation becomes a confirmation of success in these pursuits.

Michel Bauwens: What have you learned from the work of the other researchers in the project , say the work of Primavera de Fillipi and Melanie Dulong?

Adam Arvidsson: A lot. I’m just beginning to dig into the huge legal literature on peer production. With Primavera we have been discussing repetitional measurements and the different features of money, power and reputation as ‘media’ of value creation. Hopefully something interesting can come out of this.

Michel Bauwens: What are your expecations for the rest of the research period ? What are your own plans for further research beyond this project?

Adam Arvidsson: Well now I’m just trying to survive on a day to day basis. After the project I plan to take a 5 year holiday. And then maybe go explore the connections between collaborative economy and what I begin to think of as an Asian Mode of Production, small, networked, market oriented and highly competitive entrepreneurs co-existing around a pool of common assets and competing under forms that are regulated by repetitional ethics. Indeed the ‘marriage’ between the informal street level economy of asian cities and high tech peer production is incredibly interesting.

adamaAdam Arvidsson is Associate Professor at the Department of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Milano (previously at the University of Copenhagen 2002-2008), and co-director of the Centro Studi di Etnografia Digitale. He has published extensively on consumer culture, digital culture and, in recent years, new forms of value creation and measurement. Adam Arvidsson has coordinated a work package in one Erasmus Life Long Learning project (EDUFASHION: on alternative forms of innovation in fashion), and co-directs the Responsible Business in the Blogsphere Project, based at the Copenhagen Business School. He also works with the Hanwang forum for sustainable development in China. Adam Arvidsson’s forthcoming book “The Ethical Economy. Rebuilding Value after the Crisis” is in publication with Columbia University Press.

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