On the role of Platform Based Peer Production and the Commons in the dynamics of Innovation

SpandaThis post is extracted from Spanda Journal  Vol. VI, 1, 2015 Systemic Change available here, published under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Generic. Big thanks to Helene Finidori for the amazing editorial work.

Spanda Journal is a series of essays on the theory and practice of collective intelligence and transformative action, from a systemic dynamic perspective. How and where does systemic change manifest? How does it unfold?… more

If confronted with the current state of the global system that we call human civilization we cannot hide from the harsh truth: the system we have built – across ages and several Techno-Economic Paradigm Shifts[1] – now looks in a particularly complex situation.

Most of the global industries (from retail to manufacturing, from food production to logistics) that empower the current dominant lifestyles – the western, urban, connected lifestyle that all earth citizens seemingly aspire to – are just sitting there waiting to be disrupted. While most of such industries show evident signs of social and environmental un-sustainability and long term fragility, some of the key economic players are rethinking themselves, embracing different models that, most of the times, relate to decentralization, collaboration, openness. These models are mimicking or getting inspiration from (and sometimes even are collaborating with) the realm of the digitally empowered communities and commons based, p2p revolution.

Such collaborations and mashups (and sometimes clashes) between the two worlds may well be providing impressively good and exponentially accelerating returns on innovation (which Nick Grossman eminently catches with his “Venture Capital vs Community Capital” concept that I will introduce later). There is however a growing concern in public discussions on digital social innovation over the prominent role – in the transition to a better, re-organized, resilient world – that privately owned, capital backed companies may have in generating radical innovations.

If we look back to the history of continuous development of new technologies (intended as the evolutionary process which almost all human activities are subject to) we notice that there has always been a dual impact. On one hand, technologies that historically made entirely new things possible indirectly produced large impacts on our global instabilities: after the industrial revolution, large footprint industries created new technologies in a void of serious political frameworks to regulate environmental and social externalities. On the other hand the most impressive of all human created technologies – the internet – is now giving us the very tools to understand, discuss and eventually transform all of our pre-existing industrial economic processes into a post-industrial era that looks intangible, automated, efficient and enabling for the citizens.

The intangibilization of the economy is finally pushing capitalism to face its transition into post-capitalism, and is doing so in exponentially faster cycles: as Nick Srnicek puts it “Deindustrialisation is a necessary stage to move beyond capitalism”[2] and that’s what we are starting to see.

The Internet of Things may be the last large scale infrastructure mankind needs to build and it will likely be built in a decentralized fashion through the adoption of (intangible) protocols rather than big corporate investments. Ironically enough, in a world of intangible value and no need for capital – a world that is “awash in money”[3]  – capitalism is evolving and a new breed of companies is arising to dominate and monopolize markets that it has created itself from scratch.

A new breed of companies enabling Platform Based Peer Production

A number of interesting studies released lately reinforced the idea that – in an era of widespread access to a growing set of means of production, from computers to fabrication machines – networked business models win. A recent study from OpenMatters and Deloitte[4], based on the observation of 40 years of S&P500 companies, reported that four major business models have been used so far in the history of capitalism: more in details, these business models are those of Asset Builders (firms that “build, develop, and lease physical assets to make, market, distribute, and sell physical things”), Service Providers (“hire employees who provide services to customers or produce billable hours”), Technology Creators (“developing and selling intellectual property”) and finally, Network Orchestrators.

This new breed of companies wins on the market by creating networks of peers in which participants – being prosumers, small business or partners in general – interact and play a role in a shared and internetworked value creation process. With no surprises, this research confirmed that Network Orchestrators historically achieved better financial results: bigger market value, faster growth, higher profit margins.

By surfing on the strong reductions of transaction costs mostly made possible by the ubiquity of the Internet and by leveraging existing and eventually “connected” infrastructures, inventories and network of resources, these companies can create markets that didn’t exist before. They can grow these markets into millions of participants, if not billions – by making connections and generating interactions between value producers and consumers, often shortcutting traditional middlemen and gatekeepers. These “platforms” focus on creating customer driven value – by using advanced techniques to deploy, test and measure the new – and on generating user experiences that are not only just better, but often 10x if not 100x times better (faster, easier, more enjoyable, more accessible, etc.) than the – not always existing – alternatives.

These “platforms” effectively enable what could be called a “Platform Based Peer Production” (PBPP in the rest of the document) paradigm – in contrast to the well known concept of “Commons Based Peer Production” as defined by Yochai Benkler.

From the intangible corporation to the unvaluable corporation

According to a recent Ocean Tomo research[5], which pretty much confirmed historical data, we are living in an era during which the market valuation of successful companies is defined for more than 80% by their intangible set of assets. In this respect, the champion of the first decade of the century was, with no doubts, Apple. Apple succeeded in making the most of its design capabilities and brand narrative of “thinking differently” by managing a relatively small industrial footprint, kept light mostly by systematically leveraging on existing eastern OEMs[6] and actually building its overall branded “platform” (mostly made of devices and developer ecosystems) on top of multiple, stratified, already available infrastructural layers such as the world wide web, global logistic chains and the productive capacity and shared knowledge of Chinese and Korean consumer electronics factories.

In an interesting recap of his already mentioned speech at the recent OuiShare Fest 15 in Paris, dubbed “Venture Capital vs Community Capital”, USV’s[7] Nick Grossman laid out an interesting consideration on how subsequent technological paradigm shifts enable the generation of new innovation waves that break and build on existing ones. Grossman’s blog post brings several interesting points to the table but, in particular, he describes how the rise of monopolistic, or quasi monopolistic, platforms first become enablers of new layers of innovation and then get disrupted themselves within time. According to the convincing explanation from Grossman, this happens, most of the time, thanks to an emergent role of open, shared standards or distributed architectures enabling higher value services. Very frequently these open disruptors are what I call “interfaces”, knowledge or design commons (think about Linux or the Http protocol).


Cycles of Bundling and Unbundling [8]

As a possible example we can think of Google becoming what it is now, on top of a precedent wave of innovation generated by AOL and Microsoft (in democratizing personal computer industry and internet access): the emergence of the World Wide Web (as set of standardized protocols) from this contest gave us the Googles and Facebooks of today.

“So there’s the pattern: tech companies build dominant market positions, then open technologies emerge which erode the tech companies’ lock on power (this is sometimes an organized rebellion against this corporate power, and is sometimes more of a happy accident). These open technologies then in turn become the platform upon which the next generation of venture-backed companies is built.  And so on and so on; rinse and repeat.”[9]

In a way, this is what is happening now again: peer to peer marketplaces and platforms (the PBPP) are poking holes in the dominance of the GAFA (standing for Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple in FaberNovel’s Gafanomics[10]) and are becoming the best representatives of the “intangible corporations” that are dominating today’s world of business. These platforms need smaller and leaner staff, work on digital and on-demand infrastructure and invest money mostly on improving user experiences (UXs) through design, while they sustain the growth in demand and supply through brand awareness and marketing. Airbnb is not just avoiding building hotels, but neither is building data centers.

As University of Oxford’s Professor Colin Mayer said earlier on this year, playing on a famous Shakespeare quote: “all that ends this strange eventful history is the mindful corporation: sans machines, sans man, sans money, sans everything.”

As a reinforcing trend we must consider that, in many cases, markets are also struggling to cope with the bubbling valuations that companies from the social era are eventually reaching: as Indy Johar pointed out at a panel days ago again at OuiShare Fest, there is no way that a company like Twitter could cope with its IPO valuation by means of its revenues; we should maybe just agree to the idea that such a company is more of an institution of the XXI century than a for profit company and start treating it as such. The more these companies empower not only other companies and brands, but also public institutions and citizens to exist and thrive, the more it will be likely hard to consider only their revenues to justify their market valuation: they should be considered forms of public good or – in a way – expressions of the Commons.

The transformation of the Firm

This transition to post-industrial, networked model of markets and firms is not having effects only on the business model side: in a recent essay, Geoffrey Moore looked at Coase’s seminal “The Nature of the Firm” from 1937 and explored the deep changes that the digitally transformed economy is having on the structure of the firm itself. If on one end, the transition into the “age of access” is transforming products into services and empowering the “on demand” economy, on the other hand, the growing demand for the firm to be able to act as a pivotal point, interact and collaborate with partners working from the outside (whether through an UpWork[11] contract or an API[12]) is being deeply disruptive to the hierarchical management structures that provided middle-management, middle-class jobs for most of the twentieth century.

In his recent book “The Utopia of Rules”, eminent American anthropologist David Graeber looks into the topic from a slightly different angle. Probably not underestimating, but consciously putting more emphasis on sociologic aspects than on the digital disruption itself, Graeber highlights the effects of the transition in the longer term, where a lot of people will be losing “bullshit”, bureaucratic, jobs (as he dubs them) to an algorithm, a piece of code or just to the very existence of the internet, as the infrastructures upon which we build shared knowledge, information and data, within time.

Despite the inspiring work of visionaries like Peter Drucker or Taichi Ono, for decades, we built firms that became like institutions: they provided a safe harbor for people, attached to the protestant ethic of work which shaped societies in the industrial age– with work to be done irrespectively of the value it brings to the worker, the customer, or society. Now that the internet changed everything, companies (or better, employees, people) fail to cope with the emergence of a new ethic: the hacker ethic of work. According to this new ethic, work should be enjoyable, meaningful and fun: this, in the end, is undoubtedly a shared item of culture between Silicon Valley Stanford tech laureates (and dropouts) and most of the digital commoners praising Commons Based Peer Production (CBPP in the rest of the article) and collaborative models.

Today’s successful firm is horizontal, lean, efficient, co-creative and talent sensitive and a swath of middle-class jobs will be the victim of this shift: moving from an economy dominated by large leviathans and obese institutions to one where smaller, nimbler, firms will literally “eat” chunks of the economy away as Marc Andressen once explained with his now famous “software is eating the world” mantra.

For those that can embrace this new “ethic of work”, Internet and emerging technologies not only become enablers of a new – post industrial – production model but could be, in fact, instruments of “liberation”: they can shift power from the corporation to the employee, following the same shift in power that in the last few years put the user in charge of the digital experience and that pushed back all the risk on the vendor – in the “on demand” economy.

A new era of independent (or rather inter-dependent) work, driven by passion and meaning, looks sometimes at hand: as Esko Kilpi[13] puts it

“The Internet is the first communication environment that decentralizes the financial capital requirements of production […] capital is not only distributed, but also largely owned by the workers, the individuals, who themselves own […] the new machines of work. […] the future will not be about jobs, but about tasks and interdependence between people […] Can companies perhaps be replaced by apps in some cases? Or can managers be replaced by apps? Or perhaps more and more new companies look like apps, like Uber or Airbnb already do.”

Wrong points of confrontation between cognitive capitalism and the Commons

Given that in the technological innovation process a role seems to be there for both, private interest driven capital(ism) and CBPP collaborative models based on the knowledge commons: why are we often stuck in a polarized perspective that opposes the two?

The best place to start, to give an extensive coverage of a modern and substantially shared vision of the world of the commons and of the promoter of a Commons Based Peer Production model, is of course the excellent work recently done in “Network Society and Future Scenarios for a Collaborative Economy” by Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis.

Image2-axes and scenarios

Image: The P2P Infrastructure: Two axes and four future scenarios[14]

In his famous taxonomy, Michel Bauwens uses two axis to classify the fruits of the digitally transformed economy in two macro areas: capital on one end and the commons, on the other. Bauwens first defines as ‘netarchical capitalism’, more or less what we defined earlier as Platform Based Peer Production and Networked Business models. It is the first combination (upper-left) “which matches centralized control of a distributed infrastructure with an orientation towards the accumulation of capital“.

A first potential misunderstanding here, is occurring when mixing the concept of different layers: infrastructures and platforms. This misunderstanding could be clearly recognized by this essential passage of Bauwens saying that “ultimately, the driving force of capitalism in our age is the eradication of all Commons and the commodification of all things”. Although one could easily agree with the first part, it’s harder to agree to the latter, and I’ll explain why.

Image3-Netarchical Capitalism

The P2P Infrastructure: Netarchical Capitalism[15]

By assimilating platforms and infrastructures we underestimate the evolutionary aspect: while infrastructures evolve towards becoming utilities completing the whole evolutionary path (from chaotic, unique and novel to ubiquitous[16]), platforms often don’t, or at least they don’t entirely. Indeed, platforms keep part of their value proposition in a constant creative phase, continuing to improve user experiences and climbing up the value chain constantly by listening to the needs of their ecosystem of users: platforms effectively chose what components can be commoditized and what shouldn’t.  As an example, that may help to clarify, we could mention the brilliant move by which – after attentively monitoring the use that the ecosystem was doing of its services – Amazon introduced Elastic Map Reduce (EMR). EMR is an environment for Big Data processing that, once introduced, pretty much instantly reduced such feature to a commodity, putting unbearable pressure on all third parties previously providing such a service on top of Amazon owned environment.

Image4- Evolution of human activity

The evolution of human activities – Simon Wardley[17]

This is a unique trait of platforms and ecosystems – which is made possible by pools of design talent and by a strategic hegemony – it produces two essential effects. First, these network orchestrators often create significant improvement in user experienced use value and – secondly – they create what is normally called “customer driven value” by exploring and testing new hypothesis of value all the time with customers. How many times have you heard of new upcoming features on Facebook being tested on a particular set of users? How many times a beta product program remained inaccessible for you to use just because you weren’t in the elected set of users? This is what a scientific, lean, experimental entrepreneurial thinking calls A/B testing. You may be in the A or B set of users but, at the end of the day, a new feature will be officially rolled out to everyone only after an evident customer appreciation and validation phase.

In search for a new ethical approach to design?

As an effect of multiple drivers, including the disrupting nature of their value propositions, their design hegemony and the capability that some key cognitive capitalism hubs have – the most important of it being the ecosystem of the Silicon Valley – to create global narratives, these successful platforms can occasionally grow into global, quasi-monopolies and this trait generates increasing concerns in analysts, users and commenters.

If we look into the problem from a liberal perspective, of those who believe that free markets can generate innovation (being able to allocate scarce resources to the ones which are able to use them best) better than non-market economies, these monopolies are just products of exponentially connected market dynamics. As Peter Thiel puts it “competition is for losers[18]: businesses that succeed to escape competition by growing into monopolies can stop focusing on the “daily struggle for survival” (indeed an attribute of utilities and commodities) and can focus on creating longer term empowering innovations – in the interest of backing shareholder capital that, most of the times when we talk of true enabling innovations, collides with the interest of the whole society.

At least partially converging with this vision, in an excellent write up of recent Nobel laureate French Professor Jean Tirole’s work, Financial Times’ Izabella Kaminska recaps that “in some markets, particular idiosyncrasies can lead to longstanding dominant positions which need to be smartly regulated in a way that doesn’t overly penalise innovators” and that regulations (which usually express the interest of the public and, therefore, should embed the protection of the commons) should “make sure there’s a level playing field, that the platforms are empowering rather than restricting and the interests of the wider economy are defended”.

In other words: while the position of the regulator should be that of the referee, there’s a big deal of complexity in trying to avoid to penalize someone for having invented a new market and for having followed customer advice in doing so. The good old antitrust mission becomes harder when companies don’t just compete in markets that we have known for decades but instead create new ones of which they, clearly, often become key players.

It’s key to ask whether these “empowering monopolies” are not only the result of the digital transformation but also evolutions which are dictated by us, the users. In the third digital wave, technology is not just integrated into products or used to increase sales but it is meant to help users to achieve their personal goals, to empower them. The users that we “formerly called consumers” and now “funders, producers, sellers and distributors” – according to Jeremiah Owyang are taking control of their digital identity and learning how to extract value from it by using platform of which they increasingly shape the narratives and value proposition. In the process users will be increasingly taking control of the firm itself: it is Customer Driven Capitalism (or Peer driven if you prefer).

Of course, the situation can be nuanced: the tendency to grow every single platform layer into a global monopoly looks like an attribute of the digital marketplace in itself – more than that of a single firm –  but there’s still the choice (for each brand and firm) to pursue the challenge to avoid the survival struggle in a more or less ethical fashion.

Dysfunctional Platforms?

In particular, two dysfunctional issues are often identified and pointed out as key elements of friction between these global platforms and the common and desirable good. On one hand these platforms are accused to proletarize contributing peers and not sharing enough of the value they create thanks to them: the critics range from pointing out that Uber drivers may be working on a wage that is apparently lower than the US minimum, up to considering posting data into facebook as a form of distributed free labor. If one looks into Travis Kalanick’s famous quote “the reason Uber could be expensive is because you’re not just paying for the car — you’re paying for the dude in the car” one can easily understand that the position of the driver, in this business vision, is evidently that of a – soon to be expandable – part of the supply chain.

The relationship between peers and platforms by the way, must always be considered from the perspective of the peer itself (as an entity). Only the peer’s perception of value is decisive: the peer’s trust towards the platform is key and the relationship strongly goes into intangible realms that can be hardly measured and regulated. In other words, the social agreement between Facebook and its user – with the former providing to the latter the possibility to leverage a wider social graph to accompany her own objectives – could be out of the typical scope of regulatory policymakers. A different discussion – of course – could be applied to Uber’s agreements with drivers: this is a much clearer form of labor that should be regulated according to the existing labor protection laws (as it can generate clear externalities on society), but just as long as Uber still has to employ people in its business process.

Another key dysfunction often pointed out with such platforms relates to their tendency to create walled gardens, used to lock in data and enclose collective intelligence: however this property could not be interpreted as dysfunction but instead as a “feature” and a strategic lever for a platform designer to choose. There are evident plus in keeping data under control if you’re a monopolistic platform as long as this doesn’t become harming to the platform’s reputation and business. In other situations, opening the data layer might be just a different strategic choice to win on markets.

Distributed capitalism or Socialized Infrastructures?

On the same side of the four quadrant model – that of “capital” – but on the lower-left quadrant, Bauwens and Kostakis put a much more unclear concept to me (with respect to that of platforms of netarchical capitalism): that of “distributed capitalism”. The very same key examples mentioned to give substance to this quadrant, the crowdfunding portal Kickstarter on one hand and the distributed crypto currency Bitcoin on the other, are scarcely similar. The first is indeed mostly a “brand” which is able to build, share and give visibility to user crafted narratives: it is more a storytelling tool than even resembles the nature of a netarchical platform. The latter leans more towards being the first incarnation of a really interesting distributed and shared “infrastructure” (the Bitcoin Blockchain) which carries an embedded incentive mechanism to be built from scratch (the Bitcoin itself) and which is now being increasingly used to empower different transaction based ecosystems thanks, for example, to tools like the “colored” coins, lately adopted even by organizations such as the Nasdaq.

Image5 - Distributed Capitalism

The P2P Infrastructure: Distributed Capitalism[19]

On the other side of the map, Kostakis and Bauwens see a dual nature of the commons taking shape and encompassing all the potential and needs for efficiency and innovation:  according to the writers, and to the vast majority of digital commoners who agree, “resilient communities” – sometimes seen as local lifeboat strategies in a scenario of crash and uncertainty – “can co-exist in harmony within the scenario of the global Commons by the logic that whatever is heavy is local (for instance, desktop manufacturing technologies), and whatever is light is global (for instance, global knowledge)”.

But who’s going to innovate radically? And where can we actually use the Commons?

Despite the fact that we can’t deny that innovation is becoming more and more distributed, social and diffuse, “an emergent property of networks rather than an internal R&D affair within corporations” as per Bauwens and Kostakis, and that the “Apache web server, Mozilla Firefox browser, Linux kernel, [… ] and a myriad of emerging open source software and hardware projects“ have been created in Commons Based Peer Production environments, there are at least two factors that are underestimated or, in my opinion, wrongly interpreted when we credit commons based, collaborative systems the capability to innovate radically.

First of all, while is true that “capital is becoming an a posteriori intervention in the realization of innovation rather than a condition for its occurrence (Bauwens and Kostakis) we tend to underestimate the importance that capital and talent have in combining, transforming and distributing elements of innovation to larger audiences. Even if Linux and GNU were invented by one nerd and a revolutionary thinker, GNU/Linux definitely took off in the market when brands such as IBM and Google decided to base their industrial strategies on it and democratized Enterprise IT and obile in the move.

Secondly, a relevant distinction here must be made between two different concepts we are talking about: interfaces and infrastructures. I will try to explain this difference by using two very seminal works that have been released in the last year. In a very fortunate recently published article, Boston Consulting Group[20] describes the digital marketplace as made of mainly three players/roles: “infrastructures on the bottom, producing and consuming, communities on the top, and traditional oligopolists competing in the middle”; it leaves “platform” in a mixed state, sometimes leaning into infrastructures, sometimes into communities.

By merging this vision with the one explained in the seminal “The hero’s Journey through the landscape of the future” [21]– which praises a vision of the digital marketplace made of infrastructures, customer relationship businesses (essentially platforms) and long tail markets (communities), the joint vision we can propose today is that of a digital marketplace made of several infrastructural layers, stacked one on top of another and connected between “interfaces”, acting as a common language or, at least, a standard of communication and exchange.

Most of the time, the Commons play a great role and succeed when it comes to becoming interfaces, while they struggle to become infrastructures: a good example might be the Android OS, Linux or even the younger – and more discussed – Arduino’s set of open designs and code library. These commons of code, knowledge or design become standards, sit between layered infrastructures and platforms and push players to innovate at lower or upper layers: no one reinvents the electricity socket or the Metric System (if not Britons).

The infrastructure layer for its part is sometimes too complex to build as a commons: look at  the ubiquitous infrastructure of mobile data connectivity which is, no-doubt, one of the major enabler of the digital transformation we are living: this layer is being strongly commoditized and is now subject to strong global consolidation trends, due to the massive demand of CAPEX (CAPital EXpenditures[22])  investments that are characterizing 5G and beyond technologies.

Sometimes, despite the complexities, the culture of the commons and an open, accessible and decentralized model can penetrate the infrastructure realm; however this normally happens in a limited set of contexts, when the capital needed to build a node of the infrastructure is smaller than that what a single peer or coherent community can afford.

Also in that case we must not forget that the knowledge, services and materials needed to build that node are likely coming from a lower layer of the stack such as, for example, supply chains or global retailers.

This is more or less what happened with the Bitcoin Blockchain: people started accumulating and buying Bitcoin mining devices – even designing dedicated ASIC chips – sourcing it from the consolidated Chinese consumer electronics industry and connected them though another existing infrastructure, the internet; all this was driven by the incentive of gaining Bitcoins. But what did this enable? Humanity now owns a truly distributed infrastructure, an accessible ledger that can be algorithmically trusted (effectively, a Commons) and that can be used to create almost every transaction based system with little or no upfront investments anymore. Like the “Cloud” for transactional system with the difference that no one really owns the infrastructure (differently from the Cloud which, in the words of security consultant Graham Cluley it’s just “someone else’s computer”).

The same is happening with Fablabs – of which almost 450 are already available worldwide and 400 more are in the making: communities source machines and components from existing industries, they build labs and interconnect them into the Fablab network (through the internet); within time they built their own academy of knowledge and this network is silently incubating a revolutionary manufacturing infrastructure that is local, efficient and owned by people and community institutions. An infrastructure that has been effectively “socialized”.

Building socialized, shared and commons based infrastructure is a quest worth pursuing: more than trying to socialize customer relationship platforms such as marketplaces. It is much more important to own, govern and control (in the Commons), a production infrastructure or network rather than a website connecting demand and supply or making new products possible: this task always was a matter of design, talent, entrepreneurship and creativity, something cognitive capitalism is designed for.

In conclusion, I think we should rethink and rebuild a more complete understanding of the roles of the key players in today’s processes of innovation: the perspective should be that of coexistence between competitive and collaborative models. Only by harmonizing the innovative potential of vision, talent, leadership and private initiative to create enabling innovations – the ones that Thiel calls zero to one[23] – and the democratizing and harmonizing potential of the open and collaborative Commons we can probably get a decisive takeoff toward an era of abundance.


[1] 2009. “Technological revolutions and techno-economic paradigms”, Cambridge Journal of Economics, Vol. 34, No.1, pp. 185-202

[2] Post-Capitalism Will Be Post-Industrial <http://bit.ly/1AEMure> [Retrieved 15 may 2015]

[3] A world awash in money November 14, 2012 Bain report By Karen Harris, Andrew Schwedel and Austin Kim <http://bit.ly/1KH7O2p> [Retrieved 15 may 2015]

[4] Adopt Digital Age Business Models to Prosper <http://bit.ly/1Jj0Vmf> [Retrieved 15 may 2015]

[5] Ocean Tomo Releases 2015 Annual Study of Intangible Asset Market Value <http://bit.ly/1I3UH86> [Retrieved 15 may 2015]

[6] Original Equipment Manufacturers

[7] Union Square Ventures – A venture capital fund based in New York

[8] Source: From Nick Grossman’s blog – Venture Capital vs Community Capital <http://bit.ly/1AENMTk> [Retrieved 15 may 2015]. The green boxes are companies, and the blue bubbles are “open” technologies like free software and open protocols — i.e., venture capital and community capital, respectively

[9] Ibid.

[10] Gafanomics – Fabernovel <http://www.fabernovel.com/gafa/> [Retrieved 15 may 2015]

[11] Upwork, formerly Elance-oDesk, is a global online work platform where businesses and independent professionals connect and collaborate remotely. Based in Mountain View and San Francisco, California, Upwork was launched on May 5, 2015 <https://www.upwork.com/> [Retrieved 15 may 2015]

[12] Application Programming Interface

[13] From Jobs to Gigs and from the Value Chain to the Internet <http://bit.ly/1d8Uh5J> [Retrieved 15 may 2015]

[14] Source: Bauwens, M and Kostakis V. (2014) Network Society and Future Scenarios for a Collaborative Economy (New York: Palgrave Pivot) <http://p2pfoundation.net/&gt;  [Retrieved 15 may 2015]. Released under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Simon Wardley – Evolution, diffusion, hype cycle and early failures. <http://bit.ly/1JdlrWL> [Retrieved 15 may 2015]

[17] Source <http://blog.gardeviance.org/> [Retrieved 15 may 2015]. Released under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

[18] Competition Is for Losers <http://on.wsj.com/1SPONgI> [Retrieved 15 may 2015]

[19] Source: Bauwens, M and Kostakis V. (2014). Ibid.

[20] BORGES’ MAP – Navigating a World of Digital Disruption by Philip Evans & Patrick Forth <http://on.bcg.com/1QjGNk3> [Retrieved 15 may 2015]

[21] Hagel, J. et al. (2014). The hero’s Journey through the landscape of the future Deloitte. University Press <http://bit.ly/1FOrahZ> [Retrieved 15 may 2015]

[22] Capital expenditures (CAPEX or capex) are expenditures altering the future of the business. A capital expenditure is incurred when a business spends money either to buy fixed assets or to add to the value of an existing fixed asset with a useful life extending beyond the taxable year.

[23] Thiel, P. (2014). Zero to one (New York: Crown Business)


About meedabyte

Strategist, Consultant and Collaborative Pathfinder


  1. Great article! Another example of a sharp analytical and foresightful mind. Thanks for sharing!

  2. helenefinidori

    Reading your article Simone reminded me of David de Ugarte’s Mumis (in his Power of Networks 2005 book p 50): the benevolent social animators of the web, akin to Solomon Islands entertainors who prepared communal feasts for the followers they attracted. These Internet Mumis although centralized in their structure were meant to provide highly decentralized and diversified experiences to their volatile and demanding member base for free, generating new kinds of abundance… David was foreseing a pluriarchy though. I am curious to know what he may think of mumis ten years later, now that these platforms are ever growing and centralized, monopoly seeking and profit extracting. It’s something I had highlighted in my article in the previous Spanda on Collective Intelligence (p 84).

    This does beg the question though on how to best harness the benefits of the network effect for knowledge and collective intelligence diffusion and P2P innovation, without becoming ‘enslaved’ by it… Providing capacity for empowerment and enablement of livelihood requires however sustained resources which are not obvious to acquire and maintain. How can the pace of investment be maintained? This is something I underlined in a strategic analysis of knowledge exchange and social change platforms (which still needs some fine tuning): http://www.slideshare.net/helenefinidori/platform-sustainability-strategic-analysis?

  3. Pingback: Spanda Essays on Systemic Change - On the role of Platform Based Peer Production and the Commons in the dynamics of Innovation | P2P Foundation

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