OII - SDP - 2004 - Blog

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Online Epistemic Communities [Steinmueller]

The aim of Friday's second session was to discuss the open source paradigm.  Thus Ed Steinmueller 's Online Epistemic Communities presentation outlined a means of organisation of collaborative work of building communities - not open source software development as the title might suggest - but why people participcate in collaborative activities in open source like behaviour. 
Steinmueller commenced by saying ‘many internet resources are like many kinds of libraries’, which made me happy - I am using this metaphor as one of four structural framework partitions for my PhD research.  More so, the rest of his presentation - the open source paradigm as an emblematic new way of collaborating - is extremely relevent to my investigation of the collaborating activities of online genealogists.

Can participation in the creation and improvement (modification) of information goods create substantial value?

To answer this question,  Steinmueller explained, is that information goods are important as they are:
  • expansible - reproduction does NOT exhaust the original; and
  • non-rivalrous - one persons use of an information good does not dimish the value to others.

He then continued by discussing an overview of open source software as a lead in to the open source paradigm, and that:

Open source software creates an impetus for the creation of ‘virtual communities’ based upon computer-mediated communication (CMC).

The main meat of Steinmueller's presentation however is a model for investigating the callobating interaction of Internet activityies.  Thus he introduced the two part model - Analyzing the Social Structure of Open Source Communities - considtaing of Foundation Theory and Empirical Tasks.  I have summarised the two four-part sections below.

Foundation Theory

  1. Examining the constitution of the ‘authority’
  2. Consider the life cycle of the project, including recruitment and sustainability     
  3. Analyse the advantages and limitations in the method of voluntary collabouration .      
  4. Consider some distinctions, such as that 'open source is bigger than software, though does not apply to the whole world of volunterristic Internet activity'.  Also:
'Free access for the purposes of modification’ is a way to exclude chat rooms, Napster, and USENET.  That is, they are not necessarily expansible and non-rivalrous.  This requires further discussion.

Empirical Tasks

  1. What does the market look like?
  2. What range of actvitities? 
  3. Industrial dynamics 
  4. Taxonomy

At the end of the session, an OII participanted asked Ed about the wifi movement and his thoughts on it with repect to the open source paradigm.   Ed mentione that 'giving away something for free, that others sell for money, may create congestion'.  However, a lack of governance and quality may lead to suggestions of unreliance (no assurance), which may allieviate congestion (cannot depend on it, therefore will only use intermittently).


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