General discussion of concepts and theoretical frameworks
User-collaboration and value creation: governance structures and business models
Large-scale user collaboration on a non-profit basis, as in the cases of open source software development and Wikipedia, differs significantly from market-driven production processes, because it is embedded in the social context of Internet communities and the rules and norms that govern them. At the same time, there are many links to value-creation processes in firms. In such cases, the governance structures are hybrid: on the one hand, value creation is coordinated by markets and/or hierarchies, while on the other hand, firms have to act in accordance with community-based norms and rules to access external contributions. In other cases, users are directly integrated as co-producers in the value-creation processes. Firms increasingly encourage a broad and capable base of outside agents to contribute to innovation and value creation.
What conditions are conducive to the occurrence of such hybrid forms of governance, and under what conditions are they most likely to succeed? How do the ideas, norms and rules that drive these communities fit in with firms' business strategies? Recent studies examine the challenge of "how to attract the participation of a broad community of contributors, and then how to sustain their participation over time“1. The underlying questions are: How can hybrid social systems of production reconcile user collaboration and self-organization with the business strategies of firms? Can specifics of the collaborative production model be transferred into firms' value-creation processes? Do the different models become similar over time, or even converge? What constitutes successful business models in these business domains? These and other questions will be discussed in the Thursday morning session.
Legal and political framework for collaborative production: Impact of intellectual property rights, software patenting and the role of the state
Decentralized and collaborative production of knowledge is strongly connected to the development of a new type of licensing, often referred to as "copyleft" license. It is apparent, however, that one form of license cannot govern different forms of collaborative knowledge production. Moreover, immaterial goods are protected in various ways by intellectual property rights (IPR). Protection of software differs considerably from protection of knowledge (books, articles, etc.) or of databases. Furthermore, while intellectual property rights are not harmonized, decentralized production by multiple authors and contributors is seldom confined to a national level, but is usually spread out over many countries, both within and outside the European Union.
Open questions include: What impact do different licenses have on the success or failure of collaborative production projects, with regard to different products and markets and, such as open source, Wikipedia, creative commons or Web 2.0 creative content. What forms of copyleft licensing might be required by the various products and markets? What effect do different licenses have in hybrid governance constellations and what special requirements arise in this context? Not least important, what enhancing or hampering effects do different national IPR laws have?
Other questions specifically concern software patenting: How do the differences between patent law in the USA and in the EU affect open source software development? How are the development, distribution and use of software managed across jurisdictions with different levels of patent protection and how do they coexist and, in some cases, cooperate in these various legal environments?
Collaborative production of digital goods: Individual behavior and implications for economic policy
The success of collaborative production, in particular the production of open source software, is interesting from a microeconomic point of view due to strong free-riding incentives. Collaborative production has characteristics of a social dilemma situation in that individually rational behavior leads to socially suboptimal outcomes. The appropriation of common-pool resources is a specific example of a social dilemma situation. Individually rational behavior leads to overexploitation of the resource. In many empirical case studies, Elinor Ostrom (1990 )2 examined the principles of self-organization and self-governance in common-pool resource situations. Similar principles can be applied to Wikipedia3 and the production of open source software (OSS).
The most frequently asked question in this regard refers to the motives for voluntary contributions. From the perspective of institutional economics, the incentive problems of collective action and private investment and innovation models are important.From the perspective of policy makers, the pertinent question is whether the design of property rights (patents, copyrights, etc.) or the provision of research and development grants could influence innovation activity across such innovation models, and whether specific policy instruments could have an even greater influence. Apart from these classic policy instruments, softer approaches such as trust enhancing policies, informational support of decisions as well as moral suasion by peers could provide further support for innovation. One question that remains open concerns the type of incentives likely to maintain active user collaboration over time. In addition to direct incentives such as property rights, these may include indirect incentives such as group adherence, mutual moral support and social recognition. This leads to an affiliated question: What policy instruments might enhance and support such incentive patterns?
Project management, quality assurance and reputation systems in collaborative production
Although the voluntary collaboration of individuals in open source projects or Web 2.0 environments do not rely on contractual obligations or affiliation with a firm, it is by no means devoid of project management and quality control. Although these controls differ in many ways from the mechanisms and processes employed in firms, they still prove to be highly efficient and reliable in many instances. Important mechanisms include transparency and openness of the overall production process, use of collaboration software in the Internet and systematic integration of users in quality control. Questions to be discussed include: How are project management functions and quality assurance processes organized in the various projects? Can these mechanisms and principles be transferred to firms? What can be learned from this for project management in general? It is also interesting to these processes with conventional project management to discover the relative advantages.
Trust and reputation systems (TRS) play an increasingly important role when mutually unknown partners transact over the Internet, see for example4. As in personal relationships, recommendations given by someone who is trusted carry more weight than recommendations from someone who is not known, or is even mistrusted. Whether a person is trusted or not is a quantity that can be managed by a trust system. Such systems typically contain features such as transitivity; i.e., if A trusts B and B trusts C, then A may have a certain level of trust in C. This is why trust and reputation systems are often combined.
This brings us to the question of whether a TRS can help to establish trust in the reliability and quality of collaboratively developed products and services, or perhaps even improve quality, by monitoring the trust and reputation levels of contributors. A follow-up question might be: What kind of system can be developed to support such process? One system that integrates with Wikipedia has recently been introduced by Korsgaard and Jensen5. Whether this kind of system has any effect on the quality of the articles remains for further study.