The Journal of Peer Production, an academic publication dedicated to exploring, investigating and promoting what they consider to be the emergence of a new, peer-to-peer, economic model in society, has announced a call for papers for a special issue of their journal on the topic of “value and currency in peer production.” The Journal of Peer Production has covered a wide range of topics in the area of peer-to-peer economy, ranging from file sharing in Sweden to the emergence of governance in the open source FreeBSD project and even do-it-yourself biology, and is now looking for answers to one particular question: what role will digital money have in a peer-to-peer society?
The Journal of Peer Production is not yet well-known in the Bitcoin community, but a distinct but ideologically similar group has had some exposure: the P2P foundation. The foundation made some headlines nine months ago when they started paying salaries in Bitcoin to show support for the currency, and one of the P2P Foundation’s founders, Michel Bauwens, appeared on the Keiser Report in May to talk about what the currency means to him. The P2P Foundation’s purpose is somewhat more general than the Journal of Peer Production; as P2P Foundation collaborator Nicolas Mendoza describes it, “the P2P Foundation documents, studies and promotes P2P practices around the world, plus it is continually building a knowledge commons of P2P practices that is available for everyone at the P2P Foundation wiki.” One of its most prominent recent works is the 2012 report “Synthetic Overview of the Collaborative Economy“, written largely by Bauwens, Mendoza and Franco Iacomella.
The Journal of Peer Production, on the other hand, focuses itself on releasing in-depth peer-reviewed articles about specific topics. It publishes its issues in July every year, and has so far released three. The first (or rather, “Issue 00”), released in July 2011 and entitled Mass Peer Activism, discussed filesharing in Sweden, Wikipedia and a branch of social science known as Actor-Network Theory (ANT). Issue 01, released in July 2012 and entitled “Productive Negation”, discussed free software and also dealt heavily with topics of scarcity and abundance and the features of a peer-to-peer economic model. Issue 02, also released in July 2012 and entitled “Bio-Hardware Hacking”, focused on hackerspaces and the democratization of biotechology. Issue 03, “Free Software Epistemics”, will come out in July 2013.
Radical politics and economics has always been one of the Bitcoin community’s interests, and so many people would benefit from taking a closer look at these two organizations’ work. The general category of the P2P ideology’s politics can be described as libertarian – a word which appears rather frequently in both organizations’ writings, but a form of libertarianism different from the one envisioned by writers like Jon Matonis. The P2P foundation has a section offering a criticism of Bitcoin which all-out attacks an aspect of the currency that many others consider to be its core features: its sharply limited supply. Despite his general stance in favor of Bitcoin, Bauwens nevertheless wrote that “it is a ‘scarcity’ based currency, subject to hoarding and wealth accumulation (only 21m bitcoins will be created, insuring a constant growth in value), that does not really change what is ‘wrong’ with the current currency system”, and further down in the page Sebastiano Scrófina criticized the currency’s deflationism. Bauwens later wrote another article criticizing the deflationist ideology as a whole. Deviating further from the traditional ways in which economic ideologies are categorized, an article in the Journal of Peer Production outright calls peer-to-peer society “a new communist horizon”. However, the communism is mentioned there is far from the authoritarian state communism of the 20th century; rather, peer production is described as “a ‘third mode of production’, irreducible to State or market imperatives” – Wikipedia and open source software being the perfect examples.
To those members of the Bitcoin community who are interested in the larger societal questions that technologies like Bitcoin can solve, the Journal of Peer Production and the P2P foundation are highly recommended places to stop by if only simply to expand one’s ideological horizons. Those who have something to say about local and alternative currencies, financing public goods in a peer-to-peer world, trust and anonymity or any of the other topics listed in the announcement are encouraged to make their submission proposal (maximum 500 words) to the foundation by January 28, 2013.