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The Handbook of Peer Production

Landmark publication of The Handbook of Peer Production by News and Media Research Centre researcher Mathieu O’Neil

17 February 2021

The News and Media Research Centre is delighted to announce the publication of The Handbook of Peer Production, part of Wiley’s Handbooks in Communication and Media series. This Handbook, edited by the N&MRC’S Mathieu O’Neil with Christian Pentzold (University of Leipizg) and Sophie Toupin (University of Amsterdam), represents a milestone in the study of what has been described by Harvard’s Yochai Benkler as “the most significant organisational innovation that has emerged from Internet-mediated social practice.”

Peer production is a mode of commons-based and – ideally – commons-oriented production in which participation is voluntary and predicated on the self-selection of tasks. This decentralised organisational model, which does not rely on exclusive ownership and formal contracts, has in some cases surpassed traditional forms of production. Originally the Internet enabled millions of people to collectively produce and revise computer operating systems and applications, encyclopedia articles, and film and television databases. Today peer production is still associated to the digital commons in the case of wireless networks and online currencies, but also encompasses offline practices such as shared machine shops and biohacking, amongst many others.

The first-ever Handbook of Peer Production outlines central concepts, examines current and emerging areas of application, and analyses the forms and principles of cooperation that continue to impact multiple areas of production and sociality. Featuring thirty chapters by an international and diverse team of experts in the field, this landmark work maps the origins and manifestations of peer production, discusses the factors and conditions that are enabling, advancing, and co-opting it, and considers peer production projects’ current impacts and potential future consequences for the social order. Detailed chapters address the governance, political economy, and cultures of peer production, as well as user motivations, social rules and norms, the role of peer production in social change and activism, and much more. Filling a gap in available literature as the only extensive overview of peer production’s modes of generating informational goods and services, this ground-breaking volume:

  • Offers accessible, up-to-date information to both specialists and non-specialists across academia, industry, journalism, and public advocacy;
  • Includes interviews with leading practitioners discussing the future of peer production;
  • Critically assesses the pioneers, key debates, contradictions, and futures of peer production;
  • Explores technologies for peer production, openness and licensing, peer learning, open design, and free and open-source software.

The Handbook of Peer Production is an indispensable resource for students, instructors, researchers, and professionals working in fields such as communication studies, science and technology studies, sociology, and management studies, as well as those interested in the network information economy, the public domain, and new forms of organisation and networking.

Follow The Handbook of Peer Production on Twitter: @beyourownpeer

More information about the book, including purchasing options, can be found here.


Part I – Introduction

Chapter 01 – The Duality of Peer Production: Infrastructure for the Digital Commons, Free Labor for Free-Riding Firms (Mathieu O’Neil, Sophie Toupin & Christian Pentzold)

Part II – Concepts: Explaining Peer Production

Chapter 02 – Grammar of Peer Production (Vasilis Kostakis & Michel Bauwens)

Chapter 03 – Political Economy of Peer Production (Benjamin Birkinbine)

Chapter 04 – Social Norms and Rules of Peer Production (Christian Pentzold)

Chapter 05 – Cultures of Peer Production (Michael Stevenson)

Chapter 06 (reprint) – Commons-Based Peer Production and Virtue (Yochai Benkler & Helen Nissenbaum)

Part III – Conditions: Enabling Peer Production

Chapter 07 – Prophets and Advocates (George Dafermos)

Chapter 08 – Virtue, Efficiency, and the Sharing Economy (Margie Borschke)

Chapter 09 – Openness and Licensing (Mélanie Dulong de Rosnay)

Chapter 10 – User Motivations in Peer Production (Sebastian Spaeth & Sven Niederhöfer)

Chapter 11 – Governing for Growth in Scope: Cultivating a Dynamic Understanding of How Peer Production Collectives Evolve (Rebecca Karp, Amisha Miller & Siobhan O’Mahony)

Part IV – Cases: Realizing Peer Production

Chapter 12 – Free & Open Source Software (Stéphane Couture)

Chapter 13 – Wikipedia and Wikis (Jutta Haider & Olof Sundin)

Chapter 14 – Hacker Cartography: Participatory Mapmaking and Technological Power (Adam Fish)

Chapter 15 – Peer Learning (Panayotis Antoniadis & Alekos Pantazis)

Chapter 16 – Biohacking (Morgan Meyer)

Chapter 17 – Makers (Yana Boeva & Peter Troxler)

Chapter 18 – Blockchain (Pablo Velasco Gonzáles & Nate Tkacz)

Chapter 19 – Wireless Community Networks (Gwen Shaffer)

Chapter 20 – Urban Commons (Nicholas Anastapoulos)

Part V – Conflicts: Peer Production and the World

Chapter 21 – Peer Production and Social Change (Mathieu O’Neil & Sébastien Broca)

Chapter 22 – Peer Production and Collective Action (Stefania Milan)

Chapter 23 – Feminist Peer Production (Sophie Toupin)

Chapter 24 – Postcolonial Peer Production (Maitrayee Deka)

Chapter 25 – Gaps in Peer Design (Francesca Musiani)

Chapter 26 – Makerspaces and Peer Production: Spaces of Possibility, Tension, Post-Automation, or Liberation? (Kat Braybrooke & Adrian Smith)

Chapter 27 – Peer Production and State Theory: Envisioning a Cooperative Partner State (Alex Pazaitis & Wolfgang Drechsler)

Part VI – Conversions: Advancing Peer Production

Chapter 28 – Making a Case for Peer Production: Interviews with Peter Bloom (Rhizomatica), Mariam Mecky (HarassMap), Ory Okolloh (Ushahidi), Abraham Taherivand (Wikimedia Deutschland) & Stefano Zacchiroli (Debian)

Chapter 29 – What’s Next? Peer Production Studies? (Mathieu O’Neil, Sophie Toupin & Christian Pentzold)

Chapter 30 – Be Your Own Peer! Principles and Policies for the Commons (Mathieu O’Neil, Sophie Toupin & Christian Pentzold)


Mathieu O'Neil is Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Canberra's News & Media Research Centre and Honorary Associate Professor of Sociology at the Australian National University, where he contributed to the creation of the Virtual Observatory for the Study of Online Networks. Mathieu’s research examines the policy and organizational aspects of commons‐based peer production, as well as risk issue diffusion and the adoption of causes and innovations in the online environment. He previously held academic appointments at the Université Stendhal - Grenoble 3, the Australian National University and the Université Paris Sorbonne. He has also worked as an editor and curator in Singapore, and as a researcher for the Australian Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. He is the founder of the Journal of Peer Production. His work has been published in Social Networks, Journal of Peer Production, Réseaux, Information, Communication & Society, Organization Studies, New Media and Society, and the International Journal of Communication, among others.

Christian Pentzold is Professor of Media and Communication at the Department for Communication and Media Studies, Leipzig University, Germany. Before that, he worked in the Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research at the University of Bremen and the Institute for Media Research at Chemnitz University of Technology. He is broadly interested in the construction and appropriation of digital media and the roles information and communication technologies play in modern society. His work in communication research and media analysis links to insights coming from cultural sociology, linguistics as well as science and technology studies. In current projects, he looks at the public understanding of big data, the organization and governance of peer production, as well as the interplay of time, data, and media. His work has come out with Media, Culture & Society, New Media and Society, Communication, Culture and Critique, and the International Journal of Communication.

Sophie Toupin is a Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQSC) postdoctoral fellow at the University of Amsterdam where she explores the linkages between feminism, data, and infrastructure. She completed her Ph.D. in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Her doctoral research examined the relationship between technology and anti-colonialism during the South African anti-apartheid struggle. Her work has been published in New Media and Society, Feminist Media Studies, Canadian Journal of Communication, Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, and Journal of Peer Production, among others.