“It is in collectivities that we find reservoirs of hope and optimism.”
― Angela Y. Davis
Talk is Silver, Code is Gold? Beyond ‘Object-Centric’ Notions of Contribution in Peer Production
Peer production communities are based on the collaboration of communities of people, mediated by the Internet, typically to create digital commons, as in Wikipedia or free software. The contribution activities around the creation of such commons (e.g. source code, articles or documentation) have been widely explored. However, other types of contribution whose focus of action is directed towards the community have remained significantly less visible (e.g. organisation of events or mentoring). This work challenges the notion of contribution in peer production through an in-depth qualitative study of a prominent “code-centric” example: the case of the free software project Drupal. Throughout the collaboration of more than a million participants, the Drupal project supports more than 2% of websites worldwide. Thus, this research (1) offers empirical evidence of the perception of “community-oriented” activities as contributions, (2) analyses their lack of visibility in the digital platforms of collaboration, and (3) draws on the concept of affective labour to show its relevance for the sustainability of peer production communities. Therefore, through the exploration of a complex and extreme “code-centric” case, this study aims to reconceptualise the notion of contribution in peer production communities, incorporating new kinds of contributions traditionally invisibilised. In this way, this work may open new avenues of research, enabling the study of contribution activities from a new perspective.