Which context might feed more the increase of the commons, countries with a state presence or those of limited statehood?
I recently met Steven Livingston (Professor School of Media and Public Affairs; The George Washington University) and his work brought me to think common-based peer production (CBPP) from a perspective that I found interesting.
Steven Livingston addressed the question of Digitally Enabled Collective Action in Areas of Limited Statehood. One of the contribution of his work is to do a critique of the focus of scholars analyzing Digitally Enabled Collective Action only in countries of the North where the state is “strong” (even if in crisis); instead he suggests to take attention to the cases in which there is a limited statehood. Which is actually – the lack of State coverage but expanding ICT adoption – the condition in which live a large part of the population in the world. Here you could find a presentation of him.
What this brought me to think is the context of CBPP. To my understanding there has been a limited analysis of the context in CBPP. Most of the research has focused on “how” CBPP works from the perspective of “internal” organizational (and many times micro) aspects, while not considering the macro contextual variables. Yes, there is a sense that the crisis of the state might feed the raise of CBPP, but to my knowledge, there has not been done empirical research which actually has look and “test” the effect of the context in CBPP. For example, if Wikipedias or FLOSS grown more in countries with particular state modalities. Which is a type of question that has been addressed in social movement research.
If we think in terms of level of statehood and CBPP. One could think;
1) that – perhaps surprisingly – CBPP might emerge more in contexts of limited statehood (where there is a lack or weak state) and strong ICT adoption (such as mobile phones in certain African countries), than in context of strong statehood.
In terms of social movements organizing, this would explain the “surprise” of the Arab Spring, a place where it was not easy to expect that was going to be the place in which a global wave of mobilization was going to start.
2) Or that CBPP might emerge both in contexts of limited and strong statehood, but that the raising of the CBPP in these diverse contexts might be feed by diverse causes/processes. In other words, an “strong” statehood might favor CBPP as well as a limited statehood but for divers forces.
Of course, there is also the discussion not on the “level” but the type of State – that supporting the commons (such as some cases in Latino-America) or that basically an instrument for corporate interest. In any case, this perspective could provide some insights in the debate of the triangle State-commons-market.
In sum, my intuition is that to keep an eye in CBPP in context of limited statehood might result in some surprises. However, in these context, CBPP might raise in other modalities (for example, with the case of Ushahidi mapping) different than the “traditional” cases such as Wikipedia and FLOSS, which might make them more difficult to be identified, but also contribute to move the discussion on CBPP beyond these classic examples.