Researching P2Pvalue (2): Ignasi Capdevila on P2Pvalue and Surveying P2P Communities

(This interview by Michel Bauwens originally appeared on the P2P Foundation blog on 31/01/2015)

P2Pvalue is an EU funded research project investigating value creation in P2P communities and exploring what powers P2P collaboration. The P2P Foundation is a partner in the project. Each month we feature an interview with members of the research team. Last month Karthik Iyer spoke with us about how notions of value in collaborative communities differ from more traditional conceptions of value as measured in monetary terms.

This month we feature Ignasi Capdevila on surveying P2P communities.

Michel Bauwens: What was your research about in the P2Pvalue project? What were your goals?

Ignasi Capdevila: The P2Pvalue project is a European research project that involves several research centers and organizations. My work for the P2P Foundation consisted on designing and running a survey of CBPP community members (CBPP stands for Commons-Based Peer Production).

The main goal of the survey was to provide the P2Pvalue techno-social platform with design guidelines to define the features that would be the most useful to fulfill the needs of CBPP community members.

To do so, the survey intended to study CBPP communities that mainly interact online (i.e. in the case of FLOSS projects) but also communities that have a face-to-face interaction and that share their collectively created output in a digital platform (i.e. like is the case of some hackerspaces, makerspaces, fab labs, coworking spaces, etc.).

I am particularly interested in these types of ‘offline’ communities of makers and coworkers because they provide us a new way of understanding how work can be organized without formal organizations (like for instance, corporate structures). They can also be illustrative of how peer production can be implemented in the brick-and-mortar world. So far peer production has been studied in online collaborative projects, like Wikipedia or Linux. I felt that it was important to include communities with a strong offline interaction to strengthen the notion of peer production.

Michel Bauwens:  What are the key findings of the survey?

Ignasi Capdevila: The survey analyzed value creation and value capture at different levels (individual, community and society) in three different communities:

1) Online virtual communities;

2) Communities supported by digital platforms but with a local focus and a face-to-face interaction;

3) Localized communities with face-to-face interaction.

In total, 234 answers to the survey were considered for the analysis, representing 158 CBPP communities.

The first goal of the survey was to provide the P2Pvalue platform with design guidelines. The results of the survey can be summarized following three axes:

1) Offline interaction: it is important to manage the offline interactions of members beyond the use of online tools;

2) Tools for sharing and collaborating: Even in digital interaction, socializing represents an important part of the dedication. It appears also important to share the created value with the society in general;

3) Open content and value distribution: users find it valuable to have different possible options to allow or impede commercialization of the output by the community or third parties.

The second research question was to determine to which extent communities other than virtual communities can be identified as CBPP communities. The results suggest that other types of communities whose interaction is rather localized show comparable CBPP characteristics as virtual communities.

Michel Bauwens: What are the different notions about value that were considered in your study?

Ignasi Capdevila: Value is subjective, so we have to consider who is evaluating it. One of the premises is that value depends on the individual’s judgment, contrary to price, that is an objective figure. We are dealing with the subjectivity of value creation. Each participant will identify the value created differently depending on their initial motivations or expectations when joining the community. For instance, a participant looking mainly to have fun, will consider that his participation in the community is valuable if he/she effectively is having fun. So, we have to consider the motivations to construct the different categories of value creation. It is also important to consider personal and collective narratives when trying to assess value creation in communities.

The question of value has been fundamental in management. Recursive questions in the management literature are: 1) How much economic value does a firm create? and 2) Who captures that value?

Many scholars have addressed these questions conceptually. However, the concept of value has been considered quite narrowly, mainly in relation with traditional for-profit organizations. Considering new productive organizations such as in CBPP communities calls for a reconsideration of the concepts of what value  is, and its implications in the concepts of value creation and value capture.

Management researchers have often taken a too narrow view, assimilating value creation with returns to shareholders. Efforts to expand the scope of analysis to other stakeholders have been ad hoc, addressing returns potentially captured by employees, suppliers or customers, but in a manner that has not been comprehensive or complete. Furthermore, the focus of value creation as economic returns has ignored the value exchange among stakeholders.

Michel Bauwens:  You differentiate the concepts of value creation and value capture. In which aspects are they different?

Ignasi Capdevila: According to the traditional economic concept of value, a firm creates value when it produces and delivers a good or a service at a cost that is lower than what the consumer is willing to pay.

Typically, firms capture the value created in the form of profits that follow the selling of the products and services. In parallel, consumers capture the value created by the firm by enjoying the products to the extent that the price they have paid is inferior than their maximum willingness to pay. Thus, in economic terms, the total value created is equal to the sum of the producer and the consumer surplus.

The neoclassical economic view on value is based on a zero-sum concept of value. According to this view, the value that is captured by the producer is value that is subtracted from the one captured by the customer. And the other way round. In other words, there will be imperatively a winner and a looser of value.

But there are some important limitations to the simplistic traditional views on value. Traditionally, value capture has been considered in the literature exclusively in economic terms. Other forms of value have been largely ignored. The difficulty to measure value other than monetary might have influenced this lack of research. As Albert Einstein once said: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

In our study, by considering a notion of value that goes beyond the economic dimension, the limitations of the classic concept of value are overcome:

Firstly, value can be captured by any stakeholder. The notion of producer as antagonist of consumer is too simplistic to understand the value dynamics in CBPP. In peer production, consumers and producers are not differentiated actors. On the contrary, both aspects are confounded as consumers can be producers simultaneously. In this context, the concepts of “produsage” (Bruns 2008) and “prosumer” (Ritzer et al. 2012) make sense.

Secondly, in CBPP, the collectively produced result of collaboration is shared as commons. The value created is rarely economic. As a consequence, collectively-created products shared as commons might represent a value capture by different actors simultaneously, avoiding the risk of competing for the value capture between actors.

Ignasi CapdevilaIgnasi Capdevila is a PhD Candidate at HEC Montréal, where he is a current member of MosaiC, the Creativity & Innovation Hub. He has worked for more than twelve years in the automotive industry in Spain, France, Germany and Sweden as responsible for the development of new products and as head of the department of new projects. Ignasi holds two engineer diplomas, from UPC (Spain) and INPL (France), and a MBA from ESADE Business School. His research interests include localized knowledge creation and transfer, knowledge communities, creativity and innovation management in organizations and cities.


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