Launched: “Value and Currency in Peer Production”


The Journal of Peer Production has just launched a new issue on “Value and Currency”. The editors introduce the publication:

“Peer production has often been described as a ‘third mode of production’, irreducible to State or market imperatives. The creation and organisation of peer projects allegedly take place without ‘managerial commands’ or ‘price signals’, without recourse to bureaucratic apparatuses or the logic of competitive markets. Instead, and mimicking the technical architectures upon which many peer projects are based, production is described as non-hierarchical and decentralised. Group dynamics are also commonly described as ‘flat’ and this is captured, of course, in the very notion of the ‘peer’. When tested against the realities of actual projects, however, such early conceptions of peer production are, at best, in need of further elaboration and qualification”. (source)

The issues comprises various interesting articles, on bitcoin or 3D printing, and comments such as Bauwen’s Democratization of the Means of Monetization. Also, parts of my research on participation on Reddit – which I have written about earlier on in this blog – has been published in the issue.

The paper analyses internal conflicts on Reddit which indicate discrepancies between users’ idealistic claims as opposed to quantitatively-oriented participation. While some users emphasise topically focused motivations for their participation, others suggest that they mainly post content with the aim of collecting ‘Karma-points’. The latter approach has been called ‘Karmawhoring’. The term references Reddit’s ranking and evaluation system through the allocation of Karma-points. This paper examines how such a quantification of user participation influences interactions and content posted on Reddit. By looking at participatory practices and users’ interplay, it investigates opposing justifications and controversial incentives for contributions. It analyses particular cases of Karmawhoring, user criticisms of such merely achievement-oriented contributions as well as attempts to counteract (alleged) ‘Karmawhores’.


Reddit’s ranking system is described as strategy that aims at decentralising the governance of content: it leaves the subjective determination of quality criteria to the crowd. The aforementioned conflict between idealistically and quantitatively motivated contributions has however led to a discrepancy between value assessments of content. The numerical representation of a contribution’s value through Karma-points, calculated by users’ up- and downvotes, does not function as uncontested signal of content quality. Instead, Karma-points have been criticised by users since they seem to economise participation and inhibit innovative content. Such an ‘econometrisation’ of participation particularly appears to be a result of the community’s rapid growth in scale. A focus on achieving Karma-points becomes primarily appealing once the visibility of communication is regulated by a vast amount of users and interpersonal feedback becomes less likely. Subsequently, Karma functions as main, quasi-monetary incentive and reward of participation. By analysing Karmawhoring and its criticism on Reddit, this paper describes how users’ claimed social values and the website’s quantitative valuation of content fall apart.

You can find the full article here.

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