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Reading :: New Forms of Collaborative Innovation and Production on the Internet

Posted by: on Jan 1, 2015 | No Comments
New Forms of Collaborative Innovation and Production on the Internet
By Volker Wittke and Heidemarie Hanekop

A German colleague forwarded one chapter of this open-access collection to me, and I ended up reading the rest of it as well. It's a good read, quick, but full of good insights about how Internet capabilities are driving different approaches to collaboration. It's also a great price (free).

In the introductory chapter, the editors discuss the collection's focus: new forms of collaborative innovation and production on the Internet. They argue that "The key distinguishing feature of these new forms of production and innovation is the governance mechanism that coordinates the contributions of numerous actors. Collaboration among co-producers is coordinated neither by markets nor by hierarchies." They acknowledge that open source software and Wikipedia have been well studied examples, but "Today, however, there is a much broader spectrum of collaboratively developed products and services. " And they state that "The interpenetration of different forms of production is less understood than the 'pure cases', although it is gaining importance" in comparison to market and hierarchy approaches.

This chapter provides a good overview of literature in terms of different variations of collaborative production.

The chapter that was lent to me, and that I personally found most interesting in the collection, was Chapter 2:  "Customer Co-Creation: Open Innovation with Customers" by Frank Piller, Christoph Ihl and Alexander Vossen. This chapter reviews customer cocreation, providing a typology of recent methodologies of cocreation (open innovation). The authors contrast Schumpeter's idea of the lone entrepreneur vs. "actors in networks and communities." The latter provide the possibility of open innovation, which is inherently networked, and customer cocreation, a strategy of open innovation with customers. The authors argue that there are three modes of open innovation:

  • "listen into," which involves leveraging existing information;
  • "ask," which involves seeking input, often from beta users; and 
  • "build," which involves actual customer cocreation as the product development approach.

Based on the above, the authors develop a three-axis typology, which includes

  • stage of innovation process
  • degree of collaboration
  • degree of freedom

This typology yields 8 ideal types of open innovation. I plan to examine this typology closely as I look at open innovation cases.

In Chapter 3, "Governing Social Production," Niva Elkin-Koren discusses "the social dimension of content production and analyzes the consequences for the governance of content in the social
web," specifically in terms of copyright and post-copyright.

In Chapter 4, "Trust Management in Online Communities," Audun Jøsang states that "Trust management in online communities aims at making trust reasoning more powerful and reliable by collecting, analyzing and disseminating information that is relevant for trust and trust based decision making. This article describes semantic aspects of trust as well as principles and methods for building online trust and reputation systems. The problems and challenges for designing and implementing reliable trust and reputation systems are invoked and some potential solutions are mentioned. Finally, the article articulates our vision for trust management in online communities." Among other things, the author provides a table of trust and reputation system categories, and he describes a taxonomy of trust.

This theme of trust is continued in Chapter 5,  "Building a Reputation System for Wikipedia." Here, Christian Damsgaard Jensen presents "some of the work that has gone into the development of the Wikipedia Recommender System. We first developed a generic architecture for integrating a reputation system into existing legacy systems and based our design of the WRS on this architecture. Both the generic architecture and our design of the WRS are outlined in this paper. Finally, we present ongoing work to improve the reputation rating of the WRS by determining the areas of expertise for the different feedback providers in the WRS."

In Chapter 6, "Cooperation in Wikipedia from a Network Perspective,"  Christian Stegbauer discusses how to apply network perspectives to one of the most studied cases of collaborative production. "The explanations presented here, which grew out of a long-term research project, are in alignment with relational sociology. The modern approach we used is flexible and positional, unlike earlier role models, and demonstrates how an order arises through the allocation and acceptance of responsibilities. The most important social level here is the meso level, where positional allocations are negotiated. An example is provided to demonstrate the functioning and consequences of this allocation process. The result is a social context with integration mechanisms that present a precondition for long-term participation." He explains, "We have chosen a relational approach in which actions are understood not in terms of individual preferences, maximization of interests, or similar considerations, but rather in terms of the dynamics that emerge from the relationship structure." Here, "Identities are flexible and change with social context, which in turn changes the impetus for actions and – returning to our study of Wikipedia – the motives for participation." To examine how positions are negotiated in Wikipedia, he "investigated positional structuring in discussions relating to 30 Wikipedia articles" and analyzed them with network techniques.

Chapter 7 examines "Managing a New Consumer Culture: 'Working Consumers' in Web 2.0 as a Source of Corporate Feedback." Authors Sabine Hornung, Frank Kleemann and G. Günter Voß find that Web 2.0 "often has unintended consequences for the structure of company-consumer interactions. Companies struggle to communicate with internet users because they continue to treat users as conventional customers or consumers, i.e., as the passive 'working customers' of conventional self-service contexts. Users are not treated as part of an emerging new culture defined by different standards of participation and communication, and this can lead to conflicts and difficulties within the organization. Through these mechanisms, the new internet culture may lead to a shift of customer-company relationships generally. In short, open innovation calls for more open company structures."

They elaborate: "Organizational innovation in response to web 2.0 users means a potential loss of organizational control. The new risks caused by using web 2.0 for gaining feedback from internet users cannot be solved merely by better implementation of conventional customer integration methods. For most companies, an internet presence apparently is still considered to be a kind of adjunct to existing organizational operations. They do not see the inevitable necessity of adapting internal structures as a consequence of internet success. Until now, many companies are not communicating in appropriate ways because the web 2.0 logic has not been internalized. We assume that most companies know how social media works and have learned how to integrate this new field of activity into their operations appropriately, but for many, 'being web 2.0' is superficially articulated."

Chapter 8 goes beyond the company walls. In "Prosuming, or when Customers Turn Collaborators:
Coordination and Motivation of Customer Contribution," authors Birgit Blättel-Mink, Raphael Menez, Dirk Dalichau and Daniel Kahnert investigate "the phenomenon of increasing integration of customers and users into the organizational creation of value, focusing primarily on the dissolving boundaries between production and consumption."

Similarly and finally, in Chapter 9, "Role Confusion in Open Innovation Intermediary Arenas," authors Tobias Fredberg, Maria Elmquist, Susanne Ollila and Anna Yström examine how "Intermediaries have become an increasingly important part of innovation collaboration arrangements such as open innovation." They argue that "Much attention has been given to structural arrangements for open innovation, but less interest has been given to how people experience the participation in open innovation work." To examine this question, they draw on "a longitudinal case study of SAFER, an open innovation intermediary arena for research on traffic and vehicle safety." This case study "investigates how participants in this arena experience their situation as they spend time on things typically “outside” their tasks in their home organizations. The study provides insight into the tensions and confusion that the participants experience in their work, as they constantly need to renegotiate their positions both within their home organizations, and in the relation to the intermediary arena and the other organizations."

If you're interested in how the Internet is providing different ways to collaboratively innovate and produce, but you want to go beyond the familiar case studies of open source software and Wikipedia—and especially if you are interested in how collaborative innovation can work across business-customer boundaries—definitely take a look.