Virtue, efficiency, and the sharing economy

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Peer production is assumed to be virtuous and public-spirited, a networked socio-economic system of production, that is efficient, promotes individual agency, harnesses collective knowledge, creates robust technologies and information and contributes to sustaining the public domain in the Internet era. This organizational innovation is also often associated with the rise of social networking technologies, practices and platforms in the 2000s and an ethos of participation, sharing and remix. Yet at the heart of key conceptualizations of peer production is a tension between virtue and pragmatism, between a belief that particular kinds of networked spaces and practices can enable the development of personal and social virtues and also be more efficient than other forms of production. This tension becomes more visible in the metaphor, practices and platforms of the sharing economy where ethical debates about agency, property, privacy and collective rights abound and where utopian rhetoric acts as a cover for the corporate drive for efficiency over ethical concerns. This chapter considers these tensions and how the ideals of peer production were shaped by their social and material histories.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe handbook of peer production
EditorsMathieu O'Neil, Christian Pentzold, Sophie Toupin
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
ISBN (Electronic)9781119537090
ISBN (Print)9781119537106
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameGlobal Handbooks in Media and Communication Research

Bibliographical note

Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.
This is the author’s version of a chapter accepted for publication in the Handbook of Peer Production. Changes resulting from the publishing process such as copy-editing, typesetting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. This author manuscript version is available for personal, non-commercial and no derivative uses only.


  • peer production
  • remix
  • sharing
  • metaphor
  • copy
  • piracy


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