P2P is a specific form of relational dynamic, based on the assumed equipotency of its participants, organized through the free cooperation of equals in view of the performance of a common task, for the creation of a common good, with forms of decision-making and autonomy that are widely distributed throughout the network.
It expresses itself through three fundamental social processes: 1) peer production, as the collaborative production of use value that is open to participation and use to the widest possible number (as defined by Yochai Benkler, in his landmark essay Coase's Penguin ); 2) as peer governance , which is the manner in which these projects are managed; 3) and as peer property, which refers to the distribution of peer services and products through new modes of property, which are not exclusive, though recognize individual authorship (i.e. the GNU General Public License, the Creative Commons licenses).
Peer production does not produce commodities for exchange value, and does not use the price mechanism or corporate hierarchy to determine the allocation of resources. It must therefore be distinguished from both the capitalist market (though it can be linked and embedded in the broader market) and from production through state and corporate planning; as a mode of governance it differs from traditional linear hierarchies; and as a mode of property it differs from both traditional private property and state-based collective public property; it is rather the common property of its producers and users and the whole of humankind.
P2P processes are not structureless, but are characterized by dynamic and changing structures which adapt themselves to phase changes. Its rules are not derived from an external authority, as in hierarchical systems, but are generated from within. It does not deny ‘authority’, but only fixed forced hierarchy, and therefore accepts authority based on expertise, initiation of the project, etc. P2P may be the first true meritocracy. The threshold for participation is kept as low as possible. Equipotency means that there is no prior formal filtering for participation, but rather that it is the immediate practice of cooperation which determines the expertise and level of participation. Communication is not top-down and based on strictly defined reporting rules, but feedback is systemic, integrated in the protocol of the cooperative system. Techniques of 'participation capture' and other social accounting make automatic cooperation the default scheme of the project. Personal identity becomes partly generated by the contribution to the common project. P2P characterists have been studied by Howard Rheingold et al's Cooperation Project
P2P is a network, not a linear or 'pyramidal' hierarchy (though it may have elements of it); it is 'distributed', though it may have elements of centralization and 'decentralisation'; intelligence is not located at any center, but everywhere within the system. Assumed equipotency means that P2P systems start from the premise that ‘it doesn’t know where the needed resource will be located’, it assumes that ‘everybody’ can cooperate, and does not use formal rules in advance to determine its participating members. Participants are expected to self-select the module that corresponds best to their expertise. Equipotency, i.e. the capacity to cooperate, is verified in the process of cooperation itself. Validation of knowledge, acceptance of processes, are determined by the collective through the use of digital rules which are embedded in the project's basic protocol. Cooperation must be free, not forced, and not based on neutrality (i.e. the buying of cooperation in a monetary system). It exists to produce something. It enables the widest possible participation. These are a number of characteristics that we can use to describe P2P systems ‘in general’, and in particular as it emerges in the human lifeworld. Whereas participants in hierarchical systems are subject to the panoptism of the select few who control the vast majority, in P2P systems, participants have access to holoptism, the ability for any participant to see the whole.
Level one represents the cultural shift in ways of being, feeling and knowing, as well as the new core value constellations that underpin the shift to a peer to peer civilization.
Level two represents the technological distributed computing infrastructure, the P2P media infrastructure which enables many-to-many communication, and the collaborative infrastructure which allows autonomous groups to cooperate on a global scale, outside the bounds of markets and hierarchies.
Level three represents the legal infrastructure. The GNU General Public License (and Open Source initiatives), which creates and expands the P2P technological infrastructure as a public domain Commons; Creative Commons licenses achieve the same effect for content creation. Technological protocols such as TCP/IP insure the participative nature of new technologies, while P2P collectives set their own internally-generated frameworks of cooperation, within the broader framework of Internet-based civility (netiquette). Taken together they create a common property regime of public goods outside the market and the state.
Level Four represents new social practices that are thoroughly characterized by P2P principles (as distinguished from non-P2P formats enabled by P2P infrastructures). The first strand is represented by 'non-representational politics', politics which refuses representation, as exemplified by the alterglobalisation movement and Social Forums, the coordination format adopted by social movements. Peer production creates collective use value in the form of a Commons, and is exemplified by free software, knowledge collectives such as Wikipedia, collaborative publishing such as Indymedia. Participative spirituality represents a new way of relating to religions, the cosmos, and nature and its beings, refusing authoritarian truths and methods, sometimes practiced in the form of peer circles. It's principles and practices have been developed by John Heron and Jorge Ferrer.
Level Five are hybrid practices that are not full P2P themselves, but are enabled and strengthened by P2P infrastructures: examples are P2P marketplaces which do not create a commons and are run by for-profit enterprises, or who derive substantial value from user-created content; gift economies or sharing economies (the latter defined by Yochai Benkler), such as local exchange trading systems and local currencies.
The Internet, as it was conceived by its founders and evolved in its earliest format, was a point to point network, consisting of equal networks; and the travel of data used different sets of resources as necessary.
It is only later, after the rise of stronger and weaker networks, of open, semi-closed and closed networks, that the Internet became hybrid; but it still in essence functions as a distributed network, having no central core to manage the system.
Its hierarchical elements, such as, the layered Internet Protocol stack (specifically designed to allow P2P processes), the domain name system (a decentralized system of authoritative servers which can disconnect participants -- you can't arrive at an address without DNS intervention), and Internet governance bodies, do not prohibit many-to-many communication and participation -- but enable it.
The evolution of the Internet is largely seen to be 'organic' rather than centrally directed, no single central player can direct it, though some players are more influential than others.
The web similarly was seen as a many-to-many publishing medium, even though it follows a semi-hierarchical client-server model (hence decentralized rather than distributed). However, it is still and will remain an essentially participative medium allowing anyone to publish his own webpages.
Because of its incomplete P2P nature, many are working on processes that would allow it to become a true P2P publishing medium in the form of the Writeable Web projects (part of the trend towards a "remixable web" that is often called Web 2.0.). It will allow anyone to publish from his own or any other computer, in the form of blogging, etc. Other P2P media are instant messaging, IP telephony systems, etc.
Filesharing systems were the first to be explicitly tagged with the P2P label, and this is probably the origin of the concept in the world of technology. In such systems, all voluntary computers on the Internet are mobilized to share files among all participating systems, whether they be documents, audiofiles, or audiovisual materials.
In June 2003, videostreaming became the application using the most Internet bandwidth, and some time before, online music distribution had already surpassed the physical distribution of CDs (in the U.S.).
Of course, in the public mind filesharing is mostly associated with the sharing or piracy of copyrighted music and videos. Though the earliest incarnations of these P2P systems still use centralized databases, they are now, largely thanks to the efforts of the music industry, mostly true P2P systems: in particular BitTorrent and the planned development of Exeem.
Each generation of P2P filesharing has been more consistent in its applications of peer to peer principles.
Finally, grid computing uses the P2P concept to create ‘participative supercomputers’, where resources, spaces, and computing cycles can be borrowed from any participant in the system, on the basis of need. It is generally seen as the next paradigm for computing.
Even programming uses the P2P concept of object-oriented programming, where each object can be seen as a node in a distributed network.
All of the above shows that the new format of our technological infrastructure, which lies at the heart of economic processes, follow the P2P design. This infrastructure enables the interlinking of business processes, beyond the borders of the individual factory and company, and the interlinking of all the individuals involved.
There are two important aspects to the emergence of P2P in the economic sphere. On the one hand, as format for peer production processes (called ‘Commons-based peer production' or CBPP by Y. Benkler), it is emerging as a 'third mode of production' based on the cooperation of autonomous agents. Indeed, if the first mode of production was laissez-faire based capitalism, and the second mode was the model of a centrally-planned economy, then the third mode is defined neither by the motor of profit, nor by central planning: to allocate resources and make decisions, it does not use market and pricing mechanisms, or managerial commands, but instead uses social relations. Peer production is a significant part of the mainstream economy, even if it is not much advertised as such in mainstream economic literature.
The second aspect, as the juridical underpinning of software creation, in the form of the GNU General Public License (GPL), or as the Creative Commons (CC) license for other creative content, it is engendering a new commons-based intellectual property regime.
Taken together the GPL, the Open Source Initiative and the Creative Commons, together with associated initiatives such as the Art Libre license, may be seen as providing the 'legal' infrastructure for the emergence and growth of P2P social and economic processes.
A further important aspect of peer production is the creation of universal public goods, i.e. the emergence of new common property regimes.
Many new political movements are taking on P2P organisational formats, such as the alterglobalisation movement. The movement sees itself as a network of networks that combines players from a wide variety of fields and opinion, who, despite the fact that they do not see eye to eye in all things, manage to unite around a common platform of action around certain key events.
They are able to mobilize vast numbers of people from every continent, without having at their disposal any of the traditional newsmedia, such as television, radio or newspapers.
Rather, they rely almost exclusively on the P2P technologies described above. Thus, Internet media are used for communication and learning on a continuous basis, prior to the mobilizations, and also during the mobilizations.
Independent Internet media platforms such as Indymedia, as well as the skillful use of mobile phones, are used for real-time response management, undertaken by small groups that use buddy-list technologies, and sometimes open source programs that have been explicitly designed for political activism such as TextMob.
Many reports have appeared, including those described in Howard Rheingold’s Smart Mobs, about the political significance of SMS in organizing successful protests and ‘democratic revolutions’.
The network model allows for a more fluid organization that does not fix any group in a permanent adversarial position. Various temporary coalitions are created on an ad hoc basis depending on the issues.
Some of peer-to-peer's biggest support comes from techno-anarchists: mainly post-left and post-scarcity anarcho-communists -- ones with syndicalist sympathies, and crypto-anarchists.
Some anarcho-communists support a non-monetary trade in the form of non-monetary P2P commons. Others such as Tiziana Terranova easily see anarcho-communism as being compatible with a non-hierarchical, open access, free association, non-monetary form of trade such as P2P.
Among the related but not necessarily identical terms in the P2P meme map are the following:
MIT Press, 2004 (power as embedded in the digital protocols governing networked systems)
Somerset administrator abruptly quits after closed-door meeting ; Larry Post, who took the job in October 2010, says, 'We did not see eye to eye regarding the direction and management of the county.'
Dec 05, 2012; Doug Harlow dharlow@mainetodaycom Staff Writer
Portland Press Herald (Maine)
Jones, Bell disagreements come to light; SEC filing shows two don't always see eye to eye. (Jones Intercable, Bell Canada International)
Aug 18, 1997; SEC filing shows two don't always see eye to eye Is Jones Intercable's relationship with major investor Bell Canada International...