Individuals collaborate openly for a wide variety of reasons.
Broadly speaking these can be divided into two categories: intrinsic and extrinsic.
In the former case people are driven by their own internal motives: curiosity, hunger for knowledge, the pleasure of participation or of belonging to something bigger than themselves.
Extrinsic incentives on the other hand are stimuli provided by the outside world: money, prestige, the promise of reward or the threat of punishment.
Networked computers are highly flexible tools, and thus open a wide range of activities to potential participation.
The manner in which people 'self-select' projects to dedicate their time to points to the increased salience of intrinsic motivations in the online context, but this adherence to personal drives hybridizes with external incentives.
A short narrative from Clay Shirky's "Here Comes Everybody" describes making an edit to Wikipedia, on the fractal nature of snowflakes, that makes the concept easier to understand.
He asks himself why he did it, and comes up with three answers.
First he says it "was a chance to exercise some unused mental capacities -- I studied fractals in a college physics course in the 1980s."
The second reason is vanity: "the "Kilroy was here" pleasure of changing something in the world, just to see my imprint on it."
The third motivation is simply "the desire to do a good thing. This motivation of all of them, is both the most surprising and the most obvious." (Shirky, p. 132)
This mixture of motivations can be articulated a little further when it comes to the more structured and interpersonal collaborations we are discussing in this book. Shirky's motivations (desire for activity, vanity, and benevolence) combine both intrinsic and extrinsic elements.
The following is a list of intrinsic motivations.
Being Part of Something
The utopian version of Personal Selfishness is a desire to be part of something larger than one's self.
The desire to join or build a community of like-minded makers or thinkers. Some collaborators feel a need to belong to something bigger, some collaborators like being part of a community purely for the sake of belonging, and whether they admit it or not some collaborators feel that they don't have the motivation to create outside of a structure.
Enjoying the benefits of others' efforts often generates a desire or sense of obligation to contribute.
This can happen in a powerful way within bounded coherent projects, but it is present to some degree in much of our social relations. If we can do something easily, at a low cost to ourselves, and the result is a minor increase in a perceived social good, then we often do it for the benefit of the greater good.
Problem solving and 'making things' constitutes an important source of pleasure.
Curiosity, the desire for exploration, the pleasure taken in the company of fellow adventurers or a fixation on the aesthetics of that particular activity all form important intrinsic catalysts.
Surveys in free software have repeated born this out (Ghosh, Lakhani).
Satisfying Individual Needs/Productive Selfishness
This term seems to have made its appearance in a post on LinuxToday.org in July 2000 in a comment from an article about Microsoft posturing about Linux.
The user Penguinhead writes:
"The article quotes a Microsoft representative who says that the applications are not oriented around the customer. The fact is, in the Free Software world (and some Open Source stuff) the developer is the consumer. Applications are not programmed for some mythical "average consumer" but rather for real world applications. For example, if I need a new image viewer because none of the current ones (xv, ee, eog, etc.) meet my needs I simply sit down and program one to what I exactly want. Many companies already do this internally and create proprietary software. However, in the Free Software community that software which would otherwise be proprietary is made public.
Another example is Linux. Linus did not create Linux because he thought the consumer needed another operating system but rather he created Linux because Unix was too expensive (and not open) and Minix had some brain damages (at least that's what I hear) and DOS simply sucked. He created Linux because he had a need. He fulfilled that need and the needs of millions of others.
This is what I call productive selfishness. (successful) Projects are created for their developers own personal reasons and are given to the community simply because someone else might have need of it and might want to extend it. We must turn away from the standard Capitalist mindset that projects need to be developed for the consumer and turn towards the true reasons that successful projects are developed."
While Penguinhead is writing specifically about software, it is easy to extrapolate this to Free Culture at large, and the role of collaboration.
We have specific shared goals, and we need them fulfilled. We are acting out of personal need, and this selfishness is productive.
It fulfills our personal requirements in a way a purchased solution could never do, and in the process creates useful tools and cultural artifacts for many other people.
Elsewhere in the literature this impulse is commonly described as 'scratching an itch', but we feel that the notion of productive selfishness better captures the mixture of self-centered purpose and social production that it entails.
The following are a list of extrinsic motivations.
Some participants in collaborative production are driven by external incentives or constraints.
Companies such as IBM, Nokia, Novell, not to mention Red Hat, Canonical, Suse and Mozilla employ people to work on free software projects.
Likewise Slashdot employs people full time to maintain the site and provide initial filtration of user submissions. That people are paid is not in itself enough to tell us whether that is their sole motivation, but it would be absurd not to state its significance.
Many volunteer participants seek to gather experience, knowledge and skills which make their labor more marketable.
This happens through working with better qualified peers. This is commonly the case in free software projects but is also true of many areas of cultural production, where people apprentice themselves.
The lack of payment is traded off against the knowledge acquired.
This question of motivation for collaboration was posed on the CRUMB List to a series of Fellows at the collaboration and Free Culture focused Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology.
In a post on the CRUMB list Michael Mandiberg, one of the collaborating authors of this book, wrote the following:
"ultimately the question I think I am answering is "Why Openness?" and also "Why Collaborate?" And my answer is "Faster and Better."
I am working on a number of projects, almost all of involve working with other people. I work with other people because i have found it is the best way to get the most things done. The best projects happen the fastest when you work with other people. That sounds kind of puerile, but I am quite serious."
Personal Selfishness/Strategic Ambition
People also collaborate out of personal selfishness, and a desire to accumulate social and cultural capital.
This is an extension of Shirky's notion of vanity to a community structure. These collaborators view the opportunity to work with an established community or individual as a way of gaining prestige.
This could range from something as simple as having one's name associated with another more prominent artist, writer, activist, etc, or building one's own profile inside a collaborative community's reputation system.
Withholding ethical judgment about personal egos, and individual ambition, this is another version of Productive Selfishness.
No matter why an individual wants to push their own individual profile, as long as they productively contribute to the collaboration in full, and follow the shared procedural tenets, the work is valuable and advances the goals of the collaboration.
There has been error in communication with booki server. Not sure right now where is the problem.
You should refresh this page.