This chapter contributes to the sociological understanding of open source software (OSS) production by identifying the social mechanism that creates social order in OSS communities. OSS communities are identified as production communities whose mode of production employs autonomous decentralized decision making on contributions and autonomous production of contributions while maintaining the necessary order by adjustment to the common subject matter of work. Thus, OSS communities belong to the same type of collective production system as scientific communities. Both consist of members who not only work on a common product, but are also aware of this collective work and adjust their actions accordingly. Membership is based on the self-perception of working with the community’s subject matter (software or respectively scientific knowledge). The major differences between the two are due to the different subject matters of work. Production communities are compared to the previously known collective production systems, namely, markets, organizations, and networks. They have a competitive advantage in the production under complete uncertainty, that is, when neither the nature of a problem, nor the way in which it can be solved, nor the skills required for its solution are known in advance.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Social Order: A state of a group of actors that is characterized by a mutual adjustment of actions.
Peer Review: Process in which people engaged in the same kind of work judge the quality of one’s work, comment on it, and make decisions on these judgements.
Social Mechanism: A sequence of causally linked events that occur repeatedly in reality if certain conditions are given and link specified initial conditions to a specific outcome ( Mayntz, 2004 , p. 241).
Production Community: A community whose members jointly produce a good by autonomously deciding about their contributions by adjusting their decisions to the common subject matter of work.
Community: A group of actors who share a collective identity that is based on the perception of having something in common, and who adjust some of their actions because of this identity.