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Value versus utility

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There are a wide range of concepts associated with value, depending on the context of the discussion in question. Social communication has been identified in a range of recent literature related to collaborative communication environments as being a key financial value generator for emergent technologies (see Surowiecke, The Wisdom of Crowds; Friedman, The World is Flat; Benkler, The Wealth of Networks; Hardt and Negri, Multitude). Whilst there is some apparent confusion in the use of the term 'value' in current literature (the intended meaning often referring ultimately to utility as opposed to potential value, return on investment, opportunity costs or affordability), there is still the sense that the increased utility of socially networked systems will bring about cost benefits to organizations that engage with networked tools for interaction. Crucial to any sustained value being derived from networked environments is management of the inputs of participants and providing adequate incentives for participation. The network itself does not necessarily encompass the value for participants (either in terms of the infrastructure or the access to other participants) in spite of Metcalfe’s Law (see Odlyzko & Tilly 2005). Management of the participatory process (participatory design, rapid processing, authentic testing and productivity oriented ranking systems for participation) is necessary to ensure continued innovation (and therefore, productive value) in a network.

Differing perspectives of 'value' Edit

See Joanne Jacobs's blog entry below for a longer discussion on Metcalfe's law and its relationship to value, but briefly here are a series of differing perspectives of 'value'.

Output values Edit

  • Social production value – the increased level of commitment to a mutual project, based on the psychological influence of community participation;
  • Reputational development value – the influence of ambition on specific personalities and the development of leadership in a networked environment;
  • Entrepreneurial value – simplified projects, with a small number of users, but attracting risk-takers in a networked environment;
  • Raw connection value – the number of participants/productive connections in output production;
  • Utility value – the maximum possible opportunities to be derived from integration of all stakeholders in a production process;
  • Risk value – the functional aspects of an output that render the output less likely to be subject to litigation, the threat of outputs becoming obsolete, or production inefficiencies;
  • Transparency value – the perceived trustworthiness of a networked system in comparison with a closed production process;
  • Efficiency value – minimisation of duplicated effort;
  • Time value – minimisation of time to delivery/execution in the production process;
  • Functional value – maximum functionality of the outputs for use by a mass audience;
  • Quality value – the maximum functionality of the outputs for use by custom or niche audiences;
  • Repeat business value – the likelihood of an output to spawn further projects/sustained application development.

Outcome values Edit

  • Community development – increased (or at least the amount of) participation and care for community members;
  • Cultural development – the development of distinct languages, practices and ethics of open source communities;
  • Relationship development – the psychological and social benefits of connectivity between community members;
  • Socio-political development – the use of open source networks as a channel for public education and activism;
  • Interactive value – a clumsy way of articulating the differences between interaction between community members in an open source system as compared with similar interactions in “real life”.


Further Resources Edit

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