Market and Non-Market Co-Creation

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by: Chris Lawer

It is important to identify that co-creation is not just about firms improving their social marketing, open innovation, community-building and learning efforts to generate new proprietary and valuable knowledge with/from their customers.

Rather, there is also a form of co-creation that is largely independent of markets, where individuals willingly come together to create and share self-generated information, knowledge and content independent of any mechanisms of market exchange. In The Wealth of Networks, Yochai Benkler explores the dimensions and potential of such non-market co-creation / collaboration in some depth.

Making the distinction between the two types of co-creation primarily depends on how we define a market… Put simply, a market is where there is some kind of economic mechanism or price for the value exchanged between two parties and where the value is proprietary, that is, it is produced and owned by one party who expects some value in return for its exchange.

But in a non-market context, there is no economic mechanism or price for exchange and no ownership of information or goods. In a co-creation sense, such environments are characterised by the collaborative creation and sharing of knowledge and information by individuals in decentralised communities. The “value” derived by individuals in such communities is not moderated by an economic price but by social factors, experiential elements, meaning, learning, attention and shared values. Importantly, the co-creation that occurs here is independent of any market mechanism or desire for ownership by any party. We can see these forms of co-creation in open source software, media, journalism, blogging, entertainment, gaming and other digital environments. e.g Wikipedia..

As Yochai Benkler argues, such self-organising communities pose a threat to established firms seeking to use tweaked old market approaches to bolster their brands, innovation efforts and levels of social engagement – mainly because there is a limit as to how far such firms can “own” channels of knowledge production and are able to manage engagement when they apply a market-based logic and its associated capabilities.

Paul van Blokland just drew my attention to a related essay by Michel Bouwens on peer2peer and human evolution which can be found ( In a comment to an earlier blog of mine on this subject, Paul provides excerpts from Michael Bouwens paper:

Markets do not function according to the criteria of collective intelligence and holoptism, but rather, in the form of insect-like swarming intelligence. Yes, there are autonomous agents in a distributed environment, but each individual only sees his own immediate benefit.

Markets are based on 'neutral' cooperation, and not on synergestic cooperation: no reciprocity is created.

Markets operate for the exchange value and profit, not directly for the use value.

Whereas P2P aims at full participation, markets only fulfill the needs of those with purchasing power.

Paul writes that the paper's overall conclusion is that p2p aims at participation while markets "which are proprietary, secret and restricted are opposed to this aim of participation."

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