Open Source Communities: The Sociotechnical Institutionalization of Collective Invention

  • Jan-Felix Schrape
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Sociology book series (BRIEFSSOCY)


Open source development has become an integral part of the software industry and a key component of the innovation strategies of all major IT providers. Against this backdrop, this article seeks to develop a systematic overview of open source communities and their socio-economic contexts. It begins with a reconstruction of the genesis of open source software projects and their changing relationships to established IT companies. This is followed by the identification of four ideal-type variants of current open source projects that differ significantly in their modes of coordination and the degree of corporate involvement. Further, the article examines why open source projects have mainly lost their subversive potential while, in contrast to former cases of collective invention, remaining viable beyond the emergence of predominant solutions and their commercial exploitation. In an industry that is characterized by very short innovation cycles, open source projects have proven to be important incubators for new product lines and branch-defining infrastructures. They do not compete against classical forms of production but instead complement and expand these.


Innovation Open-source Peer-production Collective invention Software industry Professionalization 


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Social Sciences (SOWI VI)University of StuttgartStuttgartGermany

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