User Led Innovation Report from Down Under

(via Smart Mobs) I came across this interesting report from Darren Sharp and Mandy Salomon at Smart Internet Technology CRC in Australia: “User-led Innovation: A New Framework for Co-creating Business and Social Value.” (PDF link).

The first half of the study results from qualitative interviews with “experts on the social, economic and legal aspects of user-led innovation”, specifically:

The second half of the study focuses on Second Life as a case study or example of the impact of user-led innovation in actual practice.

I like the basic framing of the argument in the first section, which is that “user-generated content represents just the tip-of-the-iceberg”:

participatory culture . . . has the potential to reshape our economy and society. . . . user-led developments encompass a much wider field of collaborative practices and production processes. . . . other forms of ‘citizen product design’ are catering to people’s desire for personalised consumer goods.

They go on to suggest that “the blurring of producer and consumer roles is changing the way companies innovate and gives users a much greater say in product and service design.”

The most problematic part of the report for me is this description of Open Source:

One of the most important and successful forms of distributed capitalism in action is the Open Source software movement. The brainchild of Finnish university student Linus Torvalds, Open Source emerged out of his pioneering efforts to develop a sophisticated feedback system of network-enabled collaboration, culminating in the Linux operating system. Torvalds wrote the Linux code in conjunction with thousands of other keen codevelopers, laying the groundwork for future Open Source projects. This created an ingenious process for software development that utilised the ‘collective intelligence’ of other users, and harnessed the power of distributed knowledge production, transfer and exchange.

This wipes away with one rhetorical brush the Free Software Foundation and the GNU toolkit on which Linux relied and continues to rely, and basically credits Linus with inventing not just Linux but the whole movement. (Let alone any of the other precursors to Free software, among academics, in hobbyist communities, and so on – see the Wikipedia entry on the history of free software). A bit of editing and a footnote to the broader Free Software movement would go along way here.

The other issue with the report is that it is a bit like reading the condensed version of the thinkers identified above – which I guess is a by-product of the interview methodology.

But for those who have no intent of slogging through The Wealth of Networks or Democratizing Innovation (or, for that matter, the easier-going but still highly insightful Convergence Culture), the report does an excellent job of framing the major issues.