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Of Hackers and Hairdressers: Modularity and the Organizational Economics of Open-source Collaboration

Richard Langlois () and Giampaolo Garzarelli ()

No 2008-53, Working papers from University of Connecticut, Department of Economics

Abstract: By employing modularity theory, we study the general phenomenon of open-source collaboration, which includes, e.g., collective invention and open science besides open-source software production. We focus on how open-source collaboration coordinates the division of labor. We find that open-source collaboration is an organizational form based on the exchange of effort rather than of products where suppliers of effort self-identify like suppliers of products in a market rather than accepting assignments like employees in a firm. Our finding suggests that actual open-source software (and other) projects are neither bazaars nor cathedrals, but hybrids manifesting both voluntary production and conscious planning.

Keywords: Innovation; Integrality; Intellectual Division of Labor; Modularity; Open Source Software; Theory of the Firm. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D02 D23 L17 L23 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2008-04
Note: Previous versions of this paper have benefited from the feedback received from Davide Consoli, Martin Michlmayr, audiences at DRUID June 18-20, 2006,Copenhagen and EURAM May 16-19 2007, Paris, seminar participants at Wits on April 25, 2007, and three referees of this journal.
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Published in Industry and Innovation 15(2) 125-143 (April 2008) (Special Issue: Online Communities and Open Innovation) with minor revisions.

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