collective code creation – Linux

In much of the innovation literature, innovation is defined as something that has
economic impact. Linux and other open source initiatives show that this definition
is problematic and possibly misleading in important practical cases. For example,
during its history, most Linux development has occurred independently of direct eco-
nomic concerns. It would be tempting to argue that Linux development is different
from ‘economic activity’ and something that, strictly speaking, should not be called
innovation. Indeed, in its early history Linux development was not in any obvious
way associated with changes in production functions, market competition, or appro-
priation of economic investment and surplus. Yet, obviously Linux developers collect-
ively produce new technology. If economy is about collective production, this is it.

… when we consider
the entire history of Linux, the economic impact seems to appear almost as an after-
thought and as a side effect of a long period of technology creation. Linux, therefore,
provides an interesting history of globally networked innovation, illustrating the
substance that underlies the discussions on the ‘new economy’. If the ‘new economy’
is about global Internet-enabled and software-driven production, this is it.

– Ilkka Tuomi, Networks of Innovation: Change and Meaning in the Age of the Internet, pp. 2-3