In the previous parts of this article, peer-to-peer production was presented as a radical new way of organising production and different from other forms of collaboration. Instead of following the instructions of a top-down hierarchy working in a competitive environment, which is the norm in most businesses, people who felt passionately about a particular project got together on a voluntary basis to create something that was available for anybody who wishes to use it, as long as they did not turn it into private property. That is, it remains in the commons.
They are involved in what has become known as distributed production – the aggregation of many small and geographically dispersed inputs coordinated through the internet. Solar production on individual houses, linked up through a ‘smart grid’ maximizing the efficiency, is an example of actual physical production organised in distributed production. It is also becoming a factor to be counted with. In Germany, on 25 May 2012, a Saturday, solar power reached a new record. It feed as much as 20 nuclear power stations into the German power grid, enough to satisfy 50% of the midday electricity demand.
The paradox is that the precondition for distributed production is centralisation, whether it be in the form of factories producing laptops or giant server halls or an integrated electricity grid where a decision has been taken to adopt a standard that allows the different parts of the grid to communicate with each other.