Versioning Dissonance: Emerging Trends in Collaborative Production and Distributed Research
By: Jonah Bossewitch
Published: 12/24/2009
Uploaded: 07/13/2010
Uploaded by: Jonah Bossewitch
Tags: collaborative production, collective action, distributed cognition, distributed version control, microblogging, source control, Twitter, wikis

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Description/Abstract: Since the early 1970s software developers have used specialized tools, “version control systems”, to help them manage and control changes to software code across contributors and time. In the early days, these tools were focused on tracking the history of changes to discrete files, but they have progressed significantly, and are now used to help coordinate projects involving massive numbers of contributors, and ever more intricate experiments. Software continues to grow more complicated and vast, and teams are more distributed and dispersed. Accordingly, developers have reflexively refined their workflows and processes, often visible in the form of the tools used to support these collaborations. In the past few years “distributed version control systems” (DVCS) have dramatically increased in popularity. There is a fascinating culture emerging around DVCS, facilitated by software, but responding to (and suggesting) shifts in collaboration styles. As with earlier generations of version control systems, it is easy to imagine these practices percolating through other areas of information production. We are starting to see hints of this style of collaborative production breaking free from the
software development world and into the realm of content production, initially in the forms of distributed research, filtering, and analysis. As Benkler has argued, ranking and filtering is itself just another information good, itself amenable to peer production, but the best ways of organizing and coordinating–distributing and then reassembling–this production, still need to be worked out. DVCS offers us an innovative and promising model for thinking about new styles of distributed cognition, collaborative production, and collective action.