Collective development in open-source communities: An activity theoretical perspective on successful online collaboration

Published on Sep 21, 2009in Organization Studies
· DOI :10.1177/0170840609339241
Andrea Hemetsberger16
Estimated H-index: 16
(University of Innsbruck),
Christian Reinhardt4
Estimated H-index: 4
(University of Innsbruck)
Sources
Abstract
Online collaboration is often organized without strong predetermined rules or central authority, which is why coordination and ways of organizing cooperation become crucial elements of collaboration. This article investigates how online projects can overcome problems of dispersed work, solve inherent contradictions and utilize tensions in the activity system to develop collaborative artefacts and practices. Empirical evidence is based on a detailed observation of a successful open-source project — the K Desktop Environment (KDE). Our findings show that successful collaboration is based on coat-tailing systems. Coat-tailing means to inextricably bind together individual action and collective activity through careful design of complexes of technological, mental and cultural artefacts.
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