Open Source Hardware Community

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OSH communities are socially formed groups of heterogeneous actors, who co-create OSH products. Due to their loosely coupled structure and fluid boundaries, participation levels vary starkly over time in terms of quantity as well as content. Hence, counting a person as a community member can be justified by diverse levels of participation.

Participants may engage as followers, replicators, developers, or community managers, among others. Within open source environments, actors are not connected through organisational affiliation[1]. However, apart from individual developers, firms as well as any other types of organizations may choose to engage within OSH communities by means of individual participation of their members, who can even found them. However, OSH communities are by definition the source of value creation. Unlike "innovation communities", their objectives are not determined by innovation activities of companies but the voice of the community, which elicites different socio-economical dynamics and cultural engineering.

Conceptually, OSH communities are rooted in the Open Source Movement (see [2] for an overview) and therefore embody the communitisation of technology from private institutions to the public. As part of this movement, they may be viewed as functional technological institutions in the domain of modern Western societies. In that sense they emerge around a process of collective action which is governed by collective consciousness (coined by Emile Durkheim as a set of shared norms, beliefs, values, attitudes, and understanding[3]).

Bergquist & Ljungberg[4] argue that social interaction within open source communities can also be explained as a gift culture which creates dynamic power hierarchies and recognition patterns. Interestingly, problems of elitism and overt individualism are also unveiled. However, research is needed to study the impact of such dynamics on OSH communities.


  1. Aksulu, A., & Wade, M.. 2010. “A Comprehensive Review and Synthesis of Open Source Research.” Journal of the Association for Information Systems 11 (11/12): 576–656.
  2. Carillo, K., & Okoli, C. (2008). The open source movement: a revolution in software development. Journal of Computer Information Systems, 49(2), 1-9.
  3. Marshall, G. (1998). A dictionary of sociology (Oxford Paperback Reference). Oxford University Press, USA.
  4. Bergquist, M., & Ljungberg, J. (2001). The power of gifts: organizing social relationships in open source communities. Information Systems Journal, 11(4), 305-320.