DMC Session 08: P2P Communications and Networks

Digital Media Culture / Digitaalinen mediakulttuuri (KDVCL01)

08: Torstai 05.03.2009 13:00 – 16:00

P2P Communications and networks

This sessions aims to explore peer-to-peer technologies and networks, and their affect on society.

Classifications of P2P

P2P networks can be classified by what they can be used for:

  • file sharing
  • telephony (eg. skype)
  • media streaming (audio, video)
  • discussion forums

Other classification of P2P networks is according to their degree of centralization.

In 'pure' P2P networks:

  • Peers act as equals, merging the roles of clients and server
  • There is no central server managing the network
  • There is no central router

Some examples of pure P2P application layer networks designed for file sharing are Gnutella and Freenet.

There also exist countless hybrid P2P systems:

* Has a central server that keeps information on peers and responds to requests for that information.
* Peers are responsible for hosting available resources (as the central server does not have them), for letting the central server know what resources they want to share, and for making its shareable resources available to peers that request it.
* Route terminals are used as addresses, which are referenced by a set of indices to obtain an absolute address.


According to Skype..

“A true P2P system, in our opinion, is one where all nodes in a network join together dynamically to participate in traffic routing-, processing- and bandwidth intensive tasks that would otherwise be handled by central servers”

Global decentralized user directory

Global Index (GI) was a necessary development and represents yet another paradigm shift in the notion of scaleable networks. The Global Index technology is a multi-tiered network where supernodes communicate in such a way that every node in the network has full knowledge of all available users and resources with minimal latency.

Intelligent routing

By using every possible resource, Skype is able to intelligently route encrypted calls through the most effective path possible.

Skype even keeps multiple connection paths open and dynamically chooses the one that is best suited at the time. This has the noticeable effect of reducing latency and increasing call quality throughout the network.


Exercise: Peer-to-peer Bodystorming


Michel Bauwens and P2P Foundation

“relational dynamic” inherant in distributed networks

P2P is a specific form of relational dynamic, based on the assumed equipotency of its participants, organized through the free cooperation of equals in view of the performance of a common task, for the creation of a common good, with forms of decision-making and autonomy that are widely distributed throughout the network.

Equipotentiality: “is the assumption that the individual can self-select his contributions, which are then communally validated”..

Question: “Self selection here implies that individuals choose what, when, and how they contribute”..

“the individual concerned knows better the precise nature of the skills he can contribute: and his peer then validate his contribution.”

Jorge Ferrer: In an equipotential relationship the various participants are “equals in the sense of their being both superior _and_ inferior to themselves in varying skills and areas of endeavour (intellectually, emotionally, artistically, mechanically, interpersonally, and so forth), but none of those skills being absolutely higher or better than others. It is important to experience human equality from this perspective to avoid trivialising our encounter with others as being _merely_ equal.”

“a new form of political organising and subjectivity, and an alternative for the current political/economic order”

Potential of..

  • A computer in every home.
  • Every computer connected through the internet to every other computer.

“What sounds so simple is actually the setup for a revolution - one that has great implications on the economy as well as on society as a whole.”

When people can connect freely and engage in common projects without coercion you have a peer-to-peer dynamic. So it applies to computers, as in file-sharing, and, crucially, it also applies to people. However, while small groups of people can physically connect in a peer-to-peer arrangement, the use of technology is vital for larger groups.”

P2P potential expresses itself through three fundamental social processes:

1) peer production, as the collaborative production of use value that is open to participation and use to the widest possible number.

2) as peer governance, which is the manner in which these projects are managed;

3) and as peer property, which refers to the distribution of peer services and products through new modes of property, which are not exclusive, though recognize individual authorship (i.e. the GNU General Public License, the Creative Commons licenses).

P2P Meme map:

“Horizontal exchange or vertical distribution? Open and unstable archiving, or centralized and limited? Those are the fundamental questions. Much more fundamental than the questions asked in the discourses about accessibility, consumer rights, social justice or compensation.”
By Rasmus Fleischer at

A Statement on the Gender Aspect of "The Political Economy of Peer Production"

Meike Reichle (FLOSS coder) reminds one of the gendered-obstacles of involvement in P2P projects..
“a massive underrepresentation of women in most (all?) P2P communities”

Good question of inquiry: “What does a P2P community look like from the outside? Or, how do people get involved in P2P in the first place?”

they (1) have to decide they want to join and (2) have to put some effort in it, such as finding a place/task to start, getting some recognition, proving themselves "worthy"

why do people join a P2P community?
1. The task itself ("I like coding, so I can just as well code for them.") and the hope to improve that skill
2. In order to change something within a certain project
3. A need for "coolness" or public/in-group recognition.
4. A need for social contacts/a social network.

“These reasons however don't work as well for women as they do for men”

Read More:

Michel Bauwens, The Political Economy of Peer Production, 01.2005



Michel Bauwens speaks at Swinburne University in Melbourne Australia about p2p (50mins: August 2007)

Michel Bauwens: "Infrastructure, Communities and Corporations: is There a Middle Way Between Open and Closed?" at the Emerging Communications (eComm) conference held in Mountain View, California, on Friday 14th March 2008 (32mins)

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