The Remixing Dilemma: the Trade-off Between Generativity and Originality

  • Benjamin Mako Hill ,
  • Andrés Monroy-Hernández

American Behavioral Scientist |

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In this article we argue that there is a trade-off between generativity and originality in online communities that support open collaboration. We build on foundational theoretical work in peer production to formulate and test a series of hypotheses suggesting that the generativity of creative works is associated with moderate complexity, prominent authors, and cumulativeness. We also formulate and test three hypotheses that these qualities are associated with decreased originality in resulting derivatives. Our analysis uses a rich data set from the Scratch Online Community—a large website where young people openly share and remix animations and video games. We discuss the implications of this trade-off for the design of peer production systems that support amateur creativity.