This section has been developed to facilitate the sharing of ideas for a planned session at the Society for Social Studies of Science conference in Atlanta, Georgia this fall.
I have also posted the individual paper abstracts, as well as the Bibliography Tool.
Questions? send a message toKarl.
"Freeing" Open Source: Action Research and Ethnographic Perspectives Session Abstract
The range of technoscientific practices associated with the idea of open computer source code-Free Software, Linux, Open Source Code Programming-commands attention for several reasons. Some of its advocates hail it as a transformative social movement. Scholars describe it as the clearest example of how basic social activities like creating new knowledge are changed in cyberspace. Motorola's early 2003 announcement of its intention to use an open platform for its next generation cell phone is one of many indications of its growing importance to the reproduction of capital; Open Source is arguably the terrain for organizing the next great assault on Microsoft. The recent decision of the Chinese government to adopt/develop Open Source software for public computing is one indication of its importance to a very broad range of technology and economic development issues in the non-Western world as well.
But just what is Open Source? The breadth of the apprehensions of Open Source described above suggests that ethnography may be a good way to try to answer this question. In this session, researchers using fieldwork to study Open Source begin to outline a research agenda. What is the institutional structure within which Open Source has developed? How should one characterize the relationships among its various contesting factions? What is its relationship to previous forms of Open Computing, like social informatics and participatory design? What is the political economy of Open Source; what are the interests in a capitalist economic system served by giving away potentially valuable proprietary resources? Is it the same everywhere (a force of globalization) or are there substantial differences between Open Source activities based in different regions of the world (glocalization?) What is the relationship between the way its advocates describe how it works and actual Open Source Projects? What research approaches (e.g., action research) are likely to be the most fruitful? To what extent must one be a coder, or at least a scripter, to do meaningful ethnography of Open Source?
Questions? send a message toDavid.