Thursday, December 22, 2005

Political Economy and FOSS

Here is a link to a paper titled The Political Economy of Open Source Software. We presented this at the International Conference on Technology, Knowledge and Society, held way back in February 2005 at UC-Berkeley. While the presentation went well, we didn't get terribly good comments either at the conference, or in the journal refereeing process that followed. (here is the citation for that : The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge, and Society, 1(1), 2005.) However, this represents the proto-chapter of Chapter 1 of Decoding Liberation and represents a first stab at that. We've substantially bulked this up with more material now, but thats not ready to be released yet. We'd appreciate comments on this paper!

The chapter description from the book proposal will give you some idea of where this chapter is supposed to be headed (and where we're taking it, no worries!).

Chapter 1: Free Software: A History and Political Economy

We begin with a history of software development as an industrial process, characterizing the emergence of the GNU free software project in the 1980s as a natural step in the evolution of software, one that represents a challenge to entrenched interests such as Microsoft. We investigate the political economy of software, examining the extent to which free software invokes or revises traditional notions of property and production. In this narrative, the 1997 schism between the free software and open source movements—where a faction within the free software community changed tactics and language to court commercial interests—is a crucial event. We critique the open source movement’s co-optation of this project while arguing that free software remains committed to an anti-technocratic, emancipatory, yet pragmatic vision.


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