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ECT News Community   »   LinuxInsider Talkback   »   Re: Political Agnosticism Open Source, Politics of Contrast

Re: Political Agnosticism Open Source, Politics of Contrast
Posted by: Gabriella Coleman 2004-09-26 08:04:04
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Free and open source software (FOSS), which is by now entrenched in the technology sector, has recently traveled far beyond this sphere in the form of artifacts, licenses, and as a broader icon for openness and collaboration. FOSS has attained a robust socio-political life as a touchstone for like-minded projects in art, law, journalism, and science-some examples being MIT's OpenCourseWare project, School Forge, and the BBC's decision to release all their archives under a Creative Commons license.

Re: Political Agnosticism Open Source, Politics of Contrast
Posted by: Kagehi 2004-09-27 17:43:07 In reply to: Gabriella Coleman
In a sense I think your article is a perfect example of why purely clinical analysis is not always accurate. Sometimes one must dwelve beneath the surface to see the truth. Personally I see the arguement over FOSS as fundimentally about control. If software is speach, then it is like painting. The pigments used, the subject of the painting and even to some extent technique are less important than the overall quality. If the source code is 'product', then all these things become unique parts of the product and even replication of the subject, let alone the actually code becomes a matter of litigation. The fundimental problem that has been seen to arise from this interpretation of software is that it can be easilly abused to the detriment of the customer, the industry and even the software itself. The emphasis become finding a way to make the most money, not doing it the most efficiently. This can be seen by Microsoft, who is often percieved as one of the biggest banes to the entire movement. They have actually managed to convince people that software that has to be offline and non-operational for 30 minutes ever month is acceptable. This is a major contrast to not long ago when a story appeared about a machine that someone had accidentally sealed in an enclosed space. It ran for something around four to five years without failing, mainly because it took that long for it to occur to someone to folow the cables in order to track down where it vanished to. Even today most critical systems, including those run by Microsoft themselves, are run on Unix or Linux machines. And yet, Microsoft is one of those screaming the loudest against open source and running a campaign designed to convince everyone that something they refuse to use for critical systems is the 'best' solution for every problem and that all the alternatives, especially if they bear a FOSS label, are bad and don't work.
Yes, it is undeniably political, even if no one wants to say so, but in some respects it is the same kind of politics Skeptics groups involve themselves with. Trying desperately to give examples of why the other interpretations of reality are dangerous or flawed, while despairing at the fact that no one will listen. The skeptic movement, through groups like The Brights, are finally starting to figure out how to fight back. So too with some FOSS, which in the case of companies like Ximian, have chosen to partner with larger more traditional companies that have the resources to fight back against the endless resources of companies that believe profit is more important than actually making things that work right. Ironically, most of what the anti-open source people do to keep things that way is stuff that would never be acceptable if it was your car, like for example telling you that you have to pay three times the money for a few gadgets in order to use your car for 'Professional' work, but still changing the same amount as your last one for the 'Home' version. For the FOSS people it is common sense that is under attack, unfortunately freedom of speech is the only ammunition they really have to fight back.
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