How the Free/Open Source Software Community responds to the Global Pessimists and the Counter-Globalisation Movement
This paper, and the motivation for writing it, would have not come into being had not been for the Oekonux Project 1 and the burning thoughts it is concerned with. Allow me to briefly summarise a few of the notes I kept during the 2nd Oekonux Conference 2:
...I was told that market competition is by principle hindering knowledge sharing, blocking the creation of networks of collaborative entrepreneurship (amid which innovation admittedly thrives), and stifling the creative abrasion that is so vital for technological innovation. ...The voice that money relations are been rendered useless due to emerging technological developments that empower society to reproduce and disseminate digital artefacts at negligible cost was also echoed. ...The discussion quickly resorted to the insufficiency of price mechanisms as a means to co-ordinate and organise production activity, and that online co-operation is not subject to monetary returns, and thus money and other price mechanisms should be abolished in their entirety, as they are useless if not utterly catastrophic. ...I also took part in a workshop expanding on the distinction between open source and free software as ultimately depending upon ideological beliefs 3. According to this workshop, free software supporters are supposedly leftist in political orientation whereas open source supporters are more inclined towards the right in favour of laisser-faire economics, scoffing at the protective and regulative role of the state and unwilling to pay taxes, in essence being more entrepreneurial and individualistic, yet seemingly anarchic and disorganised in perspective when compared to the rather subordinate to communal organisation dynamics free software segment. This workshop's ideas took quite some time to settle in my mind. What this dichotomy between open source and free software actually meant to invoke is that open source translates into ruthless global capitalism and socially-indifferent free markets whereas free software is synonymous to an utopian Marxist society run in such a decentralised manner, that even Max Stirner, were he still in life today, would develop a fondness for.
Of course, the above notes are just that - a few of the notes I scribbled down on my PDA. So, they inevitably reflect only a small fragment - an out-of-context part of my personal reflections - on and of what the Oekonux Project is. At the same time, the discontent with globalisation and the abstract forces of evil and ill the latter seemed to subject democracy to, were all the rage. Negri and Hardt's Empire had only been recently published, and it provided a refreshing perspective to the discussion of what globalisation really is, without resorting to theories of global conspiracy, nor suggesting an US-engineered beast gone amok on the verge of terminal capital-induced psychosis 4.
Many proponents of free/open source software (F/OSS) are fiercely opposed to the ongoing march of global capitalism and unfettered global markets. On these premises, it's no coincidence that several of the swathe of evil forces that globalisation has allegedly unleashed and the anti-globalisation movement has tentatively short-listed, have found fertile ground for adoption within F/OSS circles. Such unwelcoming effects of globalisation include but are not restricted to the devastating influence that corporate behemoths and multinational corporations exert over nation states' sovereignty, effectively inducing labour alienation through work coercion and 'sweatshops' and aggressively driving out smaller-scale regional producers; social dislocation through paralysis of community cohesion processes; destruction of public congregation spaces as a result of turning public policy into an empty rhetoric; and abolishing locally and regionally - rooted social identity through a process of gradually substituting culture with marketing artefacts. The above ills that are presumably brought about by a twisted, corporate - hijacked form of globalisation provide the cornerstones around which the anti-globalisation movement has coalesced and against which the movement continues to mobilise resources.
One need not look further than at the nologo website 5 - a weblog dedicated to discussing the ideas present in Naomi klein's No Logo book which is one of the prominent manifestos embraced by the anti-globalisation community - to realise the degree of interconnectedness between F/OSS and anti-globalisation. The nologo website is powered by slashcode 6 which is the underlying software platform that slashdot 7 - the most popular and widely accessed F/OSS community website worldwide - runs upon. Moreover, the company employed to support the nologo online undertaking (to customise and support the slashcode platform that powers nologo is Openflows 8. Openflows is a commercial organisation making money out of enabling other organisations to adopt F/OSS and offering support and customisation services on F/OSS technologies. But Openflows is not simply a commercial company. It is run in harmony with the F/OSS community ethics and is also a public forum dedicated to the continuation of democratic public discourse centred on matters of interest to the F/OSS community. In effect, Openflows is being inextricably embedded in the F/OSS community 9. You may think that the above assumption is anecdotal at its best and says nothing more than software adoption and technology transfer. In a way, I agree. The above correlation offers only a tiny glimpse of the extent of overlap between the F/OSS community and the anti-globalisation movement, yet it is indicative of an existent relationship between the anti-globalisation movement and the F/OSS community since Openflows, as we said, is more than just a company, and nologo, as we also said, is more than a website promoting a book.
Don't take me wrong: there is nothing wrong with being liberal, free markets advocate, communist, atheist or god fearing. It's people's own right to be pessimists or optimists about the effects of globalisation. And it rests upon people to decide whether they will embrace or dismiss globalisation or any other socio-economic idea and process. This paper is not political and will not propose any manifesto or anything that has the slightest to do with political organisation. It will be solely an analysis based on what I would call The Two Sides of the Same Coin. By this I mean that on the one hand the F/OSS community rallies against the shortcomings of globalisation (and so can be said to be an anti-globalisation movement, in essence a global pessimist in its own right) but on the other hand, the means by which it opposes to globalisation demonstrate that it is an emerging example of the constantly changing face of globalisation, and in my view the F/OSS community can be seen as a leading global optimist.
In more detail, the F/OSS community counters the global pessimists on four grounds: Firstly, marketing within the community and marketing of F/OSS technologies is not coercive or corporate-engineered in any sense, instead it is of "the markets are conversations" kind 10. Second, community formation, cohesion, identity and norms are of paramount importance for F/OSS development models to be fruitful and sustainable. And even though software is at the forefront of global capitalism 11, it hasn't altered or diminished the significance of community ethics or community development. Third, as far as companies whose business and revenue model is based on F/OSS are concerned, industrial fragmentation and consolidation are avoided as a result of intra-industry sharing of information in the form of obligatory exchange of product specifications (source code) 12 and indeed the political processes of the community dictate corporate behaviour and precede firm strategy.
The paper will discuss how the F/OSS community and F/OSS development models counter the thesis of global pessimists and exemplify an evolving, yet truly democratic and socially-conscious, model of globalisation centred on community involvement, global co-ordination and local responsiveness, proliferating forums for democratic public discourse and community action, and partnership models between developer-user communities and commercial companies with the latter 'succumbing' to the demands of the former. This paper does not attempt to define globalisation, althought it reviews and critically examines a plethora of arguments raised within circles debating globalisation's pros and cons. In my opinion, globalisation can be hugely beneficial, embracing small, big, poor and rich alike and bridging the gap between them, but this should by no means be interpreted to mean that globalisation ought to be left to its own devices. I adopt a view similar to Charles Leadbeater's (2002) and George Soros's (2002) 13, a worldview 14 that compels us to acknowledge that many social wounds are being healed as a result of globally increasing participation in the administration of market-based processes, and that we should seek to improve markets and institutions rather than destroy them in their entirety. Therefore, in light of the changing face of capitalism, I will argue that F/OSS represents a fresh approach to many of the critical dilemmas touched upon by anti-politics.
Beyond the shadow of a doubt, the F/OSS is a global community like no other. Home to scores of IT professionals and computer science enthusiasts, whose talent is frantically sought by organisations competing in technology based industries in exchange for hard cash and highly promising stock options and career prospects, one would reasonably assume that the community is an ardent supporter of globalisation.
Despite the current economic downturn that has admittedly deprived a good many software and hardware developer from a steady wage, technological know-how is definitely a skill worth picking up. As George Gilder says, "My children aren't learning Spanish. They are learning C++" 15. Gilder does not refer to children's natural infatuation with technology, instead he emphasises that technologic prowess can nowadays be the single most decisive factor guaranteeing a luxurious career in the epicentre of a very competitive, fast-pacing and highly rewarding global labour market. Thus, in a classic revival of the yuppie culture that reached its peak during the 1980s, one would expect that any young person with the ambition to rise to the top would seriously contemplate a career in technology rather than the fast lane of high finance. Although many might find the above syllogism laughable, a good degree of economic reality adds further credibility to this scenario. During the dot-com craze, who would deny that the (new?) elite were funnelling their labour ingenuity in Silicon Valley in hope that a hot new technology would make them filthy rich fast or world famous? It is not my intent to celebrate the climate of irrational exuberance that reigned during the mid-to late 90s 16. Nevertheless, whether the goal is riches or fame, the assumption is perfectly laudable: the knowledge worker of the future is IT literate. And one aspect of the oft-cited digital divide is that inability to understand technology at working level would automatically result in diminishing career prospects.
In fact, prominent studies delving into the F/OSS development model conclude that market pressures are of primary importance to those who choose to join the community. Lerner and Tirole (2000) maintain that signalling effects such as enhancing one's employability or standing better chances of joining a dot.com are a prime incentive for involvement in F/OSS projects. David Lancashire (2001) similarly asserts that "hacking falls and rises inversely to its opportunity cost" and hence F/OSS developers tunnel their labour pains where market opportunities gravitate 17. Or as Gregor Rothfuss (2002: 93) wittingly puts it, "reputation does not put food on the table".
Considering the success that several of the community's brainchildren, such as the Linux operating system and the Apache Web server, currently enjoy in the marketplace would only reinforce the view that the F/OSS community is globalisation-friendly. F/OSS is a booming market, no doubt. Hordes of micro-businesses and mega-corporations alike are discovering new win-win opportunities for unprecedented growth by competing in open source time. It is no coincidence that two prominent manifestos of the open source world, the Cathedral and the Bazaar (Raymond 1999) and Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution (DiBona)et al. 1999), shun any references to Marxist utopias and make a conscious effort to pull a business case for open source. The reason, besides, for the distinction between open source and free software is practically boiling down to commercial attractiveness. Only by departing from the negative connotations embedded in the term free software and in parallel devising a commercially uplifting promotional strategy conveying the business advantages of open source to corporations, coupled with less commercially restrictive licenses, would F/OSS software become prevalent in the marketplace (DiBona et al. 1999 This transition and the ideological chasm that came with it has led many to assume that free software supporters are supposedly leftist in political orientation whereas open source supporters are more inclined towards the right in favour of laisser-faire economics, scoffing at the protective and regulative role of the state and unwilling to pay taxes, in essence being more entrepreneurial and individualistic, yet seemingly anarchic and disorganised (less cohesive) in perspective when compared to the rather subordinate to communal organisation dynamics free software segment (Seaman 2002).)
Ideological stances aside, what could have possibly been a more spectacular and symbolic success story of global capitalism than a student project done for fun turned global community of hackers boasting unparalleled programming capacity turned operating system of choice for scores of corporations, and in the process spawning a swathe of commercial enterprises and freelancers? The student project turned global community turned commercially viable playground 18 is obviously Linux. To outsiders, the growth that Linux has enjoyed seems inexplicable by conventional logic and practically non-stopping as the Linux platform creeps into more markets and areas of commercial deployment such as embedded systems and desktops. But according to evolutionary economics, the Linux phenomenon can well be understood as the marvel of capitalist reality, in fact representing the most defining feature of growth in a capitalist system - creative destruction 19 - which sweeps away established market power by changing the rules of the game.
Nevertheless, had not been for resilient global communication networks, the community's creative endeavours would not have been possible to co-ordinate so as to give rise to technologies as sophisticated and complex as Linux. The community is a networked tribe, owing much to the network of networks for sustaining its critical processes. Because of the Internet, it can operate like always-on clusters of neurons in a massive brain-shaped mosaic galvanised by electronic impulses. For certain, the Internet is not only enabling new forms of collaborative work to unveil their full potential, it is also the single most powerful driver of globalisation. Digitisation and global communication grids facilitate novel re-configurations of economic and social activity without which the promise of a globally connected world would remain constantly elusive. Disseminating knowledge in all its possible structures and expressions, from collective cultural experiences to scientific artefacts and complete end-user products, the Internet is the catalyst for pushing beyond the boundaries. But as much as the community owes to the Internet, there is more that globalisation owes to the F/OSS community. A great deal of the software that makes the Internet what it is is free/open source software and as a result the community is inextricably linked to the Internet's past, present and future development. Playing such a prominent role toward global interconnectedness, the community invariably boosts the ongoing march of globalisation at all levels of socio-economic, cultural, artistic, political and technological transformation when it acts as a power hub for openness in any of those domains.
For all the above reasons, the F/OSS community could be seen as a global player well positioned to reap full benefit out of the avalanche of systemic transformations that the combined effect of digitisation and globalisation is poised to bring about. However, in stark contrast to what would have been otherwise reasonable, the F/OSS community has a gargantuan in size overlap with the anti-globalisation movement.
Using no means other than text messaging on mobile phones 20, the Internet, and word-of-mouth, the anti-globalisation movement has come up with a meaningful way to establish a virtuous circle of social connections that are empirically impossible to break. Organised in autonomously run clusters and groups that merge when the time comes to hit the streets, these social connections morph into raw power for concerted action. Ever since its first roar in 1999 during the Seattle demonstrations, the brute force of the movement has effectively infiltrated all realms of social and political discourse related to globalisation. Although electronic forums solely dedicated to the movement mushroom, the movement feeds off of existing networks and communication media and energises them to its cause, in essence turning them into impenetrable collaboration venues. It seems impossible to bring the anti-globalisation demonstrations to a halt, mainly due to their being organised in a decentralised fashion which allows no time slack for hierarchically elaborate responses to occur 21.
Leaderless at first glance 22, the movement mobilises a wide spectrum of resources encompassing all fields of socio-economic and bio-political life. To achieve this heterogeneity in its core, which is instrumental for the coherence of a global grassroots organisation, the movement's key message has to be flexible enough in order to accommodate the largest possible degree of subjectivism, pluralism and diversity. Having said that, it should be obvious why the movement has no structured agenda for debate, instead it resorts to adjust and modify its intellect whenever possible on the pretext of widening inclusive civic participation. The movement, in other words, neither excludes anyone from joining in nor marginalizes any individual opinion. Anyone can join the demonstration whatever their reasons for protesting might be. That has proven to be a huge advantage. For not only the movement grows constantly bigger and more powerful as it fuses more viewpoints and groups together, but its case cannot be answered 23.
It is not my intent to diminish the contribution that people could make to the institutions of democracy by becoming involved in the decision-making process. The anti-globalisation movement demonstrably proves that the constituent masses are not willing to be passive consumers of reality. Apathy, for all the seduction it superficially offers, can be destructive; a basic element of socio-political decadence that wears away our capacity for self-rule. And fortunately, apathy is not one of the qualities of the movement. The fear is that the anti-globalisation rhetoric contains the seeds of its own dystopia. By employing such a vague and diverse intellect, the movement puts pragmatism in jeopardy. It threatens to close off the future by nourishing a culture of global pessimism to a scale the world has never experienced before. Escapism, utopianism, and pessimism are a recipe for destruction, especially because they are so appealing. By rejecting all efforts to leap into forward-thinking consciousness, the movement runs the risk of sacrificing a potentially better future. The future is not irreversible and not necessarily harmful, as many would like us to believe. We could well be better off or worse off, if globalisation and corporations are left to their own devices. Apathy, as I've stressed above, is not the solution, and it would be ludicrous to advocate such a disengaged course of action. But by considering forces currently underway - changes the lie inside the belly of the beast - coupled with the emergence of a new commercial actor - community-managed projects (and the way the community consequently interfaces with commercial organisations) we shall be able to further our understanding of how to practically bring a socially responsible marketplace arrangement in life whilst not holding the future back.
It should come as no surprise that a good part of the F/OSS community is sympathetic to the anti-movement's plight. To begin with, the Thomas Paine of the Net - Richard M. Stallman - launched his GNU Project and founded the Free Software Foundation because he felt his non-commercial community had been shattered by corporate interests. When most of the hackers employed by the now legendary AI Lab at MIT were lured away by commercial organisations offering them wages that exceeded those of academic establishments, and the AI Lab started resembling a ghost town with all but two programmers, one of them being Richard Stallman, gone to work on developing proprietry technologies, Stallam was enraged. The F/OSS community's roots can be traced back to open systems and the 60s, however the start of the GNU Project signalled the beginning of a new era of computing centred around digital freedom, openness, and community values, and it still remains the most vibrant and exciting political idea on the Net. It should be borne to mind that the GNU Project not only meant to produce a free alternative to the Unix operating system, but it aimed at re-creating an open community whose ideals, norms and ethics would be cut off from corporate agendas.
Simlar examples pointing to the same conclusions abound. In what ought to be seen as perhaps the most defining document of the Internet community, the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, Electronic Frontier Foundation's co-founder and Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow makes it crystal clear that there is no room for governments on the Internet. Writing in 1996, Barlow described the Internet as a place unlike any other, where physical world laws and consitutions have no power and declared that no take-over attempt by governments will be tolerated. Although there is no reference to commercial interests and organisations in that landmark document, there is no reason to believe that corporations are exempt from what applies to governments 24. Put bluntly, neither organisations nor governments are welcomed or allowed in cyberspace.
In a similar vein, hackers have always valued decentralisation for its own sake and rejected potentially abusive forms of central governance (Levy 1984). In the words of David Clark:
"We reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code" 25
A garganduan in size overlap between the anti-globalisation movement and the F/OSS community is evident when considering the widespread deployment of F/OS software by tactical media activists. The Independent Media Center (IMC), also known as Indymedia, is a fully-fledged syndicated news network that emerged during the first roar of the anti-globalisation movement in 1999 in Seattle to bypass traditional media and provide an alternative coverage of the events from the perspective of the protesters themselves. According to its homepage at Indymedia.org, "Indymedia is a collective of independent media organizations and hundreds of journalists offering grassroots, non-corporate coverage. Indymedia is a democratic media outlet for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of truth". Since 1999, tens of local indymedia sites have sprung up to support the organisation of protests and provide quality radical journalism on issues the mainstream media would report insufficiently, if at all. While indymedia does not explicitly seek to contribute to the organisation of the protests, it nonetheless does so by reporting the events - something police forces seem to be aware of. "By the act of reporting they (de facto) direct the protests. The Italian police at the Genoa protests broke in, smashed computers, stole tapes and discs, then lined people in a building across the road up against a wall and beat them unconscious" (Headmap 2003: 83). Despite its radical character, many believe that indymedia rivals the reach of a good many news network such as CNN, which is an outstanding accomplishment given that the content is mostly provided by volunteers for free. While it is true that many of these indymedia sites are powered by F/OSS, the connection between the F/OSS world and anti-globalisation extends beyond software and technology, even though it is clear the the selection and evolution of software for indymedia sites takes place within a politically conscious environment 26. The most lucid illustration, that I've come across, of this connection is set forth in the uniquely bizarre and unconventional in terms of style, but rich in literary wit and well-informed opinions, self-published work called Headmap: mapping out spatialised computing:
Both Linux and IMC are examples of new forms of collectively constructive community made possible by computer networks. Both have relatively flat, contribution and merit-based hierarchies (Ibid : 90)
In the seminal Hacker Ethic, Pekka Himanen (2001) argues that hacking is not confined to programming ingenuity, and hackers exist in every conceivable sphere of life 27. A hacker can be a gardener, a painter or even a politician. Hacking is about an attitude towards life, a mode of conscioussness, and a pattern of explorative thinking, says Himanen, that is characterised by passion for one's work and eagerness for all aspects of freedom. Hackers value and respect their surrounding community, believe that money has no intrinsic value, and motivate their activities with the goals of social worthiness and openness. Himanen masterfully contrasts the Hacker Ethic to Max Weber's Protestant work ethic - the sociological basis of capitalist society that defines how man should regard work and life inside organisations, and assumes that even seemingly purposeless and painstakingly repetitious work that requires man to submit himself to the instruments of capitalism is blessed - to arrive at the rather interesting conclusion that "the hacker ethic is a new work ethic that challenges the attitude toward work that has held us in the thrall for so long" (2001: ix). Therefore, according to the hacker ethic, the F/OSS community is not only delivering a blow to the spirit of capitalism, threatening to replace it with what Himanen and Manuel Castells call Nethic and the spirit of informationalism, but it also exposes us to a new modus operandi revolving around playfulness, creativity, community values, and social accountability 28.
The F/OSS community had always been confronting corporate empires, whether that had been IBM, Microsoft, SCO or anyone else. Despite the community's love and hate relationship with Microsoft (ef newsforge, Krishnamurthy 2001 which is well documented) 29, and the furious anger that SCO's recent ridiculous ownership claims over Linux code snippets have provoked (ef the community has always been dubious about commercial companies'true intentions). As Taylor emphasises:
"We can not expect our industrial partners, such as IBM and HP, to help with patent defense or with the matter of software patenting in general. While those companies are often our friends, their interests also come into conflict with ours. Some of them use software patents to generate revenue or provide monopolies for their businesses. Thus, IBM has been calling for increases in software patentability, despite the fact that this is contrary to IBM's involvement in Open Source." http://perens.com/Articles/Taylor/
Of course, IBM's notorious history of selling computers to Nazis that were used to count and record Jews-to-be-sent-to-cencentration-camps (Black 2002) is not helping much to overturn suspicions of underhand corporate games and hidden agendas.
After all corporations demonstrably piggyback on social reality, so what would prevent them from applying their expansionist logic to cyberspace? The corporate takeover of the Internet is not an Orweillian syndrome, it is underway since the first day the Web went through corporate radars. In the Age of Access, Jeremy Rifkin (2000) is warning us that the emergence of cyberspace and the socio-cultural relations it produces are a perfect fit with commercial aspirations to turn culture into a paid-for experience. As the gravity of power shifts from commodity-based commerce and relations of physical ownership to intangible services and commodified marketer-customer relationships, and access to networks becomes the new economy's modus operandi, the Internet is consistently exploited to turn culture into a commodity. Rifkin claims that the commercial sphere steadily swallows the cultural sphere, and this process, which Rifkin sees as inevitable, is further accelerated by cyberspace. Naturally, the F/OSS community is not comfortable with such a future shock, and Rifkin's dystopian view finds its most powerful counter-argument in the GPL Society proposed by Stefan Merten 30 (2001) of the Oekonux Project. Merten's thesis is the exact opposite of Rifkin's: the principles inscribed in F/OSS development are a harbinger of a new era of production freed from capitalist rules and constraints, and these collaborative principles are catalysing new non-commercial structures in more and more spheres of production activity. The central question in the GPL Society could be described as: Since the F/OSS paradigm is so successful in producing first-class software, and software like other information artefacts are the pillars of economic value in the current phase of capitalist development, then why hasn't free software infected capitalism by an order of magnitude so great that to become the dominant mode of production? The point here is not to examine neither Rifkin's nor Merten's argument in great detail. But it is all the more evident that the GPL Society argues that the commercial sphere will be swept away by the collaborative, non-commercial sphere, a manifestation of which is the development paradigm typified by F/OS software. Of course, not everyone in the F/OSS community agrees with Merten 31, but then again, none explicitly denies the possibility that the F/OSS development paradigm might be applicable to other industries. Perhaps the best illustration of this tension is the archetypical open source manifesto - the Cathedral and the Bazzar. In this book, Eric S. Rayomond argues that the collaborative and the commercial sphere are not mutually exclusive, and they can co-exist in harmonious symbiosis 32. However, in the final section of "[..]" where Raymond explores the potential applicability of the F/OSS development methodology to other domains, he concludes that time has not yet come for a triumphant victory of the methodology over other industries, but time is on the side of the methodology rather than against it.
Not easily dismissed as pure fantasy, the corporate takeover of the Internet assumes many forms. In Imagined Electronic Community , Chris Werry (1999) chronicles the migration from a new frontier populated by primitives to a polished e-commerce utopia. Werry identifies three major stages. The online community was first seen as peripheral to business goals or even as an obstacle to be overcome, not to say a threat. The second stage had taken hold by 1995 and was mainly concerned with revenue streams generated by e-marketing "as dreams of online sales fade and advertising and strategies of interactive marketing become the primary means of making money on the Internet". And from 1997 onwards, 'online community' is increasingly portrayed as the core of all e-commerce endeavours, however still driven by e-marketing expectations in a paranoia of mass customisation and personalisation.
What can free/open source software do to counterbalance this threat? Iconoclastic law professor Lawrence Lessig (1999) sees free/open source software as one of the last vestiges of freedom online. In the landmark Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, Lessig warns against the imminent danger of turning the Internet to an instrument of control. The Internet has no nature, says Lessig, for the Internet is a collection of software and hardware layers. Thus, one could affect the 'nature' of the Internet by replacing any of the existent layers with one that favours control and regulable behaviour. Neither governments nor corporations alone are capable of compromising the current Internet, argues Lessig, however, a shady alliance between the two worlds could change everything on the pretext of facilitating secure e-commerce transactions and containing cyber-crime. A powerful check on the shady alliance's power is free/open source software, says Lessig.
In all, grounds for concern and agitation with the commercial world are not in short supply. As individual users of popular file swapping software are charged with criminal offences, and people are put behind bars because of tweaking technology they have themselves bought with hard cash, the rage within the community's circles grows stronger than ever. Nowadays, it seems that governments and corporations are not content with solely regulating behaviour online. They strive to force a regime change whereby fiddling with technology is to be illegal. If granted legitimacy by the courts, such a regime change would, without exaggeration, classify the F/OSS community as an outlaw too, effectively criminalizing thousands of technologists. This fact alone appears to be a sufficient reason to the effect of marshalling community resources against the takeover of free creativity, innovation by end-users and DIY networked ethic.
It must have been surprising for Kenichi Ohmae to witness how receptive Western audiences would be to anti-globalisation concerns and talks of globalisation to be cast with suspicion and scepticism at every conceivable occasion. In his books, where the notion of globalisation is introduced for the first time, globalisation is synonymous with the expansion of autonomous, yet interdependent corporate networks that bring better products and services to market. In co-operating and aligning their operating processes with other organisations across the borders, business managers develop a global worldview of the marketplace, and because of this added insight, managers are better suited to deliver value in a world characterised by global interconnections than the disconnected Nation State. From Ohmae's vantage point, globalisation is good. It is a vehicle to render the slow moving government bureaucrat personified by the Nation State obsolete and justified by consumer markets that ask for more than what nation states can possibly offer. When Ohmae, McKinsey's superstar consultant in Japan, first laid out a vision of a borderless world in which organisations oblivious to geographical boundaries rise to reigns and in their passage from locally-run headquarters to global in reach amoeba-like structures eliminate the inefficiencies emanating from centrally - planned, state-owned governance systems - a vision that many of his contemporary management thinkers were eager to embrace - he could not have anticipated the lengths that an emerging social response would go to in order to impede the expansion of global empires. But while Ohmae and subsequent management thinkers have great difficulty in accessing the extent of growth that corporations could achieve, and the power they could amass by engaging in strategic alliances surpassing national borders and forging partnerships with dispersed links in supply chains remotely controlled through all pervasive communication networks, to anti-globalisation protesters it was clear from the outset that globalisation acts in malicious ways.
Upon closer scrutiny within the movement, one realises that it is not globalisation per se that is seen as malevolent, but the instruments upon which globalisation hinges in order to advance its aim, that is commercial entities, are essentially ripe for corruption. The rationale goes that unless corporations can be checked upon in their effort to create real economic activity, the stage is set for detrimental consequences. On these grounds, the movement proclaims, globalisation is bound to spiral out of control. The latest addition to this debate comes from a documentary called The Corporation, 33 which has opened to rave reviews in Canada and has caused quite a stir. Rather than drumming example after example of hard numbers and facts showing a quantitative degradation of the planet and its inhabitants, the Corporation takes one through a deeply emotional and unsettling journey where a couple dozen of interviews with corporate androids, market speculators, and noted commentators make sure what is left in the end is the bitter taste of a monster gone crazy. This is the central thesis of the documentary: money driven organisations are psychotic, dancing to the whims of bad craziness, and in their never ending struggle to satisfy their financial thirst they have become too dangerous to be let loose. From Chris Parry's brilliant review:
"Set aside three hours of your life and watch The Corporation. Hunt it down, find it, any way you can. I just watched 750 people sit down as capitalists and stand up yelling for change. I witnessed people throwing brand name products into garbage cans afterwards in disgust. I witnessed hundreds signing on to email lists for more information about how they can help change the world. I saw an audience moved to exact change on the world around them, to take back what was once theirs and maybe one day can be again....Normal documentaries don't have that kind of an effect on an audience. Normal documentaries don't give you enough to get truly fucked off at what is being done to us. The Corporation, to be sure, is far from a 'normal' documentary. This is the kind fo filmmaking that could, if seen on a large scale, change the society we live in".
The following photo which is shown in the documentary is characteristic of the corporation is a psychopath metaphor set forth in the documentary and its accompanying book.
The photo (above) was modeled after a 1960s TV ad (right) that is shown in part within the documentary. The original ad asks: "Analyzed your business lately?" The psychopath metaphor is a unique revelation that animates both the film and Bakan's book. And it begs the question, if the corporation is a psychopath, can it be cured? Photo by Nancy Bleck. Photoshop montage by Terry Sunderland. Miniature by Sean Q. Lang. Art direction by Katherine Dodds. Produced by Good Company Communications.
Of course, the question whether corporations suffer from a pathology of irrationalityhas been discussed in great detail within psychology circles. Particularly in the reading of Deleuze and Guittari where special emphasis is given to the fact that "everything is rational in capitalism, except capital or capitalism itself... Capital, or money, is at such a level of insanity that psychiatry has but one clinical equivalent: the terminal stage" 34 (Lothringer 1995).
The movement knows that organisations making more money than individual states should be held accountable at all costs. And the best way to exorcise the evil is by attacking at all fronts. This largely explains why the movement has been staggeringly successful in bringing such a wide and distinctively heterogeneous spectrum of groups together, joined by academic heavyweights, environmental pressure groups, NGOs, human rights advocates, philanthropists of all sorts and sceptic communitarians, to name but a few.
Nowadays, there is a substantial body of knowledge providing the movement with a theoretical backbone. It is worth briefly reviewing the central theses of a few leading anti-globalisation thinkers because it is those theses that the case for a socially responsible and economically sustainable globalisation will have to answer 35.
The key text of the movement is perhaps Naomi Klein's hugely successful No Logo, which maintains that the ever-increasing pace of competition, regardless of industry, threatens to turn all products into non-distinguishable commodities. As manufacturing degrades in importance, companies are forced to differentiate themselves by bundling their products with a variety of intangible notions; stressing for example family and community values, individual styles, political beliefs and work attitudes. This part is nothing new. Many before Klein, chief among them Tom Peters, have vividly described the value that such intangibles can add to corporate balance sheets since this is exactly what consumers yearn for, whether on the lookout for a new pair of Nike trainers, a Porsche car, or a Rolex watch. But Klein goes way further than that. She sees that such market transformations fuelled by the logo war that global empires have waged on smaller-scale regional producers escalate in a global conformity in the form of projected values that companies push through their branding practices which ultimately destabilise local cultures or worse threaten to replace regional values and attitudes with single-facetted, globally pervasive brands. As culture and marketing become overlapping elements of society and teenagers worldwide develop a taste for the same kind of art, clothing and status symbols, a global consumer consciousness perfectly aligned with the demands set by corporate marketing departments overshadows our geographically, politically and historically rooted social identity. In the process, politics diminishes to empty rhetoric, sweatshops mushroom and human rights are ruthlessly infringed as production moves where cheap labour abounds and corrupt or powerless governments fall easy prey to unstoppable organisations that set the tone for legislation favourable only for their own purposes.
LSE Professor John Gray's rhetoric is more poetic, melancholic and vague. In The Era of Globalisation is Over, Gray (2001) argues that the September 11 tragedy was essentially an attack toward globalisation, a blow to its relentless drive to dictate the pace of modernisation on a global scale, and the first blatant warning that global anarchy is imminent unless the blame for such devastating events is put on mega-corporations and international economic institutions that discharge states of their cultural and economic sovereignty. In a nutshell, Gray (1998) sees all things remotely connected to the American model of capitalism as inherently evil and he attributes all social ills to the pursuit of the US model of unfettered free markets. Globalisation is a delusion on a grand scale, and Gray believes that Americans are suffering from this very delusion. He denounces the universal civilisation that US and global markets have set in motion and even goes on to compare free-market liberalism to communism in terms of their capacity to inflict harm. But while Gray is sparing with the details and is obviously lacking a sufficient grasp of economics and management, Noreena Hertz, Associate Director of International Business and Management of Cambridge University, offers a more powerful and substantiated view of the massive social turmoil that globalisation has unleashed.
In The Silent Takeover, Noreena Hertz (2001) chronicles a socio-economic alliance between organisations and governments, dating back to the days of the Iron Lady's political omnipresence, which has put democracy under siege. As economics has become the new politics, and the political agenda is driven by corporate directives, social needs have been consistently overlooked. In light of widespread government inertia and negligence, organisations are now expected to tackle social problems as well as to assume the role of benevolent global regulators, however without being chosen by the electorate to do so 36. Acting on the assumption that commercial organisations are better suited to boost the economic engine of countries than state-owned agencies, and that the generated economic growth would be eventually or automatically matched by social progress, governments resorted to delegate immense power to businesses in exchange for funds and another safe seat. This political vanity has set the stage for a corporate takeover of democracy.
The most down-to-earth critique of globalisation, in my opinion, comes from George Monbiot, a dyed-in-the-wool activist that has been arrested, imprisoned, and hospitalised due to his support for the road protests movement. Monbiot is clearly emphasising the need to formulate global-in-reach institutions that push for standards, and that task is now more urgent than ever as existing institutions are perverted by corporate power (Monbiot 1999a, 1999c). Monbiot claims that what is beneficial for developed countries and big companies is not necessarily good for developing countries, small and medium sized companies and consumers. For instance, economies of scale may mean higher production output and reduction of per-unit costs for big companies, yet at the same time may be marginalizing poor countries that lack the entrepreneurial and infrastructural resources required to build massive production plants on their own without having to suffer extortive terms laid from abroad. In addition, as companies grow in size, they wield enormous political influence which allows them to become anonymous and totalitarian, and as a consequence asymmetries of bargaining power rise to stratospheric heights. In such a marketplace, consumers' bargaining power is reduced to the minimum and the scope of consumer activism loses its meaning (Monbiot 1999b). Champions of globalisation defend that global corporations with their global brands are more fragile than they seem because consumer activism, which can be better understood as voting through buying, is a very direct form of stating consumer discontent 37. If the image of a company like Coca Cola is damaged in a single geographical area, the argument goes, it is almost inevitable that the echo of the damage will spread like wildfire through the information ocean to inundate the company's global presence. In theory, the agony that a local action may lead to globally destructive consequences should be sufficient to prevent mega-corps from abusing their power. In practice though, Monbiot is adamant, consumers have no real option. One way or another, consumers are obliged to hand their fares over to big companies as the small stores around the corner and regional producers tend to eclipse altogether in the name of corporate expansion. In time, consumers may be lured by the comparatively lower prices that such corporate giants will be offering, however, the freedom to choose between the familiar small merchant and the new empires will have vanished. When that time comes, the power to dictate the terms of trade will lie solely in the hands of managers divorced from the real needs of the marketplace and consumers will find themselves in the awkward position of having no alternative than accept what the empires offer. As long as globalisation means regulation by vested interests in corporate profits, people will be alienated and consumers will be disempowered. And that is not going to change, says Monbiot (2001), unless market freedom is restored and globalisation comes to mean decentralisation rather than consolidation.
Needless to say, all of them share a profound concern that environmental resources are been depleted due to corporate negligence, and that globalisation is a homogenising force. Klein sees this homogenisation taking shape through aggressive marketing that seeks to redefine cultural values and attitudes and make them fit with product launches and corporate branding. Others do not focus so heavily on marketing, but still suggest that corporate marketing practices encourage a global culture of mass consumerism. Such escalating consumerism, they suggest, can only lead to a sterile cultural skeleton, which narrows people's perceptive horizons and promotes a shallow culture of narcissistic individualism with catastrophic consequences for personal growth, civic society, community life and public services.
In all, the themes that pervade the anti-literature stress that consumer power is draining out and the surrounding community is deprived of the ability to stand up to abusive corporations through the constitutional mechanisms of representative democracy amidst a general climate of decaying politics. In the absence of a level playing field, small businesses are forcefully squeezed out of local markets by large companies that have no moral and ethical constraints. As the process of homogenisation marches forward, cultural differences are been eliminated; so it is the space to be different and authentic. No cultural diversity is to be tolerated and if any cultural niches are to survive at all, they will be most certainly surrounded by an ocean of consumerism which values individualism before community. The only role left for communities is that of manipulative communities of brands. All other forms of social collaboration and group forming that cannot be categorised for easier targeting through the marketing shotgun and cannot be commercially exploited will be left to perish. The above ills that are presumably brought about by a twisted, corporate - hijacked form of globalisation provide the cornerstones around which the anti-globalisation movement has coalesced and against which it continues to mobilise resources.
The matter of fact is the F/OSS community counters the global pessimists on several grounds: First, marketing within the community and marketing of F/OSS technologies is not coercive or corporate-engineered in any sense, instead it is of 'the markets are conversations' kind . Second, community formation, cohesion, identity and norms are of paramount importance for F/OSS development models to be fruitful and sustainable. And even though software is at the forefront of global capitalism , it hasn't altered or diminished the significance of community ethics or community development. Third, as far as companies whose business and revenue model is based on F/OSS are concerned, industrial fragmentation and consolidation are avoided as a result of intra-industry sharing of information in the form of obligatory exchange of product specifications (source code)  and indeed the political processes of the community dictate corporate behaviour and precede firm strategy. But let's examine each one of those claims in more detail.
To begin with, marketing of F/OSS technologies is not manipulative and does not aim at manufacturing needs. Joseph Schumpeter (1911) was perhaps the first to identify that for technological products to succeed in the marketplace, "consumers are educated by the producer; they are taught to want new things"; a relationship between salesmanship, advertising and consumption that John Kenneth Galbraith (1958) later dubbed the dependence effect. In the Affluent Society, Galbraith made a compelling case that had products not been advertised, wants would not have existed. He held the view that the industrial revolution, for all the celebrated improvements it brought about in the production side, had developed a reliance upon the artificial arousal of needs, the implications of which, Cluetrain Manifesto co-authors David Weinberger and Doc Searls note, were deemed to change the marketplace dynamics forever. In their account of the Industrial Interruption, Weinberger and Searls explain that customers' behaviour would have to be homogenised for mass consumer markets served by mass products to prevail. This homogenisation of consumers' purchasing patterns would be achieved through mass marketing techniques. And so organisations invented mass media for the top-down delivery of their marketing messages and PR pitches. Conversing with the marketplace was replaced by corporate-fed brainwashing and marketing persuasion. One-way marketing communications instead of two-way market conversations. Consumers rather than customers. And so the argument went that consumers should learn to consume what is been given to them without wasting corporate resources by expecting products customised to their individual wants. Without expecting that they could speak to the company. If and when needed, the company would speak to them through the bloodless and anonymous face of mass media. No compromises. They can have any colour they want as long as it's black. And if they ever grow unhappy with black, a proper doze of prime-time marketing hysteria will convince them otherwise.
Now, in stark contrast to a world characterised by mass products, mass media and mass marketing, F/OSS relies upon word-of-mouth. At gatherings of Linux User Groups 38 (LUG), users share their experiences, advocate their favourite F/OSS technologies, and help newcomers and the less technically advanced get hands-on experience from mature users. Software installations are turned into technical fiestas where people bring their own computers and have Linux installed on them by other end-users. No marketing gigs. Just people helping each other and spreading the word. Just bring your computer and rest assured that someone will happily install Linux for you. LUGs are local communities of Linux users communicating mainly through online mailing lists but they also organise physical events. Chances are that a LUG is near you. Some of them are of course larger and more vibrant than others but the essence is that those events are not an excuse for an exclusive, closely-knit group to hang around together. They are instead gatherings designed to raise public awareness about the advantages of Linux and they move far beyond a mere demonstration of Linux's technical capabilities: they get you started with cutting-edge expertise from other users. Marketing departments, usually badly informed of their clientele's actual needs and only caring for the goals set from above, would have to spend a fortune to come close to the effectiveness and usefulness that LUGs provide for free. There is only one better way to proselytise and get users hooked on the Linux operating systemt than LUG meetings: selling computers with Linux preinstalled. Here, Linux comes quite behind other operating systems but industry dynamics are slowly changing this. But by looking at LUGs, one realises that most people attending LUG meetings built their own Linux relationships, not so much to the Linux operating system but to each other.
In the classic The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000: 169-192) argues that the dynamics of such groups are pivotal in order to engineer social epidemics that transform outsiders to striking bestsellers. LUGs make sure that Linux becomes a linking thread between individuals and small local groups. Once you attend one local meeting, it is certain that you will also go to the next one. Consider what happens when you go to such a gathering: you have Linux installed on your laptop. After a month, you go to the next gathering and share your experience with your new operating system with other people. You may also have new needs and enquiries and you hope that someone will be there to help you with. Most probably, you will have stumbled upon a technical matter and someone will be there to help you again. You also get to see the same person who installed Linux for you and you start talking about how Linux works for you. As you attend more meetings, relationships begin to develop and you no longer see those people as Linux enthusiasts that try to sell you on a technology. They have become a critical part of your own community. In the process, you will be eventually installing Linux on other people's computers and helping them get started. The same virtuous circle of social connections goes on and on. In the end, you have become a volunteer Linux marketer.
Of course, word-of-mouth marketing is not solely confined to LUG meetings. The cyberspace has proven to be an excellent forum for the continuation of democratic public discourse on matters of interest to the community. At online discussion forums dedicated to the community, F/OSS users tell their own experiences and ignite discussion within the community. It is no coincidence that most of those discussion forums are weblogs - constantly updated, dynamic story-based websites like Slashdot, Newsforge and Linux Weekly News whose lifeblood is the vibrant discourse among website users who post their opinions, leave comments, respond to other people's posts, and debate the pros and cons of each other's position. Some posts have a polemical flavour and adopt an authoritative stance of the we should all use F/OSS if we want to be in control of our own computers type whereas other people ask the community's opinion on how to best market F/OSS or seek help as they stumble upon a configuration problem. This is marketing from the market's perspective: end users advocate a technology, educate others how to use it, provide support, organise political actions related to F/OSS, and undertake the role of a marketer by communicating all that Linux symbolises to a wider audience. Not a petty task.
Sure enough, there are plenty who claim that Linux and F/OSS technologies could gain from an aggressive marketing approach 39. Not everyone agrees that weblogs and LUGs suffice to catapult F/OSS into the lucrative mainstream market. Word-of-mouth marketing and weblogs are indispensable to spread the word and ignite social epidemics among like-minded people and generally people in IT circles, but when it comes to reaching the masses their effectiveness is limited. At the Newsforge community weblog, a Linux user by the name of Elwin Green (2002) expressed his discontent with the lack of prime-time marketing for Linux. "What Linux needs is not features but marketing", Green cried out and pointed out the need for a centralised professional marketing force with dedicated financial resources to push Linux. A month later, Jesse Smith (2002) wrote that Linux should be marketed in a manner similar to cars, and Sandeep Krishnamurthy (2002) proposed that "open source thinking be applied to marketing". Among many things, he suggested that in the spirit of collaboration organisations adopting F/OSS for internal use should act as references, the community should decide on a single message that the commercial world will be receptive to, and that tested marketing tools and processes should be integrated into a coherent F/OSS value proposition. Put bluntly, the community should analyse and segment the market by using the very same tools and frameworks that business school graduates are familiar with and corporate marketing departments are so fond of, and market the product accordingly. In a sense, the community should act as a typical marketer and deploy all those tools that a typical marketer would be expected to use. Interestingly, the community is already moving towards these directions. Employees involved with F/OSS implementations at commercial companies act as references 40. And the Open Source Enterprise Project led by Scott Allen, Jason Coward and Flemming Funch is taking huge steps to apply open source thinking to marketing by creating a large pool of marketing resources that the community could draw on in order to better market F/OSS technologies.
Perhaps the real problem lies in our perception of what good marketing really is. Stark and Neff, after spending several months researching new media dot.coms in the area of New York, concluded that when the market demand for a software-based product requires significant space for customisation and flexibility (that will in turn allow the product to be further modified at a later stage), centralised organisation of processes and finalised product designs tend to lose. As a direct consequence of this paradigm shift in manufacturing from mass-market products to highly customised solutions, marketing as usual is decreasing in importance and effectiveness. But why? Those dot.coms constructed web-based systems (like corporate websites) for their clients. The clients, naturally, wanted the best value for their money: web-based systems that could be easily maintained, updated, changed and redesigned as market variables dictated. In this market, and for this group of customers, shrinkwrapped, out-of-the-shelf products is a realistic option, but it is nonetheless not the most attractive option on offer for reasons of flexibility. Out-of-the-shelf solutions provide the most basic level of functionality, and in their majority fiddling with the underlying technology in order to extend the existent level of functionality is impossible for a variety of reasons (ie. source code is not distributed with the solution, the legal license used prohibits such fiddling and tinkering practices without permission, and so forth). In industries heavily dependent upon software (like the Web engineering and development industry segment that Neff and Stark analysed), software is seen as a service rather than a product. And as every marketer knows, the marketing of services is diametrically different to that of products. For if there's no finalised product design, (and no demand for it) the marketing effort should not be put in highlighting a feature or two of the software that might be gone in the next version, or even worse, those features might not be the ones sought by prospective customers. Indeed, and insofar as software is concerned, the current marketplace reality asks for permanently beta products - flexible, reconfigurable, malleable solutions whose only marketing requirement is that one should know where to go to find it (and information about it).
This trend is best illustrated by Linux. Is, businesswise, Linux a product or a service? And is my Linux the same as yours? Nowadays, Linux is being sold and marketed in many different contexts by many commercial entities catering for many different groups of users. SuSe's Linux is different from Red Hat's, and Red Hat's is different from Mandrake's. Does it make then sense to market all of them uniformly? Of course not, but this is not due to concerns over brand differentiation. Linux is the desktop system of choice for lots of normal folk because it enables them to configure and customise their computing environment to suit their individual needs. As regards to corporate clients, rather than individual customers, the in-house adoption of Linux is clearly treated as a service that is initiated with an analysis of requirements, goals, objectives, etc., continues with the development phase, the end-user education phase, the testing phase, the final roll-out phase, and extends beyond all these phases to encompass future support and maintenance. Eric Raymond puts it "the software industry is 95% not a manufacturing industry". And as the marketing of manufactured products has striking differences to the marketing of highly customised 1-to-1 products and services, we should move beyond typical marketing-as-noise to marketing as knowing where to go to get some help and information.
The viability of F/OSS development models is based upon community norms.
- All releases of source code must be accompanied with a text file listing contributors.
- forking is not allowed ?? (forking is freedom, does it deserve the negetive connoation, and should we see it as an attribute of organisational decadence?)
- distributing changes without the leaders' approval is frowned upon
- meritocracy prevails (natural selection from the community) trusted lieutenants
- meritocracy, transparency, involvement, community-management
- GPL is a form of social contract: makes sure no window
In every released version of Linux, there is a file attached which lists all those who have contributed (code). Credit attribution if neglected, is a cardinal sin that will breed bitterness within the community and discourage developers from further contributing. Furthermore, distributing changes without the leader's approval is frowned upon and can only be justified in extreme cases. This has come to be known as forking and it usually refers to the moment when a chasm among the community of developers occurs with one side refusing to accept the development route the other side is proposing or implementing. The net effect of forking is that the development community splits and so does the technology. No wonder why forking carries such a notorious stigma. In the case of Linux, forking is mainly avoided due to a parallel release version: a version is stable and aims at those wanting a secure and reliable platform whereas the other version is experimental and appeals to those with a rather experimental urge. Indeed, the entire structural organisation of the Linux development process is shaped by community norms. For instance, there is only one layer between the community of Linux developers and the leader Linus Torvalds. This small group of developers, the so-called "trusted lieutenants" 41, interfaces between Linus T. and the rest of the developers in response to the overwhelming burden placed on Linus Torvalds. As the community of Linux developers grew to unimaginable numbers, this informal mechanism, which represents a natural selection by the community, emerged to ensure that the technology would scale even if its leader would not. Thus, a dozen or so hackers are responsible for maintaining a part of the Linux kernel but the important thing to note is that the trusted lieutenants are not managers.
Meritocracy, in other words, prevails. But it does so not only because a meritocratic organisation excels at dealing with technological ambiguity and also suits non-profit organisations as a suitable motivation mechanism, the F/OSS community is a community of peers. From a certain viewpoint, even the dominant F/OSS license can be understood as a community norm.
We noted earlier that Negri and Hardt's Empire is by far the most constructive attempt to analyse where the current world is heading. After reading the book though, one is left wondering why F/OSS is not included in the authors' analysis of affective and immaterial labour, as well as the new general intellect that pervades the organisation of bio-production. In Radical Machines Against Techno-Empire, Matteo Pasquinelli (2004) takes on this task with excess zeal and raises an important question:
There is a hegemonic metaphor in political debate, in the arts world, in philosophy, in media criticism, in network culture: that is Free Software. We hear it quoted at the end of each intervention that poses the problem of what is to be done (but also in articles of strategic marketing.), whilst the twin metaphor of open source contaminates every discipline: open source architecture, open source literature, open source democracy, open source city....Softwares are immaterial machines. The metaphor of Free Software is so simple for its immateriality that it often fails to clash with the real world. Even if we know that it is a good and right thing, we ask polemically: what will change when all the computers in the world will run free software? The most interesting aspect of the free software model is the immense cooperative network that was created by programmers on a global scale, but which other concrete examples can we refer to in proposing new forms of action in the real world and not only in the digital realm? (Pasquinelli 2004)
Before attempting any deconstruction of the above, we need to understand that Pasquinelli defines 'machines' very loosely. As he says, software can be perceived as a machine divorced from matter. Such an epistemology gives one the impression that what Pasquinelli seeks is to lay emphasis on the ever-growing influence of software in an increasingly immaterial economy made out of thin air. Indeed, the importance of understanding what constitutes a machine and how the re-appropriation of the means of production by the multitude is constituted through the making of new radical autonomous machines cannot be overstated:
Don't hate the machine, be the machine. How can we turn the sharing of knowledge, tools and spaces into new radical revolutionary productive machines, beyond the inflated Free Software? This is the challenge that once upon the time was called reappropriation of the means of production....Will the global radical class manage to invent social machines that can challenge capital and function as planes of autonomy and autopoiesis? Radical machines that are able to face the techno-managerial intelligence and imperial meta-machines lined up all around us? The match multitude vs. empire becomes the match radical machines vs. imperial techno-monsters. How do we start building these machines? (Ibid.)
In the above passage Pasquinelli poses the question of how to extend the principles and success of free software beyond (free) software and the digital sphere. This is again confusing. For if software is penetrating the economy and society by an order of magnitude, and this is a trend practically unstoppable to the point where all machines will be partly or completely software-based, then why should one care to make any conscious effort to apply the critical success factors of free software to other domains? That the contaminating effect of software alone will ensure this progression of events, emerges as a reasonable hypothesis 42. Still, without wanting to oversimplify the implications that stem from such a plane of thought, it becomes obvious that what Pisquarelli values most in free software is not software per se but the organising principles behind it, the ethic of co-operation that characterises the mode of production of a good many free software project. While I, among many others, marvel at the organisation model of free software projects, and theorise that this might well be a harbinger of a rising modus operandi and civilisation, the antithesis that forces this conception of historical flux to a standstill is the case of crypto-hierarchies creeping into the larger social system. In Pasquinelli's analysis, there are no doubts as to who is the gatekeeper that ought to be discharged of his authority. The gates of autonomy are guarded not by governments nor by global-in-reach and not-accountable-to-anyone institutions, but by managers. And this is precisely what he means in his advocacy that the goal of radical machines should be to eliminate managers. But is a world without managers possible? Here, we need to make a small digression to define two things: the machine and the manager. Let's start with the machine:
The machine, which is the starting - point of the industrial revolution, supersedes the workman, who handles a single tool, by a mechanism operating with a number of similar tools, and set in motion by a single motive power, whatever the form of that power may be
Karl Marx, Capital. p.376
The union of all these simple instruments, set in motion by a single motor, constitutes a machine 43
Charles Babbage, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, Ch.19
The first definition by Marx is perhaps the most well known, but it faces certain limitations. First, our discussion is not confined to the industrial economy - society; our focus is impressed on the post-industrial economy where most of production has become informatised. Second, and as long as free software production is concerned, the machine doesn't supersede the worker 44, and most importantly, human programming cannot be replaced by machines - at least not yet. From this perspective, it could be argued that programmers enjoy a certain degree of autonomy over machines. But then again, what does Pasquinelli mean by defining software as an immaterial machine? And were we to accept this syllogism, what would the exact function of an immaterial machine be like? I can only find two possible explanations that may apply here: either software is a machine because its operation is inextricably linked to the functions it is meant to perform, and therefore, software as a higher-level program co-ordinates and unites a set of otherwise separate lower-level functions and directives that cannot be performed without invoking the authority of the higher-level program; or Pasquinelli is somewhat paraphrasing Lessig's view that software embodies, promotes and regulates certain types of behaviour in accordance with the developer's agenda. I believe that both of these explanations hold true, but I assume, perhaps wrongly, that Pasquinelli sees software as a machine primarily because of the former's capacity to regulate behaviour. By reading between the lines, this view is also in agreement with Negri and Hardt (2000) who would define a machine's role as extending beyond the factory and the workers to control and police behaviours. Such a machine is designed to control the production of culture and even life by regulating behaviour. If we try to push this definition of machine to its logical extreme, and contemplate its importance, it becomes obvious that software lies at the strategic annex of the empire and its nemesis. Software is a domain of conflict; and control over software is a key aspect of domination 45.
This critical dimension of free software can thus be contemplated from a plane of reasoning upon which co-operation and immateriality converge to give form and substance not only to a whole new class of labour, but ultimately to a struggle that is subsumed within transcendent capitalism. Linux, once celebrated for being subversive, and hence for not being subject to capital's sphere of influence, now seems to have been incorporated into the larger capitalist system. This shift is partly due to the considerable effort made by commercial companies like IBM that wish to cash in on free software, and partly due to the similarly successful imagery projected through the campaigns so skillfully orchestrated by non-profit organisations like the Open Source Initiative (OSI) that have assumed the role of promoter and guardian of many free software projects, without this meaning that their role has been conflicting with the goals of the same community they are meant to foster. However, and this is a question that will trouble many inquiring minds smarter than I am, can the free software community still assert its will over the direction and content of the agendas of the commercial organisations that seek to capitalise on free software? Or have the roles switched accordingly to better reflect the growing importance of commercial dynamics in shaping the future path of free software development? This question invites heated debate. For if we were to adopt a slightly deviant perspective from the one so many alleged industry experts and pundits take as granted, that is, to stop impressing a communist flag upon free software and an American flag upon its closed-source counterparts, would we still attribute a subversive character to free software? The answers to this question are very likely to vary greatly. In recognition of the harm done by such binary thinking, Lawrence Lessig (2002) and Bill Thompson (2004) claim that the success of free software development (in terms of producing quality software products) represents a correction on behalf of market and social forces to the monolithic counter-productive economic currents that are so deeply entrenched in the undisputed past reigns of the now contracting industrial system, and as such it accomodates well to the needs and wants of the expanding post-industrial system. A different game with different rules, one would say. This rhetoric has proven immensely helpful in influencing decision makers entrusted with government funds and catapulting free software to the more lucrative and favourable position it now enjoys in the corporate world. One thing that is certain though is that none can affirmatively ascertain the future. The ones that will play the most decisive role in determining whether free software becomes subordinate to commercial aims, and to what extent, are the very same people developing and using it. For if Linux developers en masse decide the time has come for them to claim a political stand, then, undeniably, the commercial software world is bound to be shaken. Same applies to software and hardware users. For if computer users realise that they can enact a very powerful exercise in consumer sovereignty and bottom-up DIY democracy by choosing to buy and use only software and hardware that allows only the end-users, rather than the manufacturers, their lawyers, and retailers, or government officials, to specify which types of behaviour are to be protected and promoted through the use of it, then the stage is set for a major turmoil. Many commentators and activists have felt that this conflict lies in the epicentre of the battle over the control of innovation through various instruments of law (Lessig 1999, 2002; May 2000, 2003; Soderberg 2004; Toner 2003; Victor 2004) and its terrain has been located in the realm of the technicalities inscribed in intellectual property law which in turn are being decided in court rooms that are closed to the wider general public.
This tendency to ascribe great value to intellectual property should come as no surprise. In recognition of the fact that the most valuable corporate asset is now residing in the intangible resources located inside an organisation, and that the manager of the present is nearly indistinguishable from the knowledge worker 46 whose rise Charles Handy and ...had long been prophesising,
Knowledge work = get a job, psychopathy of immaterial labour
managers now deal with issues of intellectual property
XXX(role of managers? Law does not enact changes organically)
And here we return to our discussion of the role of the managerial elite, for managers are the organs of control, remarks Pasquinelli. This, of course, necessitates that managers are in control of machines. Is this a plausible assertion? Are managers the ones who control the production of culture and even life by regulating behaviour? Although part of the problem may emanate from my poorly constructed definition of machine, it is nonetheless immature to insist that the only ones commanding the machines in ways opposed to the project of automony are managers. The multitude commands machines; it is a machine as much as a network 47. The all encompassing logic that governs the Empire is also in control of machines. In between this multitude - logic of empire dichotomy, where can we locate the manager? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer as any attempt to define the manager is fraught with ambiguity. A great deal of recent management literature has been stressing the changing character of management, animating the passage from command, control, and supervision to leadership, vision, charisma and co-ordination 48. Nowadays, depending on where one stands (or works), a manager can be the embodiment of irrational authority issuing commands at every conceivable occassion or a gentle and compassionate guide offering help and direction in the corporate labyrinth.
The changing face of managerialism becomes all the more striking were one to juxtapose influential managerial archetypes, and their intersections with historically fixed reference points. In The Managerial Revolution, published in 1941 when the prospect of an utterly catastrophic world war had well landed in the US, we have the image of an oligarchic society administered by corporations and ruled by a new hybrid of organisation man that the book's author, James Burnham, calls managers. Oddly enough, this peculiar breed of managerialism does not bow to capitalist demands, nor does it seek to reinforce and establish capitalist supremacy. On the contrary, according to Burnham, these new managers would eliminate the basic tenets of capitalism such as private property rights, yet resources and the means of prodution would remain firmly in the hands of the few. Despite Burnham's considerable tendency to frame his conclusions around arbitrary assumptions derived essentially from his own desires as pertaining to which superpower would prevail in the aftermath of the second world war and the wrecked economy the war was most certain to leave behind 49, Burnham got something right: the capitalist was already in the process of becoming a dwindling figure in the socio-economic construct in terms of power accumulation, and its favourable location in the exercise of control was now been claimed by a swarming power whose raison d'etre can be traced to the imperatives of sophisticated technology and industrial planning. As George Orwell (1946) cluefully summarised Burnham's thesis: "Capitalism is disappearing, but Socialism is not replacing it. What is now arising is a new kind of planned, centralised society which will be neither capitalist nor, in any accepted sense of the word, democratic" 50. About thirty years later in 1974, aclaimed economist John Kenneth Galbraith revealed a similar economic arrangement in The New Industrial State. Galbraith held that the imperatives of industrialisation required the installation of highly planned economies and markets, regardless of the ideological banners commonly associated with the practice of planning. In Galbraith's view, capitalism and communism are not as divergent as some are very eager to believe. Their ideological billings aside, they are both centrally planned economic systems. Communism entails a comparatively more formal articulation of the apparatuses of planning, which can be exercised by the state, whereas capitalism is premised on the construction of plastic imagery and popular belief in the alleged sovereignty of the consumer and the imagined independence of the market as the principal governing mechanisms in a capitalist system.
Technostructure....committees....how is management exercised in the new industrial system? Through collaborative arrangements...
Coming up with a definition of manager is not likely to give us any useful answers, unless we can explore some creative synergy in terms of logically fusing the definitions of manager and machine to arrive at a definition of system. Perhaps we could accomplish this by following the thread from the perspective of the emergence of crypto-hierarchies. Crypto-hierarchies are obscure by definition, and the model upon which they are premised, in their majority, resembles an elaborate Ponzi scheme: secret-like structures modelled upon pyramids, founded on illegitimate and irrational grounds, and designed to exploit the many in favour of the few. Crypto-hierarchies are also related to managers as managers constitute the first level of contact one has when encountering a crypto-hierarchy. To enter and gain admittance to a crypto-hierarchy, one has to go through the gatekeeper, that is, a manager metaphorically speaking. Managers do not have to be commercial managers; they can be elected politicans or power(ful) nodes determining who's in and out in hermetically sealed networks. Hence, if we conceptualise managers as gatekeepers enthrusted with controlling access to spaces and places and flows of information, we arrive at a fairly interesting working definition of a system: a system is a space or place where culture and life are produced and reproduced through a process of continuously (re-)assigning and negotiating access to the apparatuses of control and whose actual boundaries are determined by access in both quantitative and qualitative terms.
Is then a world without managers possible? We can only seek a fruiful answer to this question by first leaving our deeply entrenched notions of organisation behind, and summoning up all the courage we have to imagine new structures and models of organisation and collective governance. In The Revolutionary Problem Today, Cornelius Castoriadis (1976) argues that a world without managers has been feasible since the dawn of the industrial revolution. "What further demonstrates the critical distance between the managerial organisation of production and the reality of the production process is the devastating effectiveness of the form of labour struggle known as 'working to ryle': chaos permeates the factory floor when workers start to apply with the outmost precision and detail the rules and instructions they are supposedly meant to apply to the production process" 51 (Ibid. pp.75) According to Castoriadis, the reason there's always some room for subjective interpretation of the rules, individual initiative, emergent co-ordination, and improvisation is exactly due to this fact. For the production process to come full circle, workers must retain some degree of autonomy over their work so that the system linking the workers to the machines to the managers doesn't come to a halt. Like a (negative) feedback loop in a closed system, we can witness the initiation of an endless violent circle of conflicts inside the factory with the managers employing technology to install more advanced forms of control, and workers responding again by various means and in various ways. The critical point is that managers, even in a time of history when Fordism went largely unchallenged, were pretty much useless. A factory, says Castoriadis, could be run without any managers (Ibid). But if managers were useless then, an unecessary appendage to the production method at its best, and that was the case in an economy largely dependent upon assembly-lines that prohibited workers from taking a minute to urinate, then what are we to make of all this today? As previously said, the conflict has now moved beyond the factory to what Negri calls the social factory that produces and regulates behaviours across all social fabrics. And the role of the manager has shifted to controlling access. So, where does this leave us? Should one try to resist gatekeepers and strive for a world with unlimited access to every single place and space? Is that likely to form the basis of the construction of radical machines that Pasquinelli calls out for?
We should be aware of the fact that while greater access certainly translates into enhanced labour mobility (and thus enhanced labour power), freedom of information, and strengthening of democracy, it also may come to mean greater control. Total openness could lead to the end of privacy, and could form the constitutional basis of a totalitarian society. One shudders to think of what total openness would make life be like. Picture a society modelled along the lines of George Orwell's 1984 dystopia where huge screens fitted on the walls keep track of what one does and even what one thinks. There's no escaping them. Screens cannot be switched off. Only members in the highest ranks of the party have the ability to turn them off, but doing so casts one with suspicion. This is total openness. And this is our life, only slightly less frightening than Orwell's. In contemporary England, one meets the apotheosis of the closed-circuit television network. CCTVs are everywhere, in public places, in cafes, in workplaces, and outside our homes, effectively regulating behaviour on the pretext of keeping our neighbourhoods and streets safe from crime. "The average commuter in London is filmed 300 times a day" (Honore 2004). If we look hard enough, we can see a piece of free software, an immaterial machine that is radical enough to present an alternative to the apparatus of control that CCTV is. MudLondon 52 is a Semantic-Web technology, or more accurately, an innovative experiment in collaborative bottom-up mapping on the Web with an Instant-Messaging (Jabber) interface that enables one to annotate London's streets with descriptions, in effect turning London to an open source MUD. MudLondon is essentially what its users make it to be. From the project's homepage: "the user is encouraged to connect new places to the model, augmenting it with his or her own mental map, annotating with descriptions, known postcodes (which are automatically converted and cross-referenced with other grid location data)". The technology has a massive potential for a wide spectrum of applications, turning London to an interactive map where one can do many things like get information about which streets of London are safe from CCTVs and help squatters evade arrest 53. This is the most obvious, tangible advantage of free software: giving the masses radical machines that neutralise the apparatuses of control and regulation.
MudLondon: Gonzo geographical mapping
Another succinct example of how free software could help unveil the true promise of those radical machines that Pasquirelli envisions is the aptly baptised Mapping Contemporary Capitalism.
Indyvoter.org aims to revolutionize democracy by removing the barriers to political involvement through the use of social networks. Individuals use simple internet tools to connect with others of like values, promote issues important to them, and ultimately increase their stake in social change and political progress. Progressive communities benefit from soliciting their individual members equal say on matters of agenda, decision making, and resource use. Dynamic, powerful movements can be built using next generation open-source activist tools that cover fundraising, map visualization, resource allocation, online decision making and campaign specific tools that bridge the digital divide.
- An incubator for the next thousand moveon.org's.
- An issues-based non-hierarchical friend-of-a-friend activist resource network.
Issues-based activist networks increase longevity of a movement's momentum - avoiding the post-electoral pullout of campaign-based organizational networks like DeanSpace.
Non-hierarchical resource networks allow all individuals involved to set their own agendas and personally assess and utilize pooled community resources without the need for a central committee.
- Indyvoter.org aims to reawaken democracy by encouraging every member of this viral network to organize around the issues and campaigns that matter most to them while distributing the power and resources normally organized by political parties and PACs across a self-organizing non-partisan online network .
- Users can form dynamic voter blocs, be exposed to issues their friends care about, figure out how they can help each others' causes, and learn about tactics for social change that work.
- Indyvoter.org will provide dynamic activist communities with easy to use tools - stuff like map visualization of government and other data, resource pooling tools, online decision making tools, and access to regional voter files.
The league of independent voters alters the political game; it empowers people to join the protest, effectively turning normal folk into tactical media activists; it allows people everywhere to re-write the rules of participation and civic engagement by enabling easy group formation. In short, it seeks to provide deanspace-like spaces to the electorate, and to bundle the passion of deanspace-like spaces with useful technologies like FOAF. In a nutshell, indyvoter is where politics return to the demos.
The battle over who controls access, and consequently which criteria inform the selection of gatekeepers and the decisions over who will be given access and who will not, will be fought in both virtual and non-virtual terrains. Sometimes, as it will be increasingly the case, it will be impossbile to distinguish between virtual and non-virtual. What free software can contribute to this battle, beyond the mere inspiration and hands-on organisational guidance we derive from its merit and peer-centric model of collaborative governance, is a technological sphere that will enable us to step outside our previously assigned role as passive consumers of reality and become the architects of new spaces, new places, and new behaviours while keeping a check on those still in power in the places and spaces of the old world.
At the O'Reilly Open Source Convention in July 2001, the organiser of the conference and a leading advocate of open source, Tim O'Reilly, asked the attendants what they reckoned was the most significant work of open source development in that year. They all agreed when he suggested that this must be the gene assembler that helped the Human Genome Project finish its work just a few days before the parallel private effort by Celera Genomics, thus ensuring the gene sequence remains in the public domain (Tim O'Reilly 2001). Indeed, the sequencing of the human genome by the student heroes behind the Human Genome Project is a remarkable success story of the open source world that open source can outperform its closed-source, profit-driven competitor, but mainly it illustrates the growing importance of open, interoperable data structures, and as a logical extention open social structures too, in a world where the construction of radical alternatives becomes possbile, if not to say inevitable. For what is the most radical and far-fetched scenario a human mind can conceive if not the construction of alternative bioforms and biospheres?
We all are coming to realise, some with greater pain or delight than others, that the sequencing of the human genome is only the first step in a great chain of events and outstanding scientific developments that promise to unlock pandora's box. It is now possible to produce a perfect copy of oneself, and we could start imagining how a society of affluence would be like where food, water, clothing, and energy will be abundant. What once belonged solely to the realm of science - fiction, now emerges as a not very distant possibility thanks to the explosion of scientific knowledge. We are now, perhaps grudgingly, coming to terms with the fact that within a very short time, maybe within a life span, we will be capable of altering ourselves and our environment in inconceivable ways. The world as we now know it is bound to undergo dramatic changes in all of its aspects.
An observer may wonder in what ways this new world of radical opportunities is related with the ongoing process of globalisation, militant counter-globalisation activists, and open source development. !!!!!! It has everything to do with them because all these powerful 21st century technologies that fuel the world of radical opportunities can do either enormous good or unprecedented harm if left to the devices of for-profit organisations, corrupt governments, and unscrupulous techno-elites. Consider the case of the human genome once again: do you trust the government or commercial organisations to exploit the human genome? "If the rights to the exploitation of the human genome were vested in governments and the public sector, many people would be alarmed. Yet the idea that private companies should be given ownership over our genes is also disturbing" (Leadbeater 2000:169-170). Thanks to the Human Genome Project and its spectacular effort, we are fortunate enough to avoid the uneasy position of contemplating what it would mean if the human genome had not remained in the public domain. Yet, as Bill Joy cluefully asks in the (in)famous Why the future doesn't needs us, is the widest possible dissemination and availability of scientific knowledge adequate in containing the terror of technotopia? One could only be awed into silence by the proliferation of technologies and scientific realms designed to change the definition of life and world. Joy maintains that research into controversial sciences should be relinquished for the sake of preserving human life as we now know it, but even if we assume that such a disengaged course of action is ethical and desirable (and it is neither as both Max Moore and Francis Fukuyama (1991), respectively, have argued) , it is nonetheless hardly feasible. Nevertheless, the danger that scientic knowledge could spiral out of control to the detriment of humankind remains.
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3 The workshop was led by Graham Seaman, and its title was "The Two Economies or why the washing machine question is the wrong answer". The paper is archived at http://second.oekonux-conference.org/documentation/texts/Seaman.html and the sound recording of the workshop is accessible online at http://audio.oekonux.org/2002/seaman.mp3
4 Interestingly, a recently released documentary called The Corporation says exactly that: corporations are psychotic; their greed and obsessive fixation to profit renders them blind to the extent of committing corporate suicide; and they should be stopped by all means.
9 For a more elaborate discussion of Openflows, its business model, and its relationship to the F/OSS community, see The Search for Community and Profit: Slashdot and Openflows, in George Dafermos, Blogging the Market: how Weblogs turn corporate machines into real conversations, 2003. http://radio.weblogs.com/0117128/Blogpaper/blogging_the_market.html#the_search_for_community_and_profit_
10 For an elaborate discussion of marketing as "markets are conversations", see C. Locke, 2001. Gonzo Marketing: Winning through worst practices, and R. Levine, D. Searls, D. Weinberger and C. Locke, 2000. The Cluetrain Manifesto: the end of business as usual. In the context of this paper, this means that the success of Linux and other F/OSS technologies is not attributed to large corporations' corporate marketing departments and campaigns but it can be understood as the outcome of informal communication and free sharing of information on the Net. Marketers would call it word-of-mouth marketing.
11 Is anyone who can honestly deny that Silicon Valley and technology companies were the major growth engine in US and a prime example of globalisation? Bear in mind that Microsoft and Netscape Communications software is developed in the US but it is sold and installed in computers worldwide.
12 Evidently, releasing the source code for any given technology substantially helps to avoid market consolidation and fragmentation as it enables the development of many niche markets rather than assuming or creating a mass market, but not all OSI-certified licenses require the release of the source code. Thus, for confusion to be avoided, my analysis is mostly restricted to the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL) and does not refer to all licenses that are commonly associated with F/OS software.
13 Sharing their view on certain, specific issues does not mean that I agree with everything they say, do, or stand for. I share their view that globalisation, when seen as a purely economic construct, is a process that we'd better foster than destroy. I don't suggest we drift to an uninterrupted, naively disengaged mode of consciousness. Nor do I propose that we seek to regress back into some outdated utopian idea of sovereignty. The potential benefits that accrue to a globally emancipated society that has put globalisation to work for the common good outnumber the potential disadvantages emanating from the fragile process of globalisation. However, the optimism/pessimism dichotomy may not be the most proper choice, linguistically speaking, in order to conceptualise and grasp the dynamics of critical discourse currently underway (thanks to Joanne Richardson for pointing this out in private email exchange). Unfortunately, in the absence of more appropriate terms and analogies to draw upon, I have chosen to employ this dichotomy throughout the text.
14 Charles Leadbeater's Up the Down Escalator provided me with the most excellent analysis I have come across of the current state of globalisation, as well as with a framework which I have adopted too for researching and writing this paper. And George Soros's On Globalization is also a very useful resource for a number of reasons: it is practical; the solutions and fixes it prescribes are obviously viable from an economic and political perspective; and it is the only book that puts forth such an elaborate and detailed economic proposal for the provision of public goods on a global scale. Although many people are skeptical of Soros's real motives for colonizing the NGO space with his panoply of global philanthropy - taking shape through his Open Society Institute - this is by no means an argument sufficient to downplay the merit of his very valuable book.
15 Quoted in Po Bronson, The Nudist on the Late Shift, pp. 170.
16 Nor do I seek to reinvigorate the hallucinogenic euphoria that charactrerised this era - in fact, I sympathise with very little associated with that era, most disturbing remnants of which include but are not limited to massive unsolicited commercial email, vibrant public spaces turned ghost towns, free cultural hyperdromes gone dry when the gold-diggers flung to other adventurous gigs. However, and despite the considerably spreading tendency among Net critics to denounce everything that the New Economy social epidemic stood for as a winner-takes-all casino game, a neo-liberal colonization of the public domain by commercial agendas and governments flirting with the idea of resurrecting Big Brother, I believe the New Economy represented something more than mere greed, stupidity, short-sightedness, arrogance, corporate takeover, and hubris. The rhythm of life during those years in Silicon Valley (despite the blatant differences in the practices employed by different clusters of actors in regions and countries where the New economy media virus found fertile ground to grow), as most vividly documented in Po Bronson's the Nudist on the Late Shift, for all its shortcomings and problems, also reveals a passionate, networked work ethic premised upon changing the world through the synergy of vision and technology; building a world that values the pursuit of one's dream more than economic success.
17 During my presentation at the 3rd Oekonux conference in Vienna (May 2004), Graham Seaman offered that Lancashire's conclusions are not corresponding to the actual economic climate since the data he used for his analysis were taken from the period commonly associated with the dot.com era, and are thus insufficient to describe the post-dot.com economic environment we are now facing. I agree with everything Graham Seaman said, but, I, nevertheless, continue to postulate that the majority of F/OSS developers tunnel their labour pains where market opportunities gravitate.
18 Various bus-models, sell as product, sell services, in-house deployment see E.S. Raymond The Magic Couldron, Version 3.0, 2000, at http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/magic-cauldron/
19 The concept originates in Schumpeter's view of the process of ecomomic change.
20 Police forces removed mobile phones during the 2000 protest of the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia wiki
21 According to Naomi Klein (2003), Pablo Ortellado (2003), and Peter Waterman (2003), the most severe danger lies from within. During the 2003 World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the big old boys (leaders of traditional leftist political parties and their entourage) tried to manipulate the movement.
22 The counter-globalisation movement can be said to be leaderless, however, several individuals such as Geert Lovink and Florian Schneider, to name but only two of them, are very visible and enjoy a certain degree of leverage over the direction the movement (or the network if you prefer) will walk through. Similarly, the network of independent media centers known as Indymedia effectively directs the protests, so we could identify and locate a nucleus of power and leadership within the constellation of individuals that govern those Indymedia sites. As regards to the particular role of Indymedia in the counter-globalisation movement and its intersection with the F/OSS community, see the next section of this paper where there is a more elaborate discussion.
23 Of course, not everyone sees this multiplicity of opinions that are expressed through the anti-movement as a necessary contradiction, an unfortunate downside of diversity that further breeds pessimism. Indeed, Negri and Hardt (2000) and Immanuel Wallerstein (1999) see it as an advantage, or to put it properly, Negri and Hardt claim that this multiplicity of voices is inevitable because the realm of exploitation has been extended to encompass all of life. Since, for example, the current organs of control oppress all classes, and the appropriation of surplus value is no longer confined to the factory floor, the mental coordinates of conflict originate in far more places than generally associated with labour struggle. If seen from this vantage point, the anti-movement's agenda is not unstructured at all - on the contrary, the agenda is very well structured to encompass all of life, demanding change in the ways we communicate, travel, work, play, modify our bodies and lead our lives. It should be noted too that others, like Geert Lovink (2003), don't even acknowledge what others see as a non-existent agenda of debate. Lovink believes that post-1999/post-Seattle tactical media, which he positions at the core of the anti-movement, are putting forth a very clear and specific set of issues that ought to be addressed.
24 Geert Lovink says exactly the opposite: "Barlow called on governments not to interfere and let the Internet alone, thereby opening the door for corporate rule" (Lovink 2003: 153). I agree that this is what Barlow wrote, but I disagree with Lovink's interpretation. Draw your own conclusions.
25 Quoted in Borsook 1992
26 Benjamin Mako Hill in Software, Politics, and Indymedia, says that no technical decision is made at indymedia without careful consideration of its political implications, and the software that each indymedia node chooses represents the node's own political stand.
27 Paul Graham makes the same argument in Hackers and Painters, and the Minciu Sodas laboratory (Kulikauskas et al. 2004) has painted a rather favourable and positive image of the social hacker, shunning any references to notorious practices of 'social engineering' and moving closer to the positively curious and talkative person who constantly forges and cements new relationships, sort of like playing the role of a mediator and/or connector among disparate social nodes.
28 Himanen constructs his argument on top of the widely respected dichotomy between the hacker as a distinctive computer scientist and the cracker as a computer user penetrating systems with a malicious intent. According to this dichotomy, real hackers are unjustly equated with crackers by mainstream mass media, and the negative image of the hacker, as perceived by the general public due to tactics of disinformation, or insufficient reporting, lacks a basis in reality. However, Lovink (2003) sees this dichotomy as na´ve and strikingly irrelevant to begin with; as an effort made by computer enthusiasts to romanticize the actual contemporary identity of the hacker. Writes Lovink: "People wake up from the libertarian consensus dream of the neutral, positive hacker ethic. Unlike Pekka Himanen in the Hacker Ethic, I believe that the distinction between good hackers and bad crackers, endlessly reproduced by mainstream media, is a thing of the past. There is more to hackers than their 'post-Protestant work ethic', as Himanen classifies them. A polarization is becoming visible between those sticking to the outworn New Economy tales of 'good capitalism' and others, questioning the free market a priori ...Being both hacker and activist is no longer a contradiction" (2003: 16-17). I agree with both Lovink and Himanen, but not completely, nor do I feel that their views are mutually exclusive and as divergent as Lovink suggests. As a matter of fact, this dichotomy, like any other, hinders our understanding of the actual contemporary composition of the hacker identity. For certain, there are hordes of hackers-activists who understand their involvement in politics and society as a positive trait of the 'hacker archetype', and thus one can find a strong sense of social justification in their actions, even though those very actions may prove harmful to certain entities toward which they are aimed. In a similar vein, the image of the hacker as a neutral scientist who consciously chooses to assume that the advancement of science should be pursued for the sake of science without any consideration of its future social consequences is still preserved and reinforced, not so much by mass media as one would expect, but instead by leaders of the hacker community. Characteristically, in a heated debate at the Linux kernel mailing list (April 23, 2003. at http://marc.theaimsgroup.com/?l=linux-kernel&m=105115686114064&w=2 See also Slashdot 2003, Linux Weekly News 2003, Orlowski 2003) over the impact of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies on the Linux operating system, and how the Linux community should respond to the computer industry's effort to push DRM into Linux, the undisputed leader of the Linux community - Linus Torvalds - stated that the Linux development community should not be overly occupied with politics and business as, like he said, "I'm just an engineer". At this point, it is worth recalling that the scientist most widely credited with the development of the atomic bomb - Frank (Robert?) Oppenheimer - had used exactly the same phrase (perhaps in a slightly apologetic tone?) in order to explain the reasons that got him involved in the development of the atomic bomb. Since then [atomic bomb], and in the wake of a potential nuclear winter, numerous scientists have denounced the pursuit of pure science (for instance, see Alain Jaubert and Jean-Marc Levy-Leblond, (Auto)critique de la Science ; Georges Politzer, Elementary Principles of Philosophy; and Bill Joy, Why the Future Doesn't Need Us), however, this mindset has not eclipsed among science and technology circles. It should also be noted that various highly-regarded economists have long been arguing that scientists should assume responsibility for the wider consequences of science and technology. See J.K. Galbraith, 1974, pp. 377.
29 The series of leaked Halloween documents also demonstrate that this love and hate relationship is a two-way thing.
30 Also see the interview with Stefan Merten by Joanne Richardson, "Free Software and GPL Society", Subsol, November 2001, at http://subsol.c3.hu/subsol_2/contributors0/mertentext.html and the interview with Stefan Merten by Geert Lovink, Nettime, April 24, 2001, at http://amsterdam.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-0104/msg00127.html
31 See Felix Stalder, Six Limitations to the Current Open Source Development Methodology.
32 Richard Barbrook in The High-Tech Gift Economy and Dan Barber in The Open Source Development Model: is it applicable to other industries? make the same claim.
33 Chris Parry (2003) has written a brilliant review of the Corporation that manages to capture all the energy of the documentary. Robert Paterson (2004) has also written a compulsive review. See also Alexandra Gill (2004) for another review. In addition, the documentary is accompanied by a similarly titled book, "The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Power", by Joel Bakan. See http://thecorporation.tv/
34 The quote is from Capitalism: A Very Special Delirium, an interview with Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in Sylvere Lothringer (Ed. Chaosophy, Autonomedia/Semiotexte. 1995). Also posted on Nettime (April 21, 1996) at http://www.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-9604/msg00025.html
35 Excluding Toni Negri and Michael Hardt, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guittari, Jeremy Rifkin, Guy Debord, and the Internationale Situationists (Thomas Friedman ?).
36 It is interesting to note that until the early 1960s it would have been unthinkable, if not 'dangerous', for a Western organisation , entrepreneur, or economist to suggest that (corporate) philanthropy and caring for the public should be part of an organisation's goals. This thesis is compellingly expressed in a widely read 1958 Harvard Business Review article by Theodor Levitt where any commitments by for-profit organisations to the common good are seen as an external interference with real social welfare, and as such, they are condemned by the prevailing orthodox economic logic of the time. Writes Levitt (1958: 44-49): "The function of business is to produce sustained high-level profits. The essence of free enterprise is to go after profit in any way that is consistent with its own survival...It should let government take care of the general welfare". Seen from a wider economic and historic perspective, this view is consistent with the then unquestionable economic theory of motivation at the center of which sits the assumption that the main goal of organisations (and of those in power within organisations) is to maximize their own personal profit. Around the early 1960s this conception started to falter with various organisations proclaiming that their goals extended well beyond profit maximization. For a thorough discussion of this shift in corporate behaviour and its economic significance for the capitalist industrial system, see J.K. Galbraith, The New Industrial System (especially chapters 10-14). It should also be noted that nowadays corporate philanthropy is regarded as a natural and integral component of corporate behaviour; and the Stakeholder Theory of the Firm, which appeared in the early 1990s and is now practically unshaken, reflects this shift in corporate governance models away from an excessive fixation upon shareholders toward greater (corporate) social responsibility. For a comprehensive account of the Stakeholder Theory see T. Clarke and S. Clegg, Changing Paradigms: the transformation of management knowledge for the 21st century (Chapter 6: Stakeholders), and D. Wheeler and M. Sillanpaaa, The Stakeholder Corporation. Of course, this shift is also reflected in marketing theory and practice, particularly in the branches of cause-related marketing, green marketing, and social marketing.
37 This is, of course, not a novel claim among economists. As early as of 1970, Paul A. Samuelson wrote: "the consumer is, so to speak, the king...each is a voter who uses his votes to get things done that he wants done".
38 For an elaborate discussion of the role played by Linux User Groups within the overall Linux community, as well as an extended profiling of the Finnish Linux User Group (FLUG), see Jussi Silvonen and Reijo Miettinen, Linux and Linux Community: Perspectives and Points of View, University of Helsinki Workshop on Linux and F/OSS, 2002.
39 For instance, Ruben Safir, President of the New York Linux Scene (NYLX), is an ardent supporter of that view.
40 See Tim O'Reilly, 2001. pp.42-44. EXPLAIN
41 See Glyn Moody
42 Of course, this view is based on the assumption that every piece of software deployed in the world will be FS/OSS, and this, beyond doubt, is an assumption prone to error. The reason is twofold: first, such a scenario is definitely hard to materialize and even harder to predict with any degree of certainty. In addition, there is no guarantee that anything at all would be different were free software to be installed in all computers worldwide without a corresponding change in the dominant system of beliefs, values, and attitudes. See G. Seaman 2004.
43 See also C. Babbage, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, p.12, and K. Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, pp.132-133.
44 A skeptic may argue that programmers rely upon certain tools (compilers, debuggers, editors, etc.) to develop programs, therefore the machine supersedes the workman, but this view doesn't seem to bear in mind that the programmer himself can develop those very same tools he will later use to develop the final product of his effort. Indeed, Richard M. Stallman, when he started his GNU Project, he first created the tools he and others would later use to develop parts of what was meant to become the complete replacement to the Unix operating system.
45 We arrive at this syllogism by synthesizing two other arguments: (1) software can, and (depending on its architecture) it does enable a level of co-operation and co-ordination that was thought to be unattainable before the advent of the Internet; and (2) co-operation is immanent to labour and not subject to capital's dynamics (Negri and Hardt 2000). So, by fusing (1) and (2) we also come to assume that: (3) software regulates behaviour, and it, thus, exerts influence over the terrain of co-operation; and (4) by compromising software, one will deliver a strong blow to the multitude's ability to co-operate; and (5) software, hence, lies at the annex of the empire and its nemesis. Software is a domain of conflict.
46 A knowledge worker manages information that is beheld by people, not people. Knowledge work consists in managing and creating new repositories of knowledge through a circle of production that transforms data to information to knowledge.
47 Pasquinelli (2004) recognises this too.
48 For instance, see Gary Hamel, Leading the Revolution; Tom Peters, Liberation Management; Charles Handy, The Age of Unreason and The Empty Raincoat
49 For a compelling justification of this argument, see George Orwell, Second Thoughts on James Burnham.
50 Even though George Orwell launched a powerful and well-substantiated critique against Burnham's theories in 1946, at least insofar as the latter's political predictions were concerned, he went about to situate Burnham's protagonist at the epicentre of his 1984 dystopia, published in 1949. 1984 is the world of Burnham's manager.
51 Translated from Greek by the author.
53 See also "Do we need social software?" at http://radio.weblogs.com/0117128/2004/01/19.html#a169 for my personal vision of what MudLondon could become if, or when, combined with other Semantic Web technologies, especially FOAF.