Mirko Tobias Schäfer / Assistant Professor
University of Utrecht Department for Media and Culture Studies

Will the revolution be open    
sourced? How Open Source travels through    
society.

Abstract

For al long time, open source was only an issue for hackers and other passionate programmers. From the late nineties, however, the idea of open source surfaced from the underground. Though it can not be called mainstream yet, the discourse on open source is infiltrating society on several levels, and in several domains. While the concept of ‘open source’ once referred to providing the source code of software together with executable code, it nowadays covers much more than just a mode of software distribution. Today it connects a heterogeneous field of old and new social, political and cultural practices.

In this article we will provide an explorative cartography of this extending open source discourse. We will sketch the constitutive nodes in the open source network: the representing spokesmen, the claims, the products, and the discursive strategies involved. We will argue that ‘open source’ functions as a generative and transformative concept. The term open source thus can be described as an open concept itself, able to formulate and transform several claims. The concept will be analysed as travelling into various domains of society, mobilised by agenda setting, political-semiotic strategies and metaphorical translations. We will conclude with some evaluative remarks on the political aspects of open source.

Date January 2005 Category Publications

with Marianne van den Boomen: Will the revolution be open sourced? How open source travels through society, in: Wynants, Marleen; Cornelis, Jan (Eds.): How Open Is the Future? Economic, Social and Cultural Scenarios inspired by Free & Open Source Software, Brussel: VUB Press, 2005, pp. 31-68

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