The Labor Politics of Scratching an Itch

The Labor Politics of Scratching an Itch

Casey O’Donnell (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-999-1.ch035
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This chapter will focus on the economic and temporal/labor demands of creating free/libre and open source software (FLOSS). It begins by analyzing the economic and educational foundations of those countries most actively involved in FLOSS development, and how that affects the overall demographics of the FLOSS movement. Through examining the symbiotic relationship that the community has with commercial or closed software development, the educational and employment prerequisites, and overwhelming gendered makeup of the movement, we will come to see the movement in new ways. This is supplemented by an examination of how this economic structure could conceivably be exploited for increased economic gain at the expense of those individuals actually involved in the creation of the software. Finally, the chapter concludes by looking at possible ways in which FLOSS software could be opened up more broadly to non-technical software users.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Movements: “Social movements enhance public participation in scientific and technical decision-making, encourage inclusion of popular perspectives even in specialized fields, and contribute to changes in the policymaking process that favor greater participation from nongovernmental organizations and citizens generally” ( Hess, Breyman, Campbell, & Martin, forthcoming , p. 1).

Frame Analysis: Examining the rhetoric or presented meanings of social movement leaders as an insight into how a movement generates followers.

Labor Politics/Economics: The relationship between labor or work and broader social, political and economic aspects. This can also be the relationship between workers and those they work for. For more information, see Ong (1991) .

Symbiotic: Close relationship between two organisms, groups, or movements in close relation. These relationships are typically beneficial to both.

Structural Demands/Conditions: Refers to the relationship between different groups or entities and to a relatively enduring pattern of behavior or relation. Social systems, institutions, or norms become embedded in society in such a way that they are relatively unquestioned.

Resource Mobilization: Examining the means by which social movements generate followers, connect with other organizations, and generate the resources necessary for its longevity and success.

Users/Consumers: The distinction is made that there is a difference between users and consumers, that ones role is seen as more active and co-producing, and the other as passive and depleting.

Symbolic Capital: The amount of prestige a person holds acting within a certain set of social structures. The use of the word capital implies its location as part of a system of exchange.

Design for Appropriation: The idea that systems can be designed in such a way that they are more open to user manipulation or transformation.

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