The Political Logic of Free, Libre, Open Source Software

The Political Logic of Free, Libre, Open Source Software

Jacinto Davila (Universidad de Los Andes, Venezuela)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8336-5.ch001
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Information technology development is a must for societies in the whole world and, particularly, in the so-called third world. However, which particular research goal and which mode of research are suitable for that development are questions that need careful consideration and reasoning. In this chapter, we try to explore those reasons by visiting the logic in Free, Libre, Open Source Software, FLOSS, as a general concept. It is a political logic, because it clearly interferes and is interfered by dominant economical policies with respect to issues such as knowledge diffusion, copyrights and intellectual property. In the chapter, we explore available evidence over which principles are actually held and how that is done. Our highest goal, however, is to show that information technologies are best understood in the wider context of socio-political games and any suggestion of the opposite is itself a move in some of those games.
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Barwise, J. and Hammer, E. (1995), in one of a collections of essays, edited by Prof. D. Gabbay, to answer the question: What is a Logical System?, explain that a logical system is a mathematical model of some pre-theoretic notion of consequence coupled with a inferential practice of some sort. We rescued this account to establish that some intuitive notion of logic exists before an actual system is modeled, even though that intuition could be enriched or modified during the modelling process. Axioms, and the principles they formalized are, therefore, important in a logic, but more important are intuitions on their content and on how to reason with them.

In this chapter, we explore the logical intuitions behind the concept of Free, Libre, Open Source Software, FLOSS, For this technological concept, which is defined in due course, we present a set of principles that try to describe the underlying intuitions about what is a free technological device and how users of those devices are affected by the ways in which they have access to those technologies. As the title of the chapter suggests, our hypothesis is that those principles are of a political nature, even though the exchange of technology is normally regarded a mere economic practice and, therefore, neutral in political terms. A key element to support this argument is the insight that software is, unlike other devices, a form of knowledge.

The Driving Forces behind a Road Map for Libre Knowledge Management Technology Research and Development

Information technology -IT- development is a must for societies in the whole world and, in particular, in the so-called third world. Then, it is only logical that scientists and technicians from those regions of the world, organize themselves to do the research they require for their development. However, which particular research goal and which mode of research are suitable for those organizations are questions that need careful and independent consideration. By “independent” we mean that for being relevant to their human contexts, those questions should be addressed to their national or permanent human activities taking into account local problems, local priorities and local resources. Scientist do require a mode of research that may guarantee local relevance and open scrutiny to empower communities, which, in turn, may evaluate the real impact of the so-called scientific and technological contributions. This requires a mode of inquiring that should not be biased to a particular, alien or contradictory frame of mind subjected to interests that may not coincide with local needs and demands.

Heidegger, in “the question concerning technology”, (Heidegger, 1964) warns us of the difficulties to reveal the essence of technology: it is (technology) a revealing, a particular way of bringing forth. This unusual way of reflection seems appropriate because we are called to explore meanings that are so involved and embedded in complexities, hidden behind the many different language games (Wittgenstein, 2001) in which they are used. To understand those meanings, we have to experience them as directly as possible. Looking for an essence, we go after something in every instance and, yet, different from every one. A technique is a means to an end and a human activity. But it also has an element that transcends them both. Technology is also revealing, but with a certain form and a certain purpose. Heidegger explains: “Whoever builds a house or a ship or forges a sacrificial chalice reveals what is to be brought forth [..]”. The technician [who is] designing an “object” unfolds upon it, his/her own under-standing. Then, he adds: “And yet, the revealing that holds sway throughout modern technology does not unfold into a bringing-forth in the sense of poiesis. The revealing that rules in modern technology is a challenging (Herausfordern), which puts to nature the unreasonable demand that it supplies energy which can be extracted and stored as such.”(Heidegger, 1964).

The peculiar revealing in information technologies and knowledge management is also a challenge. However, it is not the whole mother nature “who” is being challenged. People are. This time is not about transforming raw materials into market products. This time is about what is tradeable in a concept, a method, a sort of mental experience or an idea. We are being challenged to transform these “things” into objects of use and profit.

Knowledge management is a generalized demand upon the academy, where knowledge has been traditionally sought, preserved and spread. Nowadays, however, the demand is for learning objects that can be easily traded in the global market: “To enable a strong and growing economy for Learning Objects that supports and sustains all forms of distribution; non-profit, not-for-profit and for profit” (IEEE, 2002).

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