The Politics of Open Source Adoption
This wiki is an invitation to collaborate on a real-time history and analysis of the politics of open source software adoption. The Social Science Research Council is pleased to offer a first version of this account—POSA 1.0. For our purposes, understanding the ‘politics of adoption’ means stepping back from the task of explaining or justifying Free and/or Open Source Software (F/OSS) in order to ask how increasingly canonical explanations and justifications are mobilized in different political contexts. POSA 1.0 tries to map the different kinds of political and institutional venues in which F/OSS adoption is at stake. It tries to understand important institutional actors within those venues, and the ways in which arguments for and against F/OSS are framed and advanced. It seeks to clarify the different opportunities and constraints facing F/OSS adoption in different sectors and parts of the world. It is an inevitably partial account that--we hope--can be extended and deepened by other participants in these processes. The latest version of this work resides on the wiki itself, and reflects contributions from members and fellow travelers in the F/OSS community
Our project began with the observation that accounts of the F/OSS movement, to date, have been oriented mostly by the improbable fact of F/OSS’s existence. We propose that, at this stage of F/OSS development and advocacy, we can begin to ask a different set of questions—not how open source works as a social and technical project, or whether open source provides benefits to a range of constituencies (in terms of cost, security, etc.), but rather how open source is becoming embedded in political arenas and policy debates. The political success of open source reflects diverse practices of issue entrepreneurship and evangelization: at a basic level by building awareness of open source options, by broadening understanding of the ways in which software choice embeds social and political values, and by framing discussions of cost or security in ways that take into account complex hypotheticals about the future. We want to learn more about the thick social dimensions of this process as F/OSS advocacy develops within commercial, technical, and NGO communities; as it succeeds or fails in building workable alliances; as it founders on or overcomes internal differences; and ultimately as it bridges out to other communities with less stake in the technical values or development process of open source. It is our argument that the limits of F/OSS adoption reflect, in part, a limited capacity within the F/OSS movement to document, compare, and draw lessons from these processes.
In keeping with the spirit of wiki collaboration, we invite you to build out this account of F/OSS politics—adding to or revising the existing accounts, developing new sections on other contexts and processes, or linking to relevant external sources.
In keeping with the reality of daily spam removal and other costs of maintaining an open wiki site, we have closed the wiki to external logins and ask that you write us if you would like to contribute. We will be happy to provide access.
In contributing to the project, we ask that you keep in mind a few general guidelines:
We welcome other directions and issues.
The two POSA prizes were awarded to Guiseppe Caruso and Eric Raymond, for their post-1.0 contributions to POSA. Congratulations!
SSRC Social Science of Information Technology Programs
TABLE OF CONTENTS
RISHAB AIYER GHOSH
KENNETH NEIL CUKIER
ERIC S. RAYMOND
JENNIFER M. URBAN