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Kelty (2008) Two Bits, and Chapter 9

July 27, 2009

Kelty, C. 2008. Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

Chapter 9. Reuse, Modification, and the Nonexistence of Norms

269 What are implications of Connexions for FS practices and their modulation?

270 This chapter: how Connexions and Creative Commons (CC) modulations of FS relate to ‘the problems of reuse, modification, and the norms of scholarly production’.

270 in ‘figuring out’ what trying to do, both projects hit a surprise: changing meaning of finality of a creative/scholarly work; how do such works attain identity, stability, completion? Trouble is how to stabilise content in unstable context

270 project members want to redefine finality in open and public way: modifiability to be integral to how knowledge stabilised [sounds counterintuitive; do these efforts make sense?]

270 two tricky issues: reuse and 271 whether norms exist. After all we’ve had “turn to practices” in anthro and science studies, and this partly away from norms [but practice theory only mentioned in passing in Two Bits, see Brauechler and Postill, this blog; what’s Kelty’s implicit theory of practice?].

271 … yet interestingly geeks are into Mertonian norms of science. But can norms be created?

271- Whiteboards: What Was Publication?

272 long process of figuring out, of modulating: ‘template-work’; Connexions looking at scholarly publication thru FS template

273 History of book, Johns more useful than Ong: to create a reading public not easy; printed texts in C17 seen as unreliable, needed system of evaluation to establish their legitimacy [this is pure media anthropological history]

274 so instead of Ong’s ‘print logic’ wt Johns we get historical specificities of how different print cultures developed; not just a matter of standardising books, ‘a publishing infrastructure’ needed: reputation, social engineering, skills of distinction, consensus, etc that we know from STS.

274 After long struggle, Johns shows C20 idea established of a single print culture [remind me to get this book]

274 Connexions two challenges: figuring out historical changes, creating/changing infrastructure to meet demands of authoritative knowledge – 275 from authority of publishing in Gutenberg Galaxy to that in Turing Universe.

275 – Publication in Connexions

Three phases to create Connexions content:

1) composition, not just writing

2) 276 translation, into marked-up Connexions system (XML); not quite public document though on Net

3) “publication”, but not finality or fixity as can be altered, same as highly politicised Wikipedia entries which never stable

277 Not just textbook’s tangibility transform, but very cultural significance of texbook writing as practice

277 [examples of remediation, not Kelty’s term]

278 new copyright questions coming out of Connexions: ‘how much change constitutes a new work’?

279 many academics uneasy with Connexions, not seeking to replace the book but whole publishing process; part of broader, old problem: reorientation power/knowledge; 280 knowledge as living and in flux, not final or static; changes can be made ‘in real time’

280 no goal to destroy publishing yet shaped by same moral-tech imaginations as FS and internet

281 keyword is ‘community’ – Connexions tagline: “Sharing Knowledge and Building Communities” [well I must say you’ve picked a dubious notion, why not Publics?]

282- Agency and Structure in Connexions

decoupling author from owner of content; yet avoiding ‘authorless, creditless’ Wikipedia system that most academics abhor

284 so you get via CC more flexibility but also more open than Wikipedia which rigidly committed to ‘a single definition of authorship and ownership’

285 [tacit communitarianism of Connexions team]

285 – From Law and Technology to Norm

reuse is the main Connexions concern and modulation, ie modulating meaning of source code to extend to textbook writing

286 second concern is scholarly “norms” re: creation, use, reuse, publication and circulation; whiteboard diagrams [not mailing lists?] used for this

286 geeks naturally reach out to highly codified law, but with academic norms a lot of it not codified, which makes both geeks and scholars uneasy

287 forking always necessary? why not collaborate?

288 diagram captures how FS components being experimented with; many academics worried about challenge to system that has worked for centuries

289 free texbooks movement (final modulation) doesnt exist yet

290 whole project boils down to creating recursive public

291 Connexions software ignores disciplinary boundaries

292 reuse problem raises vexed issue of whether norms actually exist – or are we talking legal and technical practices?; 293 yet if strategy is to work, norms MUST exist

293 – On the Nonexistence of Norms in the Culture of No Culture

Kelty’s phone conversations with Glenn over Connexions: technical and legal jargon galore; 294 very fine legal and technical nuances – learned a lot about legal language in rel to cultural norms

296 ‘punting to culture’ in some cases, 297 i.e. leaning on culture to clear up moral ambiguities beyond legal pale

298 differences tween culture and law; law can do little about entrenched artistic or scholarly custom but at least licenses can channel meaning of copyright, reuse, etc

299 Creative Commons are legally binding, though the aim is to change norms, e.g. promoting citation and attribution, fair use, flexibility, etc.

300-  Conclusion

CC and Connexions extend FS practices in novel ways by modulating them [see also Toni Roig, internet filmmaking ‘modulations’, this blog];

Commitment to perpetual openness of contents to modification, challenge, reuse, etc. Reorientation of power/knowledge demands not only legal and technical response, also public response.


Chapter 8

Preface & Introduction

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