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Kelty (2008) Two Bits, Chapter 8

July 27, 2009

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

Chapter 8. “If We Succeed, We Will Disappear”

243-4 Nice ethnographic entree, 2002. Meeting Baraniuk and Hendriks at Rice to discuss new idea, to modulate FS into something else: creating textbooks – Connexions project

244 Question for Kelty: what the same and what new in this project? 245 same thing as FS?

245- After Free Software

modulation = ‘exploring in detail the concrete practices… of Free Software in order to ask what can be changed, and what cannot, in order to maintain something (openness?) that no one can quite put his finger on’.

245 so to answer Q “Is Connexions FS?” must look at FS not as ideology but as socio-technical experiment, look at actual practices. What is FS? What’s the cultural significance of its practices?

246 Connexions modulates four FS components/practices but not the movement – no Free Textbook movement yet; came out of FS experience, not pedagogical needs

247 like Creative Commons, heading for a recursive public which textbook and entertainment industries resist

247- Stories of Connexion

Nice story of dinner speech [and refreshingly unAmerican self-deprecation when Kelty messes up the story, overcomplicates it but rescued by eloquent Rich Baraniuk]

“I sigh in relief…I can let the superaltern speak for himself” [nice one, Chris]

248 idea of Open Source textbook, a la Linux; 249 FS textbook repository

249 textbook modules closer to model of science than humanities or social science

249 if our brains not linear, why should textbooks be?

250 the more modules, the more connections to be made

250 trouble is Connexions project took off during bubble burst 2000, eg failed Columbia project, so it’s a hard sell

251 MIT’s OpenCourseWare (OCW) not coming out of Open Source; 252 decided to give content away but still charge a lot for “MIT experience” on campus, adding value to it

252 In contrast, Connexions massive experiment coming out of success of Open Source; Connexions is about “communities” says its champion, 253 whilst OCW just offloading existing content onto the Web [see Mark Deuze on contrast between newspapers who offload print content and those who create new Web content]

253 all changes recorded in Connexions; what really excites people is possibility of creative links across modules, classes

254 – Modulations: From Free Software to Connexions

Connexions surprises people for same reasons as FS, same practices and components – idea that people will share and modulate textbook contents: port, fork, share them

255 complex economy of contribution and release, plus issue of digital ‘content’

256 idea of openness harks back to 80s: crucial to project is info created by people, unlike locked proprietary systems

256 Connexions promoters not into online textbook publishing fame, but into becoming ‘a famous publishing infrastructure‘ [a key notion throughout this book]; i.e. they want perpetual openness, *a recursive public*

257 Stallman applies same principles of software to textbooks: to remain useful, must be kept freely modifiable

258 – Modulations: From Connexions to Creative Commons

Nice James Boyle story when he came to Houston and met Kelty et al to talk Creative Commons

259 Creative Commons not FS types, mostly lawyers and activists, yet all saw 1998 Open Source emergence into limelight as being very important

260 Creative Commons more than about licenses, about struggle for culture, freedom to use one’s culture (Lessig); 261 idea that culture ‘besieged by the content industries’; 262 Disney great cos drew from surrounding culture

260 back-door entrance as couldn’t change laws

262 Creative Commons quickly became movement more than writing licenses experiment

262 Boyle wanted Connexions to get involved in Creative Commons – our anthropologist as go-between

263 – Participant Figuring Out

For Kelty, experience with geeks more valuable than anthro or social science background to his Connexions work; all about ‘an imagination of openness, an imagination of social order” learned with geeks

264 he wanted to ‘help figure something out’; but some tricky questions about modulating  out of geekdom: meaning of collaboration, reuse, limits and breaches, etc

265 Glenn suggested Some Rights Reserved instea of All in some cases; great ability to switch from language of law to marketing

266 Workshop, two threads: (1) digital libraries, educational tech, etc, (2) law, economics. All keen to make a difference not just talk about these things. Boyle in Dec 2002: “We actually made something; we didn’t just sit around writing articles…” [oops, that hurt, Boyle]

267 Lessig not focussed on law but on “culture”: understanding and manipulating customs and norms [see Martin Jordin’s lecture notes on this, Sheffield Hallam Uni]

267 consensus: public domain like environment for 1960s environmentalists – commons, public goods, etc. All part of power/knowledge reorientation discussed throughout book. Institutional economists bewildered by this phenomenon.

268 Connexions cross tween thought experiment and natural experiment: conducted in the open, unbounded, open-ended…

268 Interplay of Connexions and Creative Commons lesson for Kelty in Anglo-American common law, as opp. to Napoleonic legal rationalism. ‘It was a practical experience of what exactly the difference is between legal code and sofware code, with respect to how those things can be made flexible or responsive’.

Chapter 7

Chapter 9

Preface & Introduction


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