I’ve been perplexed for quite a while by the fact that in a lot of areas (in academia in particular but may other places as well), people try to explain free software or open source and it’s freeness or openness in very reductionist or essential terms. The argument can start with some variation of one of these statements (or something similar in spirit):
- "Free Software is inherently anti-capitalist."
- "Open Source is an example of pure uninhibited capitalism."
- "Free Software provides a model through which we can put limits on capitalism."
I touched on this issue in a talk I gave at LSM in 2003 called Lessons from Libre Software Political and Ethical Practice and then even managed to write it up in what became a published journal article with Biella Coleman.
Well the folks at Libroscope ran another track at LSM in Dijon this year and they managed to talk me into opening the theme with an attemp to give a practitioner’s view of freedom in free software and the important role it has played in the movement as a way of deflating the reductionist and essentialist analyses I alluded to above and explaining how they are neither completely wrong, nor completely correct.
You can get the talk slides and notes in the formats listed below.