Open Source and Education

Currently, I’m enrolled in an a course on open source technology. I’ve just finished reading Gabriella Coleman’s Coding Freedom. Her text is something that I can relate to because it defines OS as complex. These are certainly the feelings that I had about open source software when I enrolled in the course. I’ve always considered it to be beneficial, but of lesser quality. Using Inkscap, Gimp, WordPress, and other OSS has caused me to think differently.

Through collaborating with students in the course, I began to understand Coleman’s concepts of “individualism and social cooperation, utility and artistry, altruism and self-interest, organization and disorganization, populism and elitism, and especially individualism and social cooperation” (p. 210). What is most interesting to me is that these opposite positions ensure balance in a very complicated system. For example, the elitist concept of meritocracy is balanced by the populist concept of “recirculation of value” (p. 122). Coleman provides an additional example of balance within FOSS as “individualism frequently results in more cooperation” (p. 210). Jennifer Kepka’s OS project is an excellent example of raising questions about our production in this course. What do we own? How do we share what we own so that we contribute to community without becoming a cog in a larger system of education? How do we contribute value to a community without losing the rights to our original thoughts? Or, should our thoughts be freely given because they were in the context of community? These are questions that I found to be at the core of the course and the text.

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