Thoughts on Informational Technology

While there were many things that stood out to me over the past few weeks, there are three things that resonated with me. The three I found to be most interesting and useful were that Open Source is a bridge for access to technology and innovation that did not exist before the turn of the century, OS is a male-dominated field, and OS has challenges that can be solved through collaboration and equal access.


The development of OS, although relatively new, continues to use collaborative and innovative projects to bridge gaps in information and technology. OS includes software, hardware, and information. From prosthetics to circuit boards, OS projects have provided a foundation for worldwide collaboration and development. Arduino Boards is a prime example of innovation and development. After reading about the boards, I began to search projects. From an LED automated gingerbread house to power laces that look like they are from the movie Back to the Future II, Arduino Boards are making technology available to the public to use for further innovation. At their inception, the creator didn’t envision gingerbread houses and self-lacing shoes, but that is the beauty of OS – there is a level of innovation traditionally unseen in office and project environments. Government and other projects are attempting to replicate this OS success. After learning about Arduino Boards, I wanted to learn more about additional creative commons projects. Hour of Code is an OS, creative commons project that attempts to make training programming available equally to all groups, especially those traditionally underrepresented. Hour of Code is a project founded by Hadi Partovi who believes that computer science shouldn’t be for the privileged few. Through systematic, repetitive concepts, children and adults progress from very basic to complicated programming concepts and exercises. Hour of Code is available to everyone and is being used in the elementary schools as a tool to introduces programming languages to younger children. Hopefully, this introduction will help less-traditionally represented populations become interested in and develop skills for programming.


As a woman studying OS in this course, the idea that more women are needed in OS seems to be a very relevant point for me. Libby Clark identifies women as a group traditionally underrepresented on the OS scene, and cites Karen Sandler’s experience with sexist comments as commonplace. Like most male-dominated fields, actions can and are being taken to increase the number of female participation. From targeting women to building internship opportunities for them, there are many things that can be done to raise participation. When reading this article, I was surprised by one of the tips given to invite women into the field: “Make sure women don’t feel pressure to propose really ambitious projects.” Personally, this struck me as sexist because it implies that women are easily overwhelmed in tough fields and they need to be helped along, while men do not need this type of assistance (can you imagine this tip being given to draw a men into a less male-dominated field like nursing?). I believe it grossly underestimates the grit of women who are already in the field. For example, I work with a MECOP  for Oregon State University that helps employers hire male and female computer science students. The females involved in the program are ambitious and not easily intimidated by the depth and breadth of work required for complicated computer projects. Why should OS projects (and women working on them) be any different? Women will not enter OS because they are coddled. They will enter because they find the challenges available to them to be interesting, invigorating, and worth the time they will trade to tackle them. I view OS projects in the course as tools to discover what can be accomplished with technology – It’s fun to stretch limits and see what I can come up with. While I have only very basic knowledge of CSS and HTML, I can relate to women in OS as innovators and collaborators. Hopefully, we will begin to see more women overcome whatever barriers are keeping them from OS.


Certainly there are challenges within OS, but they can be solved through shared collaboration and equal access. While traveling home last month, I tuned in to a public radio talk show, and listened to the last few minutes of a program discussing the exorbitant costs of developing and maintaining OS technologies. The advantages to OS are the positive economic impacts on business. Aseem Sharma’s persuasive article about how OS fosters collaboration and economic growth seems to be the perfect rebuttal to the talk radio snippet I heard. Through partnering with additional talent and user-developers who have the experience and talent to solve difficult problems, solutions are designed and “ecosystems that have positively impacted all industries…across the globe” have been developed. For example, there has even been a call to academics to partner with government on research in order to open source the results. Imagine what could happen for research and development in a variety of areas if professors had open access to all findings, results, and research. A new development that mimics elements of creative commons is the call for a Global Collaborative Space Program. The concept is to share research amongst space programs; basic elements of the program include competitive selection, peer review, and shared research. While I realize that this is not quite creative commons, I do think that as far as OS is concerned space may be the final frontier. Still, NASA has an entire webpage dedicated to royalty free resources. As a matter of fact, NASA has an OS coding project.


In years to come, OS will see more diversity, additional collaboration, and projects that are now unimagined. It’s a privilege to live in an age where good ideas aren’t locked away in a vault, but shared and enhanced through worldwide collaborative efforts. It seems that OS is providing a virtual space where the best and the brightest can learn from one another and solve difficult challenges. This type of partnership extends beyond countries and university exchange programs to ideas, the real purpose of intellectual partnership in the first place.

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