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[ox-en] Free Software & Anarchism -- Does this compute?

Hi list!

During 22C3 one of the most interesting presentations for Oekonux
probably has been a talk given by Sandro Gaycken titled "Free Software
& Anarchism -- Does this compute?". All Oekonuxis which attended the
talk found it very interesting :-) .

I asked Sandro whether he'd like to discuss it here. He liked this
idea and is now on this list and looks forward to a fruitful

Included is a plain text version converted from Sandro's slides.

						Mit Freien Grüßen


PS: This is very interesting for me personally because this goes to my
    personal political roots. Actually I never looked at this whole
    topic the way Sandro did :-) .

--- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< --- 8< ---
Free Software & Anarchism

Does this compute?

by Sandro Gaycken, IWT-Bielefeld

sandro DOT gaycken AT iwt DOT uni-bielefeld DOT de


The Connotation: Free Software and Anarchism

* *Industrialized* Development:

  * Corporate interests

  * Hierarchically ordered

  * By leadership

  * Expensive

  * Secret

* *Free* Development:

  * Users interests

  * Not hierarchically ordered

  * By consensus

  * Cheap

  * Open


* *Anarchical* elements:

  * No leadership or hierarchies

  * Consensus-based

  * Individual design options

  * Open for participation

* *Negative* notions (FUD-initiative/Microsoft):

  * Orderlessness

  * No stability

  * No quality



* Openness implied:

  * New models of business & production

  * Connections to communities

  * New concepts of ownership & copyright

* Challenges fundamental social structures

* Thus easily extensible to social reform and "revolution"

* Open X-initiatives, Oekonux, institutions


References to anarchy:

Free software development

* "Is a step toward the post-scarcity world" -- Stallman

* "Counterfeits anarchical methods" -- Milsom

* "Has anarchists benefits" -- Moglen

* "Is an anarchist mode of communication" - Vaidhyanathan

* some bad ones


*Preliminary* criticism of the connotation:

* Not a genuine anarchical program

* No references to anarchical theories

* Rather metaphorical uses so far

* Rather colloquial understanding

* Rather superficial connection

*Is Free Software really anarchical?*


Anarchism & Anarchical Technology

How can *technology be political*?

* as part of the productive force

* as medialising power structures

* as technically demanding/predetermining certain structures for
  political/social actions (inherent necessities)

* as a conceptual or ideological paradigm

* ...


*Politically aware* construction of technology::

    Supportive Technology
             | construct
    Political Ideals
             | discard
    Destructive Technology

*Primary goal* of Anarchism:

	      *Individual liberty which is only limited
		      by the liberty of others*


*Negative* freedom (I. Berlin): Abolition of..

* Authoritarianism & hierarchies of all sorts, implicit or explicit

* Inequalities

* Capitalism, Competition, ...

*Positive* demands:

* Self-determination

* Decentralisation

* Communities in free association

* Free agreement


		 *What is an anarchical technology?*

       It's a technology which supports the positive anarchical
	  demands while trying to abolish the menaces stated
		       in the negative demands.

*Minimal* demands:

* *Power structures*: not medialising power principles

* *Size and proportion*: fitted to decentralized, local demands and a
  few workers

* *Complexity and needed skill*: fitted to little organization,
  training and maintenance

* *Ressources*: fitted to local ressources wt little energy and


*Maximal* demands:

* *Full automation* and full mechanization of an production

* *Fully sustainable* local production, *renewable* energies and no

* Emergence of *"positive" technologies*

  * which allow people "to further develop their creative and human
    potentials" (Bookchin)

  * which proliferate "autonomous and creative intercourse among
    persons" (Illich)


*Negative* example:

A large steel factory compound...

* many workers

* hierarchical order, decisionmakers, specialists

* only one product

* sophisticated ressources, energy and infrastructure

* a big market

*Positive* example:

A sun furnace...

* just a few workers

* only basic organization

* no special skills to operate

* a variety of products

* little ressources, energy and infrastructure

* works for local demands


The Case of Free Software

Free software *as a technology*:

* Is a component of *computers*

Computer *production* demands:

* Division of labour

* Hierarchies

* Global ressource infrastructures

* High energies

* Big markets


*Use* presupposes:

* Money

* Energy, Infrastructure

* Specialists for maintenance

*Other* characteristics:

* Predetermined in its possible uses

* Often medializes power (The lost war?)

* Proliferating social and ideological paradigms regarding hierarchy,
  authority, .. (i.e. information - experts)


Free Software *as a technological design method*:

* Is partly anarchical because:

* Consensus based

* Unguided (except for internal logic)

* Individually variable

* Open

* (Non-profit)


*But* freedom is *enframed by*:

* Rules (implicit Do's 'n' Dont's, Copyleft: GPL, CreativeCommons, ..)

* Often implicit hierarchical structures

* Requires specialist knowledge

* Often capitalist measurements

* Software as a technology


      **Free Software is not a genuine anarchical technology!**

* As a technology: it happens only in computers which need *extensive
  capitalistic production* methods, are still *luxury commodities* and
  often *medialize power*

* As a design method: it is enframed by *rules* and *implicit
  hierarchies* and only accessible by *specialists*


A Demonstrative Value

*Capitalists & authoritarianists* argue:

"Effective production & development need hierarchical structures,
competition and financial stimulus"

Free Software has demonstrated the opposite:

*Quality and productivity do not need interest in profit, competition
or authoritative structures!*


*Free Software* as a case study against the alleged connection of
production/ development and profit and authority

Supported *claim*:

A non-capitalistic, non-hierarchical society is productive, probably
even more so.

Free software is *politically valuable as a case study* , but not
political itself!


Ideas for Anarchical Computing

*Other ideas* can be developed out of the demands for anarchical

* Further liberate free software by *abandoning rules & implicit
  hierarchies* and by..

* Making programs & programming *a lot easier* so *everyone* can
  participate (un-expertise)

* Writing *free machine software* which works on specific production
  machines to free communities from company dependence


* Designing *free (= patent free) hardware* which embodies anarchical
  principles to promote anarchical communities

* Designing *sabotage* software and devices enabling people to
  sabotage surrounding technologies they do not approve of (Hacking
  for Everyone)


*Opening up the choice to sabotage:*

* Slightly helps people to control inherent necessities in political
  and social contexts

* Allows people to de-medialize power structures around them

* Gives people more choices towards technological determinism

* Has strong and substantial demonstrative value as social protest
  against technological determinism

Contact: projekt

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