Conditions for germ forms (was: Re: [ox-en] John Mark Walker: There Is No Open Source Community)
- From: Stefan Merten <smerten oekonux.de>
- Date: Wed, 03 May 2006 08:28:35 +0200
Hi Robin, Thomas and all!
3 months (110 days) ago Robin Green wrote:
Geert Lovink wrote:
This reminds me of Noam Chomsky's comment that (paraphrasing)
businesspeople can be quite Marxist in their outlook, even though they
would never call it Marxism.
What I mean is, historical materialism: the idea that technology
[Marxists tend to put here "means of production", but this is
inaccurate, because the Internet is not accurately described as a means
of production] overwhelmingly determines the course of history.
In this case, the technology being the internet, which has made selling
general purpose software an increasingly unviable proposition
(monopolies and quasi-monopolies excepted). Of course this is a
simplification, but it has some force to it.
But I don't think he's correct to so denigrate the influence of key meme
propagators like Bruce Perens, Linus Torvalds and so on (and I expect
that someone like ESR will shortly rush in - figuratively speaking - to
point out the historical facts, far more abley than I am able to do so
here.) Firstly, I don't believe it is correct, as he claims, that
everyone in IT was hot-footing their way towards open source before the
Open Source Institute started promoting it as a named meme (indeed some,
like SCO, still don't seem to "get it"). And after all: even if we
broadly accept Walker's view that open source is essentially a business
innovation (which is ridiculous because it neither originated in
business nor is exclusively produced by businesses, as he implicitly
acknowledges but tries to cover up with spurious "economic" language) -
but even if we accept that, business innovations still require _people_
to champion them, to be brave enough to battle the conservatism in the
industry, to put their reputation on the line, etc.
Even if it is true that someone else would have had those same ideas
eventually, even if someone else would have promoted them, even if
history would have turned out slightly differently but gradually turned
towards open source without the creation of Linux... even granting all
those things, the work of these key figures - and other early meme
spreaders whose names we _don't_ hear of because they're not famous -
was tremendously important.
At the time.
However, at the same time, historical questions such as these are not so
important for Oekonux, IMO.
Thanks for this thoughtful comment.
I think such historical questions are of utmost importance for
Oekonux. If we want to understand Free Software and similar
phenomenons IMHO we need to strive to understand how they came/come
about. Only then we can say something about the conditions necessary
for such phenomenons to evolve at all.
In this case I'd say both positions are correct. Of course it would be
stupid to deny the influence of some key figures in the Free Software
scene. Every such phenomenon probably needs such figures.
But on the other hand if there would not have been the foundation been
laid by historical circumstances these people would have had no ground
to grow their roots in and in the end they would have been not
important but unknown.
If you use the five-step-model of how germ forms develop
[http://en.wiki.oekonux.org/StefanMeretz/GermformTheory] then we are
talking about the first step here. As I see it these early forms of a
germ form may pop up long before there is real potential for the germ
form to develop. For instance look at how capitalism evolved. There
were very early forms of capitalist forms in Northern Italy when the
rest of Europe was far from this. May be one could even say that in
the Roman Empire there were early capitalist forms. Or take money
which exists for a long time now but before capitalism developed did
not play such a role like today.
Only when the technical means had matured in regions like Scotland or
England all these forms came together to form something new. I'd
recommend studying the early forms of capitalism at the places where
they happened. For instance if you are in the Museum of Scotland in
Edinburgh you can *feel* how all these aspects interacted.
As with capitalism I think there were quite a few aspects which had to
come together for Free Software so the germ form really had a chance
to evolve and to become important.
3 months (110 days) ago Thomas Berker wrote:
Thanks, Geert, Jason, Robin! Just a quick note on the Individual vs the
Economy. Both is of course right, without daring individuals no F/LOSS,
without cold and determining economy no F/LOSS (at least not its current
success) either. Neither: "just another capitalistic scheme", nor: "the
first harbinger of captialism's end - at last" gets us somewhere.
Absolutely. Things are more difficult than this.
Technology or (capitalist) economy don't do anything, but without
technology or (capitalist) economy nothing is done. I don't like saying
the latter either, but I have found myself growing more and more weary
of the former (morally superiour revolutionaries and their heroic deeds)
I'd say there is some dialectics between the conditions and the
actions. If this is not taken into account then every attempt is
subject to failure.
The problem is that most of the time you can not force the conditions
to exist regardless of how much you like the idea you are furthering.
Then the idea stays pure idealism with no chance to get a real - and
in turns out to be a waste of time. Especially leftist history is
*full* of examples for this type of idealism.
Which leaves us with political economy: Whether there is an 'Open Source
Community', is a political _and_ an economic question. Communities are
about identity, and identities are _made_. Ant they are performed. And
their non-existence is performed as well. Walker performs this
community's non-existence, in the meanwhile other indiviuals perform its
existence - adhering to its particular moral principles and social
Can you give us a more detailed description on what you think a
community is defined by?
Personally I think it is hard to talk about a Free Software Community
beyond some trivial thinkgs like "They all are concerned somehow with
the development Free Software". Also I'm a bit tired of all these
rants which claim some common moral standards for this community just
to bash it for not living up to these standards.
P.S.: BTW, I don't think that Oekonux is a place where this community
can be performed,
Absolutely. In Oekonux no Free Software is written so it is a bit hard
to perform this Free Software community here.
I rather like to think of it as the F/LOSS community's
superstructure (or the parody of it, it is utterly insignicant after
Well, above you didn't like the "morally superiour revolutionaries and
their heroic deeds" - just as me BTW. Then Oekonux is certainly not in
this realm :-) .
Mit Freien Grüßen
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