Subjectivity in the Ecologies of Peer to Peer Production

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* Article: Subjectivity in the Ecologies of Peer to Peer Production. Phoebe Moore. Fibreculture Journal, Issue 17, 2011.



"Free (Libre)/Open Source Software (FLOSS) is an open, evolutionary arena in which hundreds and sometimes thousands of users voluntarily explore and design code, spot bugs in code, make contributions to the code, release software, create artwork, and develop licenses in a fashion that is becoming increasingly prevalent in the otherwise hugely monopolised software market. This ‘computerisation movement’ emerged as a challenge to the monopolisation of the software market by such mammoth firms as Microsoft and IBM, and is portrayed as being revolutionary (Elliot and Scacchi, 2004; DiBona, Ockman, and Stone, 1999; Kling and Iacono, 1988). Its ‘ultimate goal’ is ‘to provide free software to do all of the jobs computer users want to do and thus make proprietary software obsolete’ (Free Software Foundation, 2005).

However, if it is to succeed in bringing about a new social order (Kling and Lacono, 1988), this movement must be re-evaluated from a critical standpoint through a look into the practices of knowledge production based on radical licenses for property sharing and development such as the General Public Licence (GPL) and the emerging subjectivities of participants. Free Software may be viewed as a social movement while Open Source is perhaps a development methodology, but it is not always necessary to isolate analysis to one or the other, firstly due to the extensive overlap in software communities, and secondly because their rhizomatic roots emerge from a shared intellectual and moral response to the exploitation of markets by powerful firms (see Elliot and Scacchi, 2004). Here, I query whether the activities of collaborative software producers as well as hardware production communities such as those found in FabLabs, which release playbots and other blueprints for machine replications as well as agricultural and construction initiatives, can indeed be perceived as revolutionary due to their subversive work and production methods. The recursive communities (Kelty 2006; Powell 2008) that develop around these practices are linked, with shared practices, goals and self-perceptions. People’s emerging subjectivities are the most important dimension of such radical production ecologies, because they reflect both the immaterial and material dimensions of the inherently political projects involved." (