Sunday, May 26, 2013

Lessons We Learns From Geeks and Free Software Culture

Benjamin Mako Hill defined the lessons that we can learn from geeks and free software culture as follows,
  1. If a system is fundamentally flawed, stop seeking to reform the system — replace with it a better one; redefine the concept of mainstream.

  2. Free software is an alternative to proprietary software because it throws the entire closed software development model out the window. Microsoft and other proprietary software giants have frantically tried to find methods to combat the free software movement. They remain at a loss because they don't know how to combat an “enemy” so unlike themselves. They can't fight GNU/Linux because GNU/Linux refuses to fight altogether. Like many geeks, I was forced onto the fringes of mainstream culture when I was young. As a result, I've realized that the line between outcasts and rebels is subtle and often purely subjective — at times little more than a difference in attitude. I know the flexibility — and power — that living on the edge can provide. Having been forced out of the game early on, I've come to learn that playing the game is not always prerequisite to winning.
  3. Armed with the power of a community, one can overcome the power of individual or corporation.

  4. RMS reminds us that free software operates around the idea that, “creativity can be a social contribution, but only in so far as society is free to use the result.” The implications of RMS's statement are clearly not limited to the development of software. He states that an inaccessible idea is a useless one. An idea that is allowed to grow, develop, and transform itself through and in a community will go further than one than that is bridled and restrained. A geek battle-cry says that, “information wants to be free.” While I'm not sure that information wants anything, I believe that for human society to realize its ultimate potential, information needs freedom to mature and transform in the presence of other ideas. In most cases, I don't subscribe to a Romantic conception of creation; I do not believe in divine inspiration. I believe that ideas are born from, through, and in the context of a lifetime of knowledge. Free software's power lies in its treatment of artistic and scientific knowledge as the process, creation, and domain of a community. By working within a community and by thinking, acting, and reacting as a community, I know I can be successful in tackling problems larger, more complex, and more powerful than myself.
  5. Destroy the idea of producer and consumer.

    Another reason behind free software's success is the way that it shatters the traditional roles of the producer and consumer. With a free software program, every user can step into the role of contributer or creator for their digital tools. The power of free software is the power of democracy — bottom up solutions are always better than those that work top-down. When I became frustrated with Microsoft Windows, I helped to create my own alternative. When I became frustrated with American corporate media, I helped create independent media as a viable replacement. Free software has taught me that while not everyone need produce everything, consumerism is a choice. I consume critically with the knowledge that I can transcend my role; I am a producer. Consumerist cultures are cultures of widespread powerlessness. Free software is one way that I've realized the power I've always had.
  6. Explore, embrace, and be careful with double-edged swords.

  7. Being a geek means knowing what it feels like to be on both sides of a technology: swept ahead and left behind. Geeks know how technology can act as a liberator and as a tyrant. They know that technology is a double edged sword and it's all too easy to end up on the wrong side of the blade — especially when entrenched interests are pushing hard in that direction. I believe that being open to novel ideas a prerequisite to victory. While ideas and technologies are not better by virtue of being new, dismissing technology over a distrust of novelty will simply lead to alienation and defeat. Whether we like it or not, the technological revolution is here to stay and the society of the future will be built out of bits and bytes. We must embrace technology if we want a hand in shaping the future. However, simply embracing technology is not a good answer either. I know that technology is a double-edged sword. Technology can lift people to the stars or fling them down into the mud; one is not more likely than the other. I've learned the importance of wresting for the power of these double edge swords. I've learned to never forget that the sword I am wrestling with can cut me and do as much bad as good.
  8. Integrate critique and action. Win.

  9. Free software is successful because it has no battle tactics, no battle strategy, and no battle ground. Each developer who replaces a proprietary software with a free one is winning. Many activists criticize theorists for their absence of action while theorists criticize activists for an lack of theoretical foundation. In my free software work, my critique and my action are one fluid motion. I've learned to avoid the concept of a means to an end and appreciate my actions as being a means and an end within themselves. I've learned that when my actions are my critique, every successful action — every line of code, every release, every piece of documentation — is a real ideological victory.
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