What motivates the spread of online activism? That’s one of the questions that motivated my new profile of anthropologist Gabriella Coleman in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Thanks to over a decade of fieldwork among open-source programmers and Anonymous pranksters, Coleman has a few helpful answers.
Some hackers, it’s true, happen to be anticorporate activists. And the open-source pioneer Eric S. Raymond—”the hacker culture’s resident ethnographer since around 1990,” as he puts it—takes Coleman to task for not saying more about the libertarian rationale often held among those of his ilk, which would object to copyright law as an affront to the free market. In the end, though, hackers’ varying justifications matter less than what they actually do together. They became a force in mainstream politics through the back door because there was no choice; to the extent that file sharing, copying, and remixing aren’t allowed, free software cannot operate.
This is the insight that Coleman wants to bring to her fellow anthropologists in Coding Freedom: While liberal values like transparency, autonomy, and free inquiry may be cherished by many people in the abstract, the geeks who have fought for those values most assiduously on our behalf learned to care so much about them through practice, by what those values enabled them to produce. And when hackers are able solve technical problems by setting information free, they start to imagine what other kinds of problems they might be able to fix.
Read the full article at The Chronicle. And download Coding Freedom for free at her website. Also, don’t miss my conversation with Devin Balkind and Leah Feder on free software in Occupy Sandy that appeared here at Waging Nonviolence, based on an interview conducted for this article.
A new book explores how Miss Major has persevered over six inspiring decades on the frontlines of the queer and trans liberation movement.
Humor in Native culture has never been simply about entertainment. Comedy is also used to fight cultural invisibility and structural oppression.
Waging Nonviolence is hiring a writer to interview leading movement figures and analysts and produce one Q&A-style article per week. The writer will work with our small editorial team to identify the interview subject each week. For the most part, we’ll be looking to hear from activists, organizers and scholars who can shed light on… More
Thanks for the article. I’m surprised that you don’t vrealize Libertarians were the main inventors and proponents of the internet and have been driving activism on it for years. In so doing they have substantially changed progressivism from a racist/anti-gay approach.
Also, claiming that anti-copyright is a liberytarian position is just plain strange.
The LIO is the sole Liberal-libertarian or rights groups with activists in every country. For more info on actual people using voluntary Libertarian tools on similar and other issues worldwide, please see the non-partisan Libertarian International Organization @ http://www.Libertarian-International.org ….
Robert, I think you’re misreading the excerpt. It doesn’t deny the significance of libertarians in free software (and it doesn’t address their role in the development of the Internet at all — nor would it be especially relevant to do so). I’m also curious about more evidence for your claim of the role of libertarians in shifting the progressive approach against racism and homophobia.