02 May 2011

Chipping Away at Open Source Hardware

It would be something of an understatement to say that open source software has been successful. This has led to many interesting attempts to translate that success into different fields, notably content (with things like Wikipedia) and data (the whole open data movement currently spreading through enlightened governments around the world.)

On Open Enterprise blog.

8 comments:

twitter said...

Thanks for the interesting essay but please don't call music, movies, books and other human expressions, "content". Studio executives might think of these things as filler between advertisements but the word expresses their contempt for the rest of us.

OpenMoko is another interesting, collaborative hardware development - a free software phone. This project faced the additional barrier of getting phone companies to cooperate, something notoriously difficult, but managed to produce two working phones, an automotive dashboard computer and other gadgets. In late 2010, the project announced cooperation with Beagle board to make the next generation of phones.

glyn moody said...

@twitter: well, if you don't like "content", what do you think it should be called? gnu.org is not helpful in coming up with an alternative...

OpenMoko is interesting, but has had rather a bumpy ride over the last few years. Let's hope it gets better established in the future.

Crosbie Fitch said...

The term 'content' derives from copyright - where the business isn't in selling art, but selling copies/containers of it (at monopoly protected prices). Hence why the content (production or selection) is optimised to appeal to the largest possible number of people (lowest common denominator pulp).

When it comes to selling art or intellectual work the customers aren't the manufacturers of copies, but the human beings who want the art or intellectual work - even if they are a peculiar minority.

If you want to refer to the labour or product I suggest the term 'intellectual work'. If wishing to include its subjective value I suggest 'art'.

As copyright disintegrates we're going to have to return to selling intellectual work or art - and abandon the anachronism of exploiting a monopoly in the sale of copies (that can now be made by all at zero cost).

glyn moody said...

@Crosbie: trouble is, "art" has particular connotations (as in "high"...). Ditto "intellectual work"....

Crosbie Fitch said...

Language adapts. These are the terms. Old connotations will give way to new.

We apprehend the world in terms of matter and information (even though Einstein would say they were one & the same), we manipulate one with our hands and the other with our mind, material/manual work and information/communication/intellectual work.

It is better to describe something in terms of what it is (the product of human thought) than what it is used for (filling containers or floppy disks).

twitter said...

Call it what it is, like I did. Your example can become,

"This has led to many interesting attempts to translate the communal success of free software to other areas of creative expression and knowledge. Notable examples include Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and the open data movement, currently spreading through enlightened governments around the world. Creative Commons has established a legal framework for cultural expression and fostered a vibrant market for music, movies and books that can be shared and improved to various degrees."

RMS and gnu have been very helpful about this. They recommend precision in language and respect for talent. This dignifies those making the culture we all want to share and helps us think through the issues. You can see this line of reasoning in this essay about "intellectual property", where RMS warns against confusing creative expressions with trademark or invention because these are distinct and require different legal frameworks. RMS urges us, "Consider each of these issues separately, in its fullness, and you have a chance of considering them well." The best generalization is probably none.

I see that Crosbie Fitch has beaten me to the punch, if you ignore the examples in my original post, but I hope my further explanation is helpful. "describe something in terms of what it is (the product of human thought) than what it is used for (filling containers or floppy disks)" That's fantastic. Thanks again for the interesting essay and conversation.

glyn moody said...

@twitter: I agree words matter, but I don't see "content" as problematic in the same way the others are.

It's "content" because it's what something contains: it is intellectual stuff with substance. I don't see it as derogative.

twitter said...

If the word implied substance or merit instead of bland interchangeability, it would not be problematic. There are bigger problems in the world, but I'm sorry that I was unable to explain this one. Thanks again.