[Discuss] discuss Digest, Vol 10, Issue 77

Catarina Mota catarina at openmaterials.org
Sun Mar 17 14:38:52 UTC 2013

Great analysis Matt. More below.

On Sun, Mar 17, 2013 at 9:23 AM, Matt Maier <blueback09 at gmail.com> wrote:

> Huh. His complaint seems to be specifically directed at the word "open"
> hanging out there by itself. Maybe in that sense "open source" is still a
> perfectly good phrase because it specifies what is expected to be "open"
> and how "open" works in that situation.

Good point!

> Technically "open source" has a much longer history in the intelligence
> world than the technology world. I wonder if they're quietly complaining to
> each other about how the meaning is changing and getting confused.
> Morozov's got a new book to flog that just happens to be on the same
> subject.
> Along those lines, he's got a chapter on openness (ironically served up by
> Google's habit of being "open" enough to allow previewing of books) but it
> doesn't seem to actually have anything to do with "open source." It would
> be more accurate to say that he's got a problem with the idea of too much
> transparency in government.
> His use of Defense Distributed to link "open source" to "transparency" is
> quite good. Defense Distributed is an ideologically motivated group of
> activists who are using the mechanism of open sourcing easily manufactured
> plans to achieve the political objective of rendering gun control laws
> irrelevant. However, since he wrote a book on the subject I can't give him
> credit for ignorance when he actively confuses the ideas of "open source"
> and "transparency." Morozov says, "*One doesn’t need to look at projects
> like Defcad to see that “openness” has become a dangerously vague term,
> with lots of sex appeal but barely any analytical content*." He isn't
> bringing more clarity to the discussion, he's intentionally increasing the
> vagueness. When Defense Distributed says their work is "open source" they
> mean very specifically in the "open source software" sense that he mentions
> in the article. They do not mean in the "transparent government" sense he
> writes about in his book. They aren't pushing for transparent government
> records like some activist in Argentina (an example from the book) they are
> trying to create a genuinely new piece of technology and then, as is their
> prerogative, release the intellectual property under an open license.
> That's a textbook case of "open source software" and it's disingenuous of
> Morozov to pretend otherwise just to segue to the subject he wants to talk
> about.
> Maybe this is too harsh a criticism based on one article and one chapter,
> but he seems to be abusing the very lack of specificity he's complaining
> about. For what it's worth, he might not like technologists, but I don't
> like anecdotalists. The problems of the world cannot be solved by
> technology. But, they also can't be solved by someone stringing together a
> dozen anecdotes and pretending that a point spontaneously emerged. I do
> know about Defense Distributed, and he's misrepresenting them, so it makes
> me wonder how many other anecdotes he's twisting to get onto the public
> speaking circuit.

Haha, ok, so I have a confession to make. In the past I have read other
works by this author and couldn't agree with you more. He tends to write
provocative pieces that go against the grain, which is totally fine, but
seems to enjoy 'bending' things a bit to make a point while providing a
series of anecdotes as back up that don't really hold up to scrutiny. Let's
just say I'm not a fan. When I sent this two the list was with the goals of
1) hearing what you all thought, 2) throwing another perspective into the
"open source hardware" brand discussion.

> Anywho...just one more example of how open source needs a strong community
> voice. It would be great if a recognized and respected institution (like
> OSHWA) could give the NYT a new article to clarify the mistakes in that one.

So true. One thing I learned about the news industry though:
although journalists are interested in reporting on open source, the nature
of their business requires that they 'hang' it on some kind of event that
then becomes the driving force for the article and the excuse to provide a
deeper explanation. Without such an event we don't really have many
opportunities to clarify what open source is in the NYT. Someone has to
write a book on open source hardware :)

> Cheers,
> Matt
> > ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > Message: 1
> > Date: Sat, 16 Mar 2013 18:57:13 -0400
> > From: Catarina Mota <catarina at openmaterials.org>
> > To: The Open Source Hardware Association Discussion List
> >         <discuss at lists.oshwa.org>
> > Subject: [Discuss] Open and Closed
> > Message-ID:
> >         <CAH-asVZwkq=
> 55rmDd7ut4HAQCtUDEqT0OrrdWWTbnv2+p+aXjg at mail.gmail.com>
> > Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
> >
> > Provocative, not very well grounded, but interesting nevertheless - and
> > related to the discussion we've been having about what it means to label
> > something as "open source."
> >
> >
> http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/opinion/sunday/morozov-open-and-closed.html
> _______________________________________________
> discuss mailing list
> discuss at lists.oshwa.org
> http://lists.oshwa.org/listinfo/discuss
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.oshwa.org/pipermail/discuss/attachments/20130317/894dc5b7/attachment-0001.html>

More information about the discuss mailing list