[Discuss] discuss Digest, Vol 10, Issue 77

Catarina Mota catarina at openmaterials.org
Sun Mar 17 16:05:56 UTC 2013

Looks like this topic is all over the internet today:


On Sun, Mar 17, 2013 at 11:41 AM, malcolm stanley <
a.malcolm.stanley at gmail.com> wrote:

> open is such an elastic word...
> here is an "open technology fund" that is nominally all about technologies
> facilitating free expression...
> http://opentechfund.org/about
> _________________________________________
> malcolm stanley
> google.voice:  215.821.6252
> Cell: 267.251.9479   <------------- new
> email: a.malcolm.stanley at gmail.com
> twitter / linkedin: amstanley
> Read my blog at http://soaringhorse.blogspot.com
> _________________________________________
> On Sun, Mar 17, 2013 at 10:38 AM, Catarina Mota <
> catarina at openmaterials.org> wrote:
>> 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
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