Open Source as a Test Case for a Post-Humanist Commons [Does The Tragedy of the Commons Repeat Itself as a Tragedy of the Public Domain?]
Publication of Creating 010
F. Cramer | Part of a book | Publication date: 30 June 2017
Underground culture and non-institutional arts of Eastern Europe, North America and Western Europe of the 1970s/1980s often included experimentation with the dispensation of individual signatures and identities, in favor of pseudonyms and collective-anonymous identities. This included dispensation of ownership and property - including copyright. A parallel phenomenon existed in computer hacker culture where, since the 1960s, freely sharing information and even one’s personal computer logins became part of a “hacker ethic”. This culture gave birth to Free Software, later branded Open Source, and its “copyleft”. The Free Software practice of collective project development on the basis of giving up traditional authorship had existed for decades, but only became wider known in the 1990s and 2000s with the rise of the Linux operating system and, some years later, Wikipedia whose opencollective authorship is based on the development model and copyleft principle of Free Software. Both traditions - collective-anonymous (sub)culture such as in underground and as well as Free Software, Open Source and copyleft - could be seen as working practices of “the commons”, in a time where the commons are broadly advocated as an alternative to capitalist
production and as an antidote to the imminent ecological catastrophe from over-exploitation of resources and anthropocentric blindness for the earth as a system. Contemporary Open Source culture can even be seen as a showcase for a post-humanist worldview, since most of it originates in collaborations of human and nonhuman actors, human developers and automated software agents. But as a real-life test case for a posthumanist commons, Open Source exhibits the flaws of these models: unclear governance with lack of democratic participation, in the worst case oligarchies disguised as meritocracies and corporate politics disguised as community service.