The library just received a new book called Decoding Liberation: The Promise of Free and Open Source Software, by Samir Chopra and Scott D. Dexter (catalog record below).
From the back cover:
Decoding Liberation provides a synoptic perspective on the relationships between free software and freedom. Focusing on five main themes — the emancipatory potential of technology, social liberties, the facilitation of creativity, the objectivity of computing as a scientific practice, and the role of software in a cyborg world — the authors ask: What are the freedoms of free software, and how are they manifested? . . .
From the nicely written introduction:
In the past few decades, most commercial software has been distributed in binary form only, thereby providing users with usable programs but concealing the techniques by which these programs achieve their purposes. Source code for such proprietary programs is regarded as a trade secret, the revelation of which supposedly has disastrous economic effects for its corporate creator.
But there is an alternative: to distribute software with its source code. This is the guiding principle of free and open source software (FOSS). At various points in the history of software development, in particular communities of programmers and enthusiasts, and among some modern software corporations, distribution of source code has been and continues to be a fundamental practice. This distribution creates several potentials for users: to inspect the code of the software they use, to modify it if they are so inclined, and to send the modifications back to the originator for incorporation in future versions of the software. The core distinction between FOSS and proprietary software is that FOSS makes available to its users the knowledge and innovation contributed by the creator(s) of the software, in the form of the created source code. This permits, even encourages, interested programmers to become involved with the ongoing development of the software, disseminates knowledge about the inner workings of computing artifacts, and sustains autonomy among the community of software users. Allowing this form of user participation in the evolution of software has created vast adn sophisticated networks of programmers, software of amazingly high quality, and an eructation of new business practices.
. . .
With this book, the investigation of free software becomes broader than those conducted by lawyers, economists, businessmen, and cultural theorists: FOSS carries many philosophical implications that must be carefully explored and explicated. FOSS, most important, focuses attention on that often-misunderstood creature: software. To understand it as mere machine instructions, to ignore its creative potential and its power to enforce political and social control, is to indulge in a problematic blindness.
Author: Chopra, Samir.
Title: Decoding liberation : the promise of free and open source software / Samir Chopra and Scott D. Dexter.
Electronic version: Table of contents only
Related e-resource: Publisher description
Imprint: New York : Routledge, c2008.
Physical Description: xviii, 211 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
Series: (Routledge studies in new media and cyberculture)
Notes: Includes bibliographical references ( p. 181-198 ) and index.
Contents: Free software and political economy — The ethics of free software — Free software and the aesthetics of code — Free software and the scientific practice of computer science — Free software and the political philosophy of the cyborg world.
Subject (LC): Open source software.
Subject (LC): Computer software–Development–Social aspects.
Added author: Dexter, Scott.
ISBN: 0415978939 (alk. paper)
ISBN: 9780415978934 (alk. paper)