Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking

By E. Gabriella Coleman | Go to book overview

NOTES

INTRODUCTION: A TALE OF TWO WORLDS

1. https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html (accessed September 22, 2011).

2. It is now routine for anthropologists to unpack the effects of liberal formations by attending to the fraught politics of multiculturalism and secularism, the establishment of publics, the coconstruction of markets, marketing, and consumer desire, and the political changes wrought by new national constitutions and neoliberal policies (see Comaroff and Comaroff 2000, 2003; Ferguson and Gupta 2002; Haydn 2003; Mahmood 2004; Ong 2006; Povinelli 2002, 2006; Scott 2011). Despite this rich literature, the influence of liberal values in the context of Anglo-European societies still tends to figure thinly or inconsistently, either as an external economic influence that shapes cultural expressions, or more richly, as relevant to the discussion of secularism, religion, publics, and most especially, multiculturalism. The study of privacy and free speech, for instance, has tended to come in normative, philosophical, and legal terms (Bollinger and Stone 2002; Nissenbaum 2009; Rule 2009; Solove 2010). There is, however, a small but growing body of anthropological literature on liberalism and technology (Helmreich 1998; Malaby 2009) as well as the anthropology of the press and free speech (Boyer 2010; Keane 2009). For an enlivening historical account on liberalism as a lived set of principles in mid-Victorian Britain, see Hadley 2010.

3. Because the bulk of my research was conducted on Debian, a free software project, and with developers involved with other free software projects, my analysis also tilts in the direction of free over open-source software. And given how much attention has already been placed on open-source over free software, it is key to add this neglected perspective. But much of this book clearly applies to open source, for while even if open-source developers and projects de-emphasize a moral language of freedom (Chopra and Dexter 2007), they still routinely advance liberal ideals in, for example, their commitments to meritocracy and rational, public debate.

4. I am indebted to the stellar cultural analysis of liberalism offered by Stuart Hall (1986), who makes the compelling case that liberalism is not only a set of political creeds but also exists as cultural common sense composed of a set of interconnected principles that “hang together.” Hall’s definition is useful because he highlights some core features (such as a mistrust of authority and an accentuated commitment to individualism), yet he is careful not to pose a single logic to liberalism. He also argues that in its historical and lived dimensions, liberalism has incarnated into what he calls “variants of liberalism,” replete with differences and contradictions. These differences and contradictions are still part and parcel of liberalism’s life, and are evident among hackers.

5. A less humorous consequence of this ambivalence is the limited funding options available to students and researchers who choose to remain in North America for fieldwork (with the exception of those studying indigenous communities). Not only are existing funds nearly impossible to live on; there are few overall funding sources as well. So

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Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction a Tale of Two Worlds 1
  • Part I- Histories 23
  • Chapter 1- The Life of a Free Software Hacker 25
  • Chapter 2- A Tale of Two Legal Regimes 61
  • Part II- Codes of Value 91
  • Chapter 3- The Craft and Craftiness of Hacking 93
  • Chapter 4- Two Ethical Moments in Debian 123
  • Part III- The Politics of Avowal and Disavowal 159
  • Chapter 5- Code Is Speech 161
  • Conclusion the Cultural Critique of Intellectual Property Law 185
  • Epilogue How to Proliferate Distinctions, Not Destroy Them 207
  • Notes 211
  • References 225
  • Index 249
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