Democratizing production through open source knowledge: from open software to open hardware.
Media, culture & society, 34
The commercial success of open source software, along with a broader socio-cultural shift towards participation in media and cultural production, have inspired attempts to extend and expand open source practices. These include expansions from software into general culture through 'Free Culture' movements and, more recently, expansions from software into hardware and design. This article provides a critical perspective on the democratic potential of these broader 'open' contribution structures by examining how open source contributions to both software and hardware increase the opportunities for democratic participation in production, governance and knowledge exchange. By analysing attempts to 'open source' the sharing of hardware designs, it also notes the limitations of this democratization. The insights developed in the article nuance the relationship between open source cultures and commercial and market structures, identifying how the generative opportunities created by certain aspects of open source contribution structures increase the potential for democratizing production of communication tools, but also how incongruities across different open-source cultures and communities of practice limit the democratic potential of these processes.
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