Tagpolitics

How did Free Software build a social movement?

The Free Software movement is rooted to origins in the 1980s. As part of a talk I gave with my colleague and friend Mike Nolan at FOSDEM 2020, we analyzed how the Free Software movement emerged as a response to a changing digital world in three different phases. This blog post is an exploration and framing of that history to understand how the social movement we call “Free Software” was constructed.

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CopyleftConf 2020: quick rewind

CopyleftConf 2020 took place on Monday, 3 February, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium:

This will be the second annual International Copyleft Conference. Participants from throughout the copyleft world — developers, strategists, enforcement organizations, scholars and critics — will be welcomed for an in-depth, high bandwidth, and expert-level discussion about the day-to-day details of using copyleft licensing, obstacles facing copyleft and the future of copyleft as a strategy to advance and defend software freedom for users and developers around the world.

This event will provide a friendly and safe place for discussion of all aspects of copyleft, including as a key strategy for defending software freedom!

Official conference website

This was my first time attending CopyleftConf. I attended on behalf of RIT LibreCorps to represent the sustainability efforts at the RIT [email protected] initiative. However, I also represented myself as an individual in the Free Software movement. For CopyleftConf 2020, I arrived hoping to learn more about where we, as the Free Software community, are going. I also hoped to gain a deeper ethical perspective about our digital society.

Me excitingly looking up to the main stage, holding my CopyleftConf 2020 schedule, after having bought my ticket earlier that same morning.
Me excitingly holding my CopyleftConf 2020 schedule after having bought my ticket earlier that same morning.

Event reports take many forms. Since CopyleftConf 2020 is structured in a unique format, my event report is structured as follows:

  • At a glance: structure and key takeaways: High-level overview of what CopyleftConf 2020 was like. What the biggest ideas on my mind were at the end of the day.
  • Copyleft adopt curves: what drove copyright adoption then (or now?): Musings on the history of copyleft and movement building.
  • Free Software, but for kids: Children and teenagers are already building open source communities. How do we include the next generation?
  • Where are we going?: Software ethics and copyleft licensing.
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Maladjusted

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1967)

Why FOSS is still not on activist agendas

On December 13th, 2006, author Bruce Byfield reflected on why he thought Free and Open Source Software (F.O.S.S.) was not on activist agendas. My interpretation of his views are that a knowledge barrier about technology makes FOSS less accessible, the insular nature of activism makes collaboration difficult, and FOSS activists reaching out to other activists with shared values should be encouraged. On December 13th, 2019, is FOSS on activist agendas? The answer is not black or white, but a gray somewhere in the middle. This is my response to Byfield’s article, thirteen years later, on what he got right but also what he left out.

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What does it mean to be an American?

I can’t help but feel this period in history is significant, if only for what is yet to come of this global political climate. Each day I read the news, a mix of positive and negative connotations blurs through my subconscious: paragraphs of words about people far away, words about events that happened when I was asleep. Heavy paragraphs and words that seem void of emotion, but carry all the weight of a freight train. These articles, paragraphs, and collection of words are the paint of perspective, and as much as they are overwhelming, they are also equally so liberating.

Across this spectrum of bold headlines and addicting scrolling, I began to wonder about identity. What determines how we choose to identify where we originate from? What makes us decide to disassociate from our birthplace? What parts of our culture make us proud and content and what parts are like fresh wounds withheld from time and space needed to heal? I started to wonder about my own identity and what it means to me to be defined as an American.

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