Michael Goldhaber on Thu, 18 May 2000 19:21:49 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> OFSS01: First Orbiten Free Software Survey]

Byfield makes an  important point.

Incidentally, in my 1986 book Reinventing Technology, I pointed out that
introducing technologies which gain wide use is a form of legislation
uninfluenced by democracy.
In the case of open source, inevitably the code that is produced is tailored to
the worldivews of the producers, unless the users' comments, referred to by
Rishab have any sort of corrective effect.

Are there openings for a more wide ranging, rather than technical, set of
discussions re what a wider set of potential users would want open source code
to be? Presumably, those of us who are inexpert at programming would not only
make some very hard-to-fulfill requests, but we may be unduly influenced by
existing commercial software in imagining what is possible.

t byfield wrote:

> mgoldh@well.com (Wed 05/17/00 at 09:36 AM -0700):
> > One thing about the study results that struck me is their general
> >  similarity in shape of distribution  and authorship to a simlar analysis
> >  of publications in science. Most scientists turn out to have only one
> >  publication in thier name; a tiny percentage contribute very many. these
> >  statistics were first discussed about 40myears ago by Derek J. DeSolla
> >  Price, included, I believe, in a book of his  called "Big Science, Little
> >  Science." It would be interesting to make a more detailed comparison. I
> >  suspect the factors leading to these distributions may actually be
> >  similar in both fields.
> an analogous study: richard delgado, 'the imperial scholar: reflec-
> tions on a review of civil rights literature' (in crenshaw, gotanda,
> peller, thomas, _critical race theory_ [nyc: new press, 1995]), rev.
> and reprinted as 'the imperial scholar revisited: how to marginalize
> outside writing, ten years later' (pennsylvania law rev. 140 [1992],
> 1349).
> delgado doesn't analyze this phenomenon in latinate or nominalistic
> terms like 'contribution,' though; rather, he talks about how legal
> scholars (white men, not coincidentally) always cite each other and,
> of course, manufacture their own 'success'--and others' lack thereof.
> this is the normal course of things; but when race and gender form an
> alternative matrix against which this process can be examined, this
> procedure becomes much clearer. and when The Law is at stake, its
> consequences are quite serious--particularly insofar as law is based
> on 'representational' narratives, because racial and gender biases
> are conflated with the translation of the 'events' into legal formal-
> ities.
> when it comes to science, the impact of this 'confusion' can be less
> or more clear; it depends on the field of science. you'd be very hard
> pressed to argue that the theory of the big bang has much effect on
> social relations, though intellectually there's no question that it
> derives from turn-of-the-century catholic attempts to come up with a
> scientistic christian cosmology (abbé lemaitre's 'atom primitif')--
> and, as such, can be seen as a rearguard attempt to preserve certain
> cultural traditions. but when you're talking about medicine, the idea
> that male bodies are 'normal' and female bodies 'deviant' is alive
> and well--in drug-testing, for example, where fears that an experimental
> drug's unforeseen consequences might harm women's 'reproductive systems'
> (i guess men don't have a 'reproductive systems'...). these methods--
> for testing drugs? from preserving male hegemony?--are then translated
> into health-care systems' gender biases in formularies, where men are
> far more likely to have the power to pick and choose medicines because
> there's a 'body' of literature to support the normalcy of their own
> particular deviancy from those norms. women, on the other hand, are
> much more likely to encounter a discursive structure in which their
> 'deviancy' appears at every level: an insurance system's formulary
> doesn't cover drug X, here, just use drug Y, it's almost the same,
> most women don't have a problem with it so just shut up and take it,
> etc., etc. never mind that, technically (and despite infanticidal
> policies both formal and informal worldwide), women are the majority,
> men the minority. never mind embryological morphology. and definitely
> never mind much simpler ways of thinking about these things, which
> klaus theweleit summed up very nicely in a footnote: (iirc) 'i'm not
> about to use literature to make this point. anyone interested in
> pursuing it should discuss it at length with actual women.'
> and what does this have to do with this study about software? well,
> now, that's a very interesting question, isn't it? if you think the
> answer is 'not much,' you're--in a word--wrong. the fact that soft-
> ware development is OVERWHELMINGLY a masculine activity is neither
> in its origins a coincidence nor in its consequences immaterial.
> while i have my issues with lessig's book _code and other laws of
> cyberspace_, his notion that technical and juridical fields are
> collpasing into a real-time regulatory regime in which the distinc-
> tion between what you will/not do and can/not do become one--thereby
> effacing the foundation of western ethics--is worth considering. and
> the fact that this regulatory regime is masculine in its origins
> (and, presumably, in its consequences) comes as no surprise.
> cheers,
> t

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