by James Corbett
Global Research TV
December 15, 2013
As governments and corporations around the world move to make their actions and products ever more opaque, a counter-movement is rallying around the opposite of flag of openness and transparency. Borrowing its metaphor from the programming creed of “open source,” this movement is moving beyond the world of bits and bytes to find innovative, collaborative and open solutions to a whole host of problems confronting our everyday lives. This is the GRTV Backgrounder on Global Research TV.
“Open source” is a concept that derives from the digital world of bits and bytes. Although the term itself originated in a strategy session in Palo Alto in February 1998 on the occasion of the release of the Netscape source code, the idea of “opening the source,” or allowing the users of a product to examine, modify, copy and share its source code pre-dates that meeting, or even the digital age itself. Hobbyists and enthusiasts of various crafts have often shared their designs for products as a point of pride or pursued the design of new products as a pastime without seeking monetary reward, but in recent decades, spurred by the open source software revolution, this idea has begun to take on a life of its own.
So what exactly does “open source” mean in the computing context?
Essentially, open source software is software that allows users to inspect, change and share the source code of the program. Instead of passive consumers of a program, users become part of a community to which they can choose to contribute if they are capable and inclined. The difference from everyday consumer culture, where shoppers simply line up to buy products that are already in their final form, and it is almost never expected that shoppers will actually try to open up or modify those products.
The open source concept is one that is well examined in the programming community and conferences around the world are devoted to discussing the implications of open source software and hardware. One of these conferences is fOSSa, an annual open source conference hosted by Inria, a public science and technology institute in France dedicated to academic research on computer science and mathematics.
fOSSA is not your average open source software conference, however. With a vision of exploring the borders of open source culture and the meaning of openness itself, the fOSSa conference explores different, non-computer oriented implementations of the open source concept each year. This year’s conference was held late last month in Lille, France, and included presentations on a variety of innovative projects and ideas, both in the digital world and in the real world.
One of those presentations involved OSVehicle, a project for an open source vehicle that has so far designed a road-legal car chassis that is downloadable for free from OSVehicle.com and which can be assembled from a kit in under one hour.
Open source evangelist Jan Wildeboer presented a lecture on open source identity.
The conference also featured a presentation from James Corbett on Open Source Journalism
The idea of openness is one that goes beyond the boundaries of software code, and is beginning to transform the way that people examine their relationship to the products that they use, and those around them.
Openness as a concept is one that has revolutionary potential, not just in the way that products are manufactured or distributed, but in the way that it transforms people from passive consumers into active members of a community. And in an age where our lives are increasingly dominated by the opaque actions and pronouncements of central bankers, the fiat decrees of politicians in far-off locales, and the mass-produced consumer fodder of elite mega-corporations, this change in perception brings with it the possibility of a true change in the global economy and in human understanding itself.