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[jox] RFC: article abstract

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 Hi all
Somone submitted an article abstract to the journal. In line with our proposed article development model I am posting this to the list in the hope that it will generate some useful feedback which I can then forward to the author so that his/her following article submission will be improved. 
Thanks for any comments, 
Extending the grounding ideologies of Free/Libre/Open Source Software
(FLOSS) beyond the domain of software faces a particular hurdle: many
digital things have no equivalent of "source code" to speak of. One
approach to dealing with this is to focus on the method of production.
Thus non-software digital things which are peer-produced (following
the Open Source methodology for example) are presumed to be inscribed
with the same ideologies as FLOSS.

What does Wikipedia have in common with Linux, besides the facts that
both are (cost) free and are produced by a voluntary community?
Moreover this word ‘open’ is used very freely in such terms as Open
Access publishing, Open Educational Resources, Open Standards, etc.
which all seem to share some basic notions. But a scholarly article,
even if published as Open Access, is not community produced. Several
important FLOSS tools are not community produced, even if by being
Open Source they could be. This suggests that the commonality that
brings all these digital things together, and provides for a prima
facie impression of online freedom, lies beyond the specific
technicalities of their production. Benkler and Nissenbaum have
pointed out how what they call “Commons-based Peer Production” of
digital goods embodies virtues. I contend that the shared nature of
various online technologies that are ‘open’ or depend on some sort of
crowdsourcing can be found in the virtues they embody. I would like to
present an alternative approach to discerning those digital goods
which have the same desirable ethico-political virtues as FLOSS, based
on the possibilities for action that are afforded to the user by such

One can observe that several goods found online sharing a discourse of
openness have characteristics that make them readily available and
exploitable by the community, both for the benefit of individuals and
of the community itself. Within specific contexts, or communities,
certain digital goods make themselves more readily available for
exploitation for the benefit of all. Using Peter Kropotkin’s notion of
Mutual Aid as an analogy, I call the class of digital goods that
posses this beneficial potential Mutual Benefit Digital Goods (MBDGs).
What makes a digital good prone to exploitation for common benefit
also depends on the tools which allow its meaningful comprehension.
Building on Carl Mitcham’s idea of Open Source software as a convivial
tool, I explore how Ivan Illich’s concept of conviviality is
applicable to digital things, software and goods. Convivial tools are
technologies that allow a person to flourish within one’s own context,
rather than inhibit self development. What this means for
non-rivalrous goods such as digital goods is that they are
appropriable. The user of an MBDG can make that good one’s own and
manipulate it, using convivial tools, to yield a new instantiation of
the original good derived from the original, but new in that it
expresses something of the user/copier/producer him/herself. It is
appropriability that distinguishes MBDGs from other digital goods. No
MBDG available online can match this characterisation perfectly, and
there are several ways in which the appropriability of a digital good
can be limited. But this analysis can serve as a basis for
understanding the extension of the ideals of FLOSS beyond the field of
software development.

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