Towards an Open Source Definition

Defining Concepts and Ideas of Open Source

From Wikipedia:

While open source has traditionally described a mode of software production that is collectively authored and distributed without profit according to specific rules, such as those laid out by the Open Source Initiative, it can also refer to a philosophical approach to a variety of modes of production that promote free redistribution. According to the Wikipedia definition of open source,

“The open-source software movement was born to describe the environment that the new copyright, licensing, domain, and consumer issues created.”

One of the fundamental concepts of open source is the peer-to-peer method of collective authoring, which is essential to our current efforts to create an approach that encourage collaboration towards research and production in the arts. The history of computing and telecommunications had at its origin an open source philosophy, such as ARPANET, which led to the Internet, or such renegade organizations as the Homebrew Club in Palo Alto, where Apple Computer was born in the mid-1970s, where the hacker and computer hobbyist community freely shared information. The label “open source” was first used in conjunction with the Web browser Netscape Navigator, one of the first widely used browsers after the birth of the Web in the mid-1990s.The LInux operating system is another popular software platform that spread interest in the open source philosophy.

Open source philosophy inspires transparency, non proprietary methods of production and distribution. Central is making “source code” available to anyone who wishes to be a developer of the software. In this sense, transparency leads to increased collaboration, sharing, open systems of exchange, intellectual interaction, collegial openness, the very principles that were fundamental to the creation of the Internet, and later the World Wide Web. It is largely due to the computer and software industry, led by Steve Jobs and Bill Gates respectively, that promote business practices that have brought an excessive amount of profit to the industry.

Numerous other productions and industries have adopted open source methods besides software, particularly in the sciences, when scientists engage in the exchange of information for the advancement of their respective fields of study and inquiry. You could say that the “open source” philosophy is a kind of utopian ideology, in that it promotes the free exchange of goods and services, that it has an aspirational intent to better the world, or mankind, or a particular field of study, or perhaps embraces socialist or  communistic ideologies of economic equality. It is the commodity-driven, profit-driven ideology of capitalism that runs counter to open source thinking, that ultimately intervenes and alters these efforts. The desire for economic gain and competition is ultimately what disrupts the open source spirit, such as what happened when Bill Gates began licensing and selling software in the mid 1970s when they were developing the first versions of the MS-DOS operating system for IBM.

Open source techniques date back historically in the scientific community. Here are four distinctions of pre-open source collaborative and collective techniques in the sciences:

The sociologist Robert K. Merton described the four basic elements of the community – universalism (an international perspective), communalism (sharing information), disinterestedness (removing one’s personal views from the scientific inquiry) and organized skepticism (requirements of proof and review) that accurately describe the scientific community today.