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First Monday: Internet, Innovation, and Open Source: Actors in the Network

Jan 14, 2001, 15:05 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Ilkka Tuomi)

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"This paper describes the evolution of the Linux operating system, and studies dynamics of socio-technical change using Linux as a case example. Theoretical models of community-based practice and learning are combined with actor-network theory, and the characteristics of the open source development model are described using the introduced theoretical concepts. The paper analyses the growth and development of Linux and its development community, and shows how the development community evolves into an ecology of community-centered practices...."

"A distinctive characteristic of open source projects, when compared with traditional corporate software development projects, is the way intellectual property rights are handled. One key innovation in open source has been the GNU General Public License (Stallman, 1999), which has made it possible to legally improve and adopt software developed by others, at the same time facilitating continuous improvement...."

"At this point we have two complementary proposals for understanding evolution of socio-technical systems. The community-based view argued that knowledge, technology, and learning occurs in practice-related communities, and that practices are embedded in material and technological artifacts. In such a context, learning both socializes community members, as Lave and Wenger noted, and creates new forms of activity and new products, as Engeström argued. Actor-network theory, in contrast, argued that human and non-human actors are symmetrical, and that they can often be replaced with each others. The key idea was that the complexity of sub-networks can be reduced by translation, which makes one actant able to stand for a whole sub-network."

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