Software is more than a set of instructions for computers: it enables (and disables) political imperatives and policies. Nowhere is the potential for radical social and political change more apparent than in the practice and movement known as "free software." Free software makes the knowledge and innovation of its creators publicly available. This liberation of code—celebrated in free software’s explicatory slogan "Think free speech, not free beer"—is the foundation, for example, of the Linux phenomenon.
Decoding Liberation provides a synoptic perspective on the relationships between free software and freedom. Focusing on five main themes—the emancipatory potential of technology, social liberties, the facilitation of creativity, the objectivity of computing as scientific practice, and the role of software in a cyborg world—the authors ask: What are the freedoms of free software, and how are they manifested? This book is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how free software promises to transform not only technology but society as well.
As Open Source software continues its successful penetration of mainstream business practice and economic thought, we’re at risk of losing sight of a critical part of what Richard Stallman meant when he said the ‘free’ part of free software is like free speech, not free beer. In Decoding Liberalism, Samir Chopra and Scott Dexter recapture and extend a part of the conversation that will ultimately be much more important than business models, patent and copyright law, or total cost of ownership for a piece of software. What does the open source model offer to political, artistic, and scientific freedom, and thus to the human enterprise of creativity beyond the guts of a computing machine? Their book is an eloquent, thoughtful, adventurous, and exciting dive into what really matters about changing the rules of code.—Steven Weber, author of The Success of Open Source
An exceptionally well-written and conceptualized work on an underexplored area of computer science. Summing Up: Highly recommended.—Choice
[A] unique, important, and sympathetic examination…Decoding Liberation unpacks the history, ethics, political economy, and aesthetic practice of free software production. Chopra and Dexter examine FOSS as a philosophically inspired social movement built by hackers and wrought through the creation of technology. There is a philosophy and politics to all technology, as the authors repeatedly point out, but FOSS practice makes these more explicit and more visible in ways that make it an ideal target for their interdisciplinary analysis. A technologically grounded and philosophical evaluation of technical practice and artifacts, Chopra and Dexter’s approach is an effective and deeply appropriate fit for FOSS.—Minds and Machines
This would be a very useful text for students looking to cover the literature on FLOSS, particularly those from a science background who wish to know more about the social and philosophical side of software development.—Theory, Culture & Society
It is the rare work in this space that I can recommend equally to the novice and expert, but Decoding Liberation is one. Additionally, individuals from a broad range of disciplines will be able to find something that resonates here. This is perhaps the work's chief value: because it is accessible to so many, it has the potential to spur further discussion on these issues in a way that many works could never expect. Decoding Liberation is a remarkable collaboration that invites further debate.—Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies
As the first sustained philosophical treatment of the Free and Open Source Software movements, Decoding Liberation achieves one thing for certain. By covering broad areas of the philosophical landscape—political philosophy, aesthetics, ethics, and philosophy of science—Chopra and Dexter have shown the range of FOSS issues that can be informed by philosophy. In opting to paint with a broad brush, they have, I believe, opened many spaces for critical dialog.—APA Newsletter on Philosophy and Computers
Contents Introduction 1. Free Software and Political Economy 2. The Ethics of Free Software 3. Free Software and the Aesthetics of Code 4. Free Software and the Scientific Practice of Computer Science 5. Free Software and the Political Philosophy of the Cyborg World Bibliography
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