Thursday, March 22, 2012

P'sing off a hacker can be amazingly productive...

So, I've worked my way through the videos and readings for open content. Richard Stallman was not gnu to me (get it???!) but somehow I missed learning about Linus Torvald as I was working my way through my courses in Edtech at UBC. As an educator who was trying to be responsible about not infringing copyright when producing learning activities and presentations for teaching, I found the GNU license for images and other content a life-saver. Although I am an admirer of the CC-license, the GNU one is just really straightforward and I am really comfortable in the open exchange of ideas and resources (not trying to get rich, just trying to make the teaching and learning exchange more interesting for teacher and students!)
I have to say that I've found this in-depth coverage of hacker culture somewhat disturbing. Not so much the history of the development of free software and open source (I noticed that the incredibly mind-numbingly picky, self-interested analysis of the sharing and collaborative building happens when people start trying to make serious money from this stuff) but Cory Doctorow's presentation at the 28c3 Congress.
The Revolution OS video gave me a much broader understanding of how open source developed and the role of big players that I've only experienced peripherally before (Red Hat, Apache and Mozilla's Firefox). But I have to say I went away thinking less of many of them. The egos that many of the participants exhibited as they explained the significance of their actions reminded me of Sheldon and the guys on Big Bang Theory in that there are these incredibly bright but often quite narrow people who seem very disconnected from society. As you might guess from my post title, it seemed to me that many of them were motivated by pique - especially Richard Stallman. At least he was honest about the petty frustration that drove him out of the comfortable academic interchange at MIT and motivated him to create a movement. Amazing to think so much can come from such a seemingly insignificant series of events.
Cory Doctorow identified some risks that I hadn't even been aware of in his presentation at 28c3 "The coming war on general computation" and now I'm leaving the whole open versus corporate software and copyright and optimal length of copyright and DRM etc behind. Now I'm just worried about how we can possibly stop governments, private corporations, institutions and control freaks from building and deploying computer-based technologies that control (or could control) what we do. My paranoid tendencies have been re-awakened. And it didn't help to listen to a news report about the growing use of unmanned drones in Canada! Did you know that they used one to judge crowd sizes during the Wall Street protest movements (and record everyone who was there I bet).
Maybe it's time to get unplugged and disconnect...but then how will I know who's watching?

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