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The Net EffectRomanticism, Capitalism, and the Internet$
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Thomas Streeter

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780814741153

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814741153.001.0001

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Open Source, the Expressive Programmer, and the Problem of Property

Open Source, the Expressive Programmer, and the Problem of Property

(p.138) 6 Open Source, the Expressive Programmer, and the Problem of Property
The Net Effect

Thomas Streeter

NYU Press

This chapter looks at the open source software movement in the 1990s, which represented a rather sudden and dramatic transformation of dominant managerial principles in the high-tech industries. By 1998, companies such as Apple, IBM, and Netscape were investing heavily in open source software projects, actions that only a year or two earlier would have been considered laughably irrational. While there were economic conditions behind this, principally the Microsoft monopoly, economic forces alone cannot explain why the shift happened when it did. The chapter shows how the shift was enabled by a rearticulation of the romantic construction of computing through a retelling of the story of computer-programming-as-art that situated the narrative against, rather than for, the commodification of code. The effect of Eric Raymond's “Cathedral and Bazaar” essay and the spread of the rhetoric of open source associated with the Open Source Initiative were conditioned upon a widely experienced tension between the experiences of creating software and using computers, and the structures of reward and industrial organization that emerged from commodified software; the same romanticism that had fueled free market visions earlier in the decade was now marshaled against them.

Keywords:   open source software, computing, computer programming, romanticism

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