Two Bits by Chris Kelty is Great
A few days ago I finished reading Chris Kelty‘s wonderful book Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software (Duke University Press, 2008). During the academic year, I could not get to it but it was a treat to read it at a time in which it could be the only big thing that I was reading (as opposed to reading it alongside course readings). While I would have benefited greatly from reading it last year (when my involvement in the issues that it treats really began to expand), it will do me much good in the days ahead, as it relates very centrally to the work that I am now doing on scholarly communications issues. It provides invaluable context on the emergence and present-day life of open source software, but it also offers a range of valuable theoretical, interpretive and methodological tools that are portable to other contexts. The book also examines, in a very sophisticated way, the manner in which the processes and ideas and values of free and open source software have been extended into projects like Connexions (about which my department held a really fruitful meetup recently) and the Creative Commons license system. All of this work is done very artfully and in ways that we can all learn from.
This post is no surogate for a careful review, but I want to flag the book’s importance to me and to suggest that it is going to be touchstone work for many of the projects that I am increasingly involved in. More ambitiously, I want to plead with my friends and colleagues to read it so that we can talk about it and draw upon it in our efforts together and in our conversations. It is a great work of ethnography, history, and theory. It is also an experiment that modulates the very processes that it describes, as is evident on the excellent and innovative website that Chris has built to extend the book. One can purchase the book the conventional way, but it is also available to freely read and remix in a variety for formats via the website. Some of the background for this is also provided in the “Anthropology of/in Circulation” project that Chris led and that I particupated in. Find the article version of that project here in IUScholarWorks Repository.
Thank you Chris.