An Ethnographic Study of FLOSS: Towards an STS Analysis of Free/Open Source Software Production

Day, Allan. 2011. An Ethnographic Study of FLOSS: Towards an STS Analysis of Free/Open Source Software Production. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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The thesis argues that, contrary to previous analyses of the topic, Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) must be understood as an assemblage of interconnected software projects, rather than being a singular entity. It also argues that a detailed understanding of these projects' production activities is necessary in order to gain an adequate understanding of the wider FLOSS phenomenon. In order to address these omissions in existing treatments of the topic, the thesis presents the results of a detailed, long-term, ethnographic study of a FLOSS project, the analysis of which is informed by actor-network and assemblage theory. In doing so, the material components of GNOME are a major focus, including the project's code, its communications and development infrastructure, and the role of contributors' bodies in their production activities. These aspects of the project are shown to be subject to various territorialising activities which seek to establish it and its products as having particular characteristics, and which also generate the project as a definite, delineated entity. These shared material aspects of the project are also argued to be crucial to participants' abilities to associate and collaborate with one another, and are shown to be subject to normative prescriptions and political contests. The thesis makes the case that the study of FLOSS is able to inform a more general sociological understanding of the consequences and possibilities associated with digital technologies and goods.

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Thesis (Doctoral)

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Date Deposited:

22 Oct 2012 15:47

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 10:29


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