Are international open source attitudes really different?

It's romantic to think that agrarian societies which share goods are nobler than our Western attitude of hustle-and-bustle, but I can get that renting The Gods Must be Crazy.

I have always been intrigued by the idea that attitudes toward open source in the developing world are different from those of Americans.

Ill-informed, sometimes. But different?

Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, managing editor of First Monday, is among those pushing this meme. In his paper Cooking Pot Markets he argues that the open source model makes perfect sense in collectivized societies, like India, where people collaborate to produce dances and songs and share cooking pots.

Open source collaboration concepts that seem foreign to Americans come naturally to agrarian societies where no man can hope to be an island and survive, Ghosh writes. It's not altruism, just a knowledge that self-interest is often collective.

My problem with this is that it's not that foreign. American history is filled with examples of people working together as communities. From dance and theater companies in our own time to farmers' co-ops and labor unions, the idea of collective self-interest is as American as, well, the Pilgrims.

Why is a corporation an individual under the law? I think it's because we see it having a collective self-interest that goes beyond that of its individual owners or managers. And the open source movement didn't start in India, but right here. This is also where most of the open source movement's money is being made, and where the investments in it are heaviest.

It's romantic to think that agrarian societies which share goods are nobler than our Western attitude of hustle-and-bustle, but I can get that renting The Gods Must be Crazy. Or, if you prefer, Oklahoma.

 

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