The contact to Hipatia resulted in the insight that in South America there is some rather strong connection between (classical) social movements and Free Software. This is interesting because in Europe and other highly industrialized regions there is no such connection and there are also theoretical reasons which make such a connection unlikely.


The debate started with a post of StefanMerten: wiki:Archive_ox-en:03726.html. In this post he posed a couple of questions:

  • What kind of connection is there between social movements and Free Software exactly? What is the nature of this connection? How strong is it really?

    Answers from wiki:Archive_ox-en:03727.html:

    It seems to me that it is about embedded values, and about prefiguring the new society by present actions.


    If this is so, then the use of free software, which creates new social relations, creates a new 'reality' through its usage, and embeds new values such as sharing and nonproprietary relationships, seem to be a natural fit.

    Answers from wiki:Archive_ox-en:03728.html:

    On the third chapter of the dissertation I've examined some of the possible reasons why the free software movement on Latin America most of times use the expression "free software" and almost never "open source", and which characteristics and qualities the Latin American movement enphasize about FOSS (i.e., independence from foreign) countries.

    Answers from wiki:Archive_ox-en:03730.html:

    The "social" part of free software is often a bit lacking. A lot of FS hackers just aren't very social. Unfortunately I have seen the same with a lot of people who are heavily into Wikipedia.


    I have worked for CEPES, an NGO in Peru, and they were aware of free software and its importance. But they seemed an exception. Brazil might be a different situation

    Answers from wiki:Archive_ox-en:03731.html:

    There is some specific places where you can find gnu/linux in Brazil. It's not a thing spread in the whole country.


    There is the telecentros. Most of them use free software but it depends on the region.

    And I think it is correct to say that most of the NGO are aware of free software but, in fact, not many are using it.

    On the left-wing / alternativa media (with whom I've been working some years), most have changed their servers to free software, although just a few use free software on their desktops.

    Answers from wiki:Archive_ox-en:03733.html:

    so, i dont see the point in generalizing the state of SL in LA according to one experience in one particular country, in colombia from where i am, there's a strong and growing community but the government had 2 weeks ago the visit from Bush and Gates at the same time....the colombian president Alvaro Uribe is a big fan of them so you can imagine the gov support FLOSS has in colombia.

    Answers from wiki:Archive_ox-en:03751.html:

    As Michael Bauwens, I think that Free Software is only a part of a more global reality. A reality which could be specified as the new non market practices allowed by the ICTs.


    Some parts of the leftist nationalistic parties in power (but non only them) see in FLOSS a way to save money that otherwise would go to Microsoft (or other foreign corporations), and a way to stimulate the national informatics industry. To a certain extent you can call that a sort of "social movement", since they act for a specific change in society, but it is not a "classical" social movement, nor a "mass" or very "anti-capitalistic" one.


    Going back to the original question, the connection between social movements and FS et al, I would, like Michael, see as most important what he calls "the embedded values, and about prefiguring the new society by present actions... new values such as sharing and non proprietary relationships".

    The most important weakness of all social movements provoked by the inhuman aspects of capitalism is the conviction that there is nothing beyond capitalism. You are then condemned to accept the capitalist logic as "natural" and to accept with fatalism your almost total impotence.

    Social practices that may show that humans can organize themselves in a different way, in a non capitalist way, is thus a vital element to overcome that deadlock. Helping to develop the visibility of what could be a non capitalist society is certainly one the most important connections between FS, et al. and social movements. At a more immediate level, the new ICT and the "FS spirit" may transform the social movements themselves, the way they organize, their goals and means, increasing their power and fruitfulness.

    Answers from wiki:Archive_ox-en:03780.html:

    At least some part of this connection seems to be motivated by the fact that Free Software is (usually) also gratis software. Since money is a big issue in those (classical) social movements gratis availability of software comes in handy.


    However, people say that in less industrialized countries pirate copying is the norm and the prize of proprietary software effectively reduces to the price of the burned CD. Long ago Graham reported this for Russia and it would be interesting to learn how the situation is in South America.


    Another part of the connection seems to be a more cultural aspect. One Biella participant quoted people from those (classical) social movements: "Free Software is just the way we are."

  • Why in contrast is there no strong connection between Free Software and social movements in more industrialized countries?

    Answers from wiki:Archive_ox-en:03727.html:

    Could it be that the 'classic' social movements, of the labour movement, have not only been weakened, but are totally integrated in the state, and have been themselves in power for so long.


    Financially, because they are richer, they have perhaps less incentive to adopt such practices?

    Answers from wiki:Archive_ox-en:03751.html:

    The real development of these connections is ahead, in the future. Even if the development of the new ICT has been spectacular in recent decades, it is far from reaching even the majority of world population. Even in the most "wired" countries, only a small minority of the low-wage population has an idea of what FS or Wikipedia mean. Things are changing allover the world, but it will take time before the main protagonists of important social movements get familiar with all the possibilities given by the new ICT and the "FS spirit".

    Answers from wiki:Archive_ox-en:03780.html:

    One very smart answer to this question was: "Are there (classical) social movements in these countries?"

  • What are the goals of these social movements and how does Free Software help these? How can Free Software help?

    Answers from wiki:Archive_ox-en:03751.html:

    By the way, I just read that beginning March, in Copenhagen, during a week of fights between the police and youths defending the symbolic Ungdomshuset (House of youth) sold by the new mayor, Internet and mobile phones played also a useful role. The police draw the conclusion that it was necessary to find a way to trouble that kind of communication, specially a network of Internet sites.

    Answers from wiki:Archive_ox-en:03798.html:

    I start to think that this is the most important question at all. Can't the goal of (classical) social movements always be expressed in terms of money? The name "workers movement" for instance is a strong hint to this because this work is about money.

    The goals of the Free Software movement, however, can not be expressed in terms of money. May be this is the fundamental difference!

  • Do these movements help Free Software? Can they help? If so: How?

  • What are commonalities and differences between Free Software and social movements?

    Answers from wiki:Archive_ox-en:03728.html:

    http://www.grain.org/i/?id=38 describes a link between Free Software and Free Seeds movement because they understand that they have an important commonality: The fight for Free Knowledge.

    Answers from wiki:Archive_ox-en:03751.html:

    A social movement could be defined as a movement involving a more or less extended part of the society acting in order to try to have an effect on a specific aspect (or even on all aspects ) of social life.

  • Can this phenomenon of the strong connection between Free Software and social movements in South America be compared to other phenomenons happening around Free Software?

    Answers from wiki:Archive_ox-en:03780.html:

    IMHO there is a simple case to compare: Usage of Free Software by corporations. If it turns out that Free Software is mostly used because it is gratis then there is no difference to corporations which use Free Software because it's cheaper.

  • Does this phenomenon relate to the things we learned about Free Culture in South America / Brazil and if so how?

Notions and concepts

(Classical) social movements
The term has been introduced by the original questions in wiki:Archive_ox-en:03726.html.

Oekonux/Debates/FreeSoftwareAndSocialMovements (last edited 2008-01-18 19:42:38 by StefanMerten)

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