Proposal for a contribution to KLab9


Stefan Merten together with Gregers Petersen and Raoul Victor would like to contribute to KLab9. They all participate in the Oekonux project. From the homepage of this project: "In Project Oekonux different people with different opinions and different methods study the economic and political forms of Free Software. An important question is, whether the principles of the development of Free Software may be the foundation of a new economy which may be the base for a new society."

Since 1999 the Oekonux project created a huge number of building blocks to understand the phenomenon as well as the success of Free Software. A central part of the theory is that in Free Software we see a germ form of a new way of production which is able to overcome capitalism. More and more areas beyond software but with similar phenomenons are subject of Oekonux - such as Wikipedia or OpenAccess.

The main goal of the proposed contribution is to explore similarities and differences between thoughts developed in Oekonux and the realm of art. It is our wish that this helps all participants and those reading the results to improve their understanding of phenomenons like Free Software on the one hand and art on the other hand and to develop ideas for concrete action.

For best results we suggest to do a presentation first in one of the presentation slots in the morning. The purpose of this presentation is to give some idea of fundamental Oekonux thoughts focusing on those aspects which seem most interesting for art.

Second we suggest a workshop where based on the presented thoughts we will together explore the similarities and differences between Free Software and art as far as the potential for political change is concerned. The goal of this exploration is to create a better understanding on

  • if and how art can learn from Free Software
  • if and how Free Software can learn from art

in this respect.

Abstract for the presentation

The presentation selects three topics and explains them for Free Software using an Oekonux perspective:

  • Authorship in Free Software

    Many Free Software projects consist of many contributors with different roles ranging from reporting a single bug to maintaining a project. Other Free Software projects consist of a single developer. These structures are explained in the presentation. The relation of authorship and ownership will also be touched.

  • Ownership and licenses in Free Software

    One of the basic fundaments of Free Software are the licenses. Licenses in Free Software are means to give rights to people. In some sense licenses create an ownership relation. The presentation explains how these licenses work and what results from the licenses.

  • Selbstentfaltung (creativity, self-realization)

    In Oekonux the Selbstentfaltung of the developers is considered as one of two major forces which make Free Software successful. The presentation explains why Selbstentfaltung is so important and what results from the Selbstentfaltung - for example the superior quality of Free Software compared to proprietary software.

    The terms Single and Doubly Free Software are explained. Single Free Software is Free by the license but written under alienated conditions such as payment. Doubly Free Software is not only Free by the license but also the developers create the Free Software driven only by Selbstentfaltung.


The workshop builds on the foundation laid by the presentation. Its purpose is to further explore the three presented topics about Free Software and compare it to the situation in art.

  • Authorship in Free Software and in art
    • What is the relationship of an artist to his/her work and is this relationship different from that of a software developer from her/his work?
    • What are similarities and differences between authorship in Free Software and art and what could be reasons for those similarities and differences?
    • Software fulfills a (technical) function while art does not. What follows from this difference?
    • What follows from the notion of authorship used in art compared to the results in Free Software?
    • If artists want to learn from Free Software what could be useful to adopt and how needs this to be adapted?
  • Ownership and licenses/copyright in Free Software and in art
    • What does copyright and ownership mean in art?
    • If the relationships between artists and art on the one hand and between developers and software on the other hand is different: Is this expressed by copyright regulations and if so how?
    • Is there something like Free Art and if so how is it expressed?
  • Selbstentfaltung / creativity
    • How does Selbstentfaltung seen in Free Software relate to creativity seen in art?
    • How does Selbstentfaltung in art influence the results of artistic work?
    • Does it make sense to distinguish between payed art and Doubly Free Art?

Given the large amount of questions this workshop should be not shorter than three hours.


Stefan Merten

Stefan Merten is a computer scientists and works in the field of software development. He does this as a job as well as engaging in Free Software projects. Stefan Merten is also engaged in political activity for many years now.

In 1999 he founded the Oekonux project in which he participates actively since then. Today he is also the official maintainer of this project.

Stefan Merten lives in Kaiserslautern (Germany).

Gregers Petersen

Gregers Petersen is an anthropologist, who presently works with a research project exploring emerging property relations in the borderland between free software developers and commercial companies. He has an ongoing interest in wireless networks and free information infrastructures. Gregers Petersen lives and works in Copenhagen and tries to combine family life with hacking anarchy into anthropology.

Raoul Victor

Raoul Victor has been a "left communist" Marxist (considering, among others, that the USSR and the other Stalinist regimes had nothing to do with true communism) since the mid 1960s. As from 2000 he has been convinced that a new technological revolution is ongoing and that the development of Free Software thinking and non-commercial practices create new positive conditions for a real overcoming of capitalism. He is retired and lives in Paris.

StefanMerten/Talks/KLab9Worksheet/Proposal (last edited 2009-06-02 16:54:20 by StefanMerten)

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