Free Software and art

Similarities and differences

author:Stefan Merten, Raoul Victor
Introduction to Oekonux
Characteristics of Free Software
  • Examples for Free Software: Linux, KDE, OpenOffice.org, Gimp, ...

    Free Software is everywhere

  • The actual product is gratis

    However: Price plays a role, but is not crucial

  • Source code is available

    Important for the most of the following four rights, which every user of Free Software has

    • Software may be used for any purpose
    • The sources may be studied and changed
    • The software may be distributed arbitrarily
    • Changed versions may be distributed arbitrarily

    This is guaranteed by a license

    Is there a similar concept in art?

    In fact licenses like the Creative Commons allow many restrictions


Free in the sense of freedom

Mode of production of Free Software

This is a very important characteristic

In the workshop: How can this be compared to the mode of production of art?

  • Without money

    Developers finance themselves by other means

    Similar to other hobbies

  • Effort is taken on a voluntary basis

    • Necessity of concrete solutions to problems

      Is there any analog concept in the realm of art?

      May be exactly this is the difference between fine art and useful art

    • Selbstentfaltung of the developers

      Programming is fun (for some people)

      Other activities may serve the Selbstentfaltung also

      For instance art...

  • Manifold self-organized in small, independent groups

  • International in the Internet


Often a high quality results

Quality is a direct result of the mode of production

In the workshop: Is this similar in art?

Germ form and five-step

This is the Oekonux perspective on overcoming capitalism

  • Germ form is something structural new existing in the old

    Not the new in a small version

    Rather a new logic

  • Germ forms develop in a five-step

    • Formation of the germ form
    • Crisis of the old form
    • Germ form becomes an important dimension of development in the old form
    • Germ form becomes dominant
    • Restructuring of the over all process


Free Software is in third step

Free in the sense of Free Software

This freedom is indicated by the capital "F"

  • Freedom is result of the process

    • Results are Free because of the process

      Can be used by anyone who needs them

      Implies that they are available without payment

    • I.e. unlimited externally

  • Freedom is pre-condition of the process

    • The process doesn't work without Freedom

      Freedom enables contributions from all sides

    • I.e. unlimited internally

  • One's Freedom enables the Freedom of others

    Instead of limiting it like in abstract freedom


Defines several positive feedback cycles

This is where the power comes from

The onionskin model thesis
  • Free Software was first

    Already established quite well

  • Culture is coming next

    • Wikipedia
    • Free Science like in OpenAccess movement
    • Free Music like in Jamendo
    • Free Culture like in Brazil
  • [Probably some more onionskins here]

  • Complete societal production is last

    Including material production

    Only small hints so far


The new logic establishes in steps

This relates to the way the germ form becomes more and more important

This is similar to how capitalism spread

Which as we know was a quite successful strategy

The utopia: GPL society

GPL society means a formation of society, which is based on the principles of the development of Free Software

Until now it can be imagined only in rough outlines

  • Means of production make Selbstentfaltung possible
  • Useful activities are Selbstentfaltung
    • Societal and individual utility is directly intertwined
    • Automation makes necessary activities superfluous
  • Information and goods are Freely available
  • Overcoming of the labor society
    • No labor, no commodities
    • No exchange, no money
    • No alienation


Freedom of the one becomes the precondition of the freedom of all

And vice versa

Some thoughts on art
Fine art and useful art

Important distinction

  • Fine art

    • The artifact has no use beyond being artistic / beautiful / some other symbolic value

      That is: No intentional use beyond this

      Granted: Distinction between symbolic and other use values may be hard sometimes

    • Fine art only changes something in the mind of people

  • Useful art / craft

    • The artifact has some non-symbolic use

      And this use is intended during creation

    • Artistic features / beauty can be deeply embedded

      A boring business application can nonetheless have a beautiful architecture

    • Useful art can be used to change the world


Intended usefulness as the main difference

May be also between Free Software and art?

Artists, beauty, Free Software

We are not art experts...

  • Artists have special skills
    • These allow them to produce art
    • Free Software: Often written by people with special skills
  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
    • Many kinds of beauty can only be understood by trained people
    • Software can be beautiful


There are some similarities between art and Free Software

Authorship in Free Software
Contributions to Free Software
  • Many different forms of contributions
    • Main artifacts: coding, graphical design
    • Supporting artifacts: documentation, project web site
    • Infrastructure: software design, testing
    • General care: maintainership, discussion
    • Supplements: bug reports, fixes, feature requests
    • Hardware: servers, connectivity


Free Software projects need many different skills

This is a feature typical for industrial projects

This is probably different from typical art projects

Authorship in Free Software
  • Authorship relates to artifacts

    • However: Many other important contributions beyond working on artifacts
  • Small projects often consist of a single author / contributor

    Sometimes getting minor outside contributions

    Probably matches best the typical artist?

  • Bigger projects have many authors / contributors

    • Many cooperating contributors with specialized skills

      Explicitly named: authors and maintainers

    • Division of labor is typical and welcome

      Are there similar art projects?


Divison of labor in art?

Authorship and ownership
  • Authorship usually constitutes ownership

    Copyright regulates this explicitly

  • Ownership in general

    • The right to forbid others to use things
    • Useful to make money
  • Ownership in Free Software

    • The duty to allow others to use things

    • Prevents making money

      Because making money depends on scarcity


Authorship has different consequences in Free Software

Keyword: Selbstentfaltung

The notion plays a central role in Oekonux

  • More than self-realization

    Self-realization focuses too much on the isolated individual

    Selbstentfaltung understands humans as societal beings

  • Selbstentfaltung is "autonomy-in-interdependence"

    • Dependency is not reduction but extension of own possibilities

      Because others from whom I depend create possibilities by their actions I would not have on my own

  • Content of Selbstentfaltung is different for every individual

    For some it is developing Free Software

    For others it might be creating art

    • Leverages the differences between people

      Instead of their equality


In general Selbstentfaltung is a desirable goal

Keyword: Alienation

In a way: The counter notion to Selbstentfaltung

Plays a central role in Oekonux

  • Describes the relationship between humans and things or humans

  • Influences which are external to the concrete relationship

    • Default example: money

      Wage labor means alienation with respect to the concrete activity

      Commodities mean alienation with respect to the material qualities of the products

    • Example: Software licenses

      Licences are external to the software

      Only control the social relationship

  • Makes Selbstentfaltung impossible

    • Implies: Makes superior quality impossible

    Superior quality results from the unalienated relationship to the product


In general alienation prevents emancipation

Simply and Doubly Free Software

Important distinction of concepts

  • Simply Free Software

    • Freedom for users

      Standard rights of Free Software apply

    • Commercial Free Software

      Software on contract

  • Doubly Free Software

    • Freedom for users and producers
    • Producers are active on non-alienated basis
    • No commercial Free Software


How Free is art?

Follow up
Questions for the workshop
  • Questions:
    • Selbstentfaltung / creativity
      • How does Selbstentfaltung seen in Free Software relate to creativity seen in art?
      • How does Selbstentfaltung in art influence the quality of artistic work? Is quality art possible under alienated conditions?
      • How can the mode of production of Free Software be compared to the mode of production of art?
      • Does it make sense to distinguish between payed art and Doubly Free Art?
    • Authorship in Free Software and in art
      • Is there something like Free Art and if so how is it expressed (licenses)?
      • What is the relationship of an artist to his/her work? 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? What could be reasons for those similarities and differences?
      • Software fulfills a (technical) function while (fine) 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?



StefanMerten/Talks/KLab9Worksheet/Slides (last edited 2009-06-02 16:54:34 by StefanMerten)

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