A Sociological Exploration of the Online Networks of Developers of Open Source Software

Dr Daniel Teghe
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This paper discusses a conceptual framework which may be used to frame an analysis of how developers of open source software form and sustain successful online collaborative communities. It is acknowledged that the rapid pace at which society is changing is due largely to globalisation and the ever increasing growth in the information flow. However, it is doubtful whether we have an adequate understanding of what sustains the growth of open source software, its future role in societal change, and the global quasi-economy that sustains it. Moreover, the motivations for individuals to build complex online collaborative networks through which they produce useful, sophisticated and free software cannot be satisfactorily explained in terms of economic rationality alone.

Using a sociological approach, this paper evaluates the usefulness of a conceptual framework that draws on the theories of postmodernity (Bauman 2000) and governmentality (Rose 1999) to create meaning about the growth and role of networks of developers of open source software in an increasingly globalised world. A number of concepts that have become popular in the sociological literature, such as social capital, community, power and liberal economic rationality, are considered within this new context, and then reframed so that they can account for how online communities can exist largely outside established economic and political systems. Although the discussion offered is principally of a conceptual nature, one case of a network of developers of open source software is used to provide an example of the practical contexts about which this discussion is concerned. The example is of a thriving and productive online community which has been built around a popular and free open source content management system (CSM).

Keywords: Open Source Software, Online Developer Networks, Social Capital, Community, Power, Theory of Postmodernity, Theory of Governmentality
Stream: Knowledge and Technology
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
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Dr Daniel Teghe

Program Coordinator, School of Social Work and Welfare Studies, Central Queensland University

Research and teaching interests in social policy, theories of social power, the development of civil society in the age of globalization, and online learning systems. Taught in a number of disciplines, including Sociology, Political and Policy Studies, Community Development and Regional Sustainable Development. Previous to becoming an academic, worked in the welfare and human services field.

Ref: T06P0265