Third Time’s the Charm for First Flight

February 2, 2015

Wow! I’m a senior in my last semester of college! Resume? Check. Jobs? Check. Senioritis? Check? Check. Yes that’s all very scary, but nostalgia, happiness, and related emotion-y-stuff concerning moving through life deserves its own article. As part of my undergraduate degree, I’m enrolled in the first-of-its-kind Open Source and Free Culture minor, which requires extensive study of the expansive FOSS community. One component of FOSS that is often not emphasized in computer education is the relation of software to businesses, the law, and society. Particularly, in this class, free software’s place within the confines of courtrooms and capitalism.

It is an exciting thing to study, given how much free software is used in commercial applications, as well as the lack of court precedence for cases involving OSI licenses. Also, the past couple years have seen an explosion in digital issues which are either beginning to affect or have the potential to affect greatly, the analog parts of society. Some of these issues include legislation like SOPA. Such bills and laws as SOPA and PIPA, while usually containing small slivers of good intentions, typically reflect not only the ignorance of their writers and sponsors, but as well the heavy influence of lobbying (which can skew the boundary between donations and bribes). Across tech issues, some of our post powerful politicians say the scariest things.

Numerous statements by a range of people, from the director of the FBI, to the Prime Minister of the UK, set bleak precedents for the future of technology policy. Of rising importance are issues like legality of encryption, hacking and crime, DDoS, digital currency, and digital political activism, et al…Because of technology’s deep integration in society, everyone, including politicians, need to better understand technology and the culture it engenders.

The first assignment in this class is homologous with that of two other core classes within the minor. The tl;dr of it is to write a blog entry and patch a git repo. The first two times I’ve done this assignment, the locus was code. Arguably at no better time in history, the shift has turned to culture. To be sure, code still matters most. Without it, we’d be discussing nothing. But the culture, including how we perceive the code, and how well we understand it all, heavily shapes the future of technology for everyone.

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