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Perspectives of Free Software as social movement

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This is one of my talks at the 2008 Congress on Free Sw and Democratization of Knowledge in Quito, Ecuador

This is one of my talks at the 2008 Congress on Free Sw and Democratization of Knowledge in Quito, Ecuador

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  • 1. Perspectives of Free SW as a Social Movement Agenda  Speaker introduction  Importance of software and digital devices in contemporary societies  Components and nature of the problem  Limits of traditional activist approaches  Why it is important to evolve Free SW activism into a mass Social Movement  What this implies for activists and educators  What Catholics can do in this space  Conclusion Quito, Congreso Internacional “Software Libre y Democratización del Conocimiento October 21-24, 2008 1 Marco Fioretti ttp://mfioretti.net marco@digifreedom.net
  • 2. Perspectives of Free SW as a Social Movement Speaker introduction  Marco Fioretti (marco@digifreedom.net)  freelance writer, activist and teacher about open digital standards, Free Software, digital technologies and the their relations and impact on education, ethics, civil rights and environmental issues.  Regular contributor of Linux.com, Linux Journal, LinuxFormat and other online and printed magazines  Author of the Family Guide to Digital Freedom (http://digifreedom.net)  Memberships: − www.digistan.org: free and open digital standards for overall growth in the global economy − www.eleutheros.it: a Catholic Approach to Information Technology (co-founder) − www.OpenDocumentFellowship.com: adoption, use and development of the OpenDocument format − www.RULE-project.org (Run Up to date Linux Everywhere, co-founder)  Home page: http://mfioretti.net Quito, Congreso Internacional “Software Libre y Democratización del Conocimiento October 21-24, 2008 2 Marco Fioretti http://mfioretti.net marco@digifreedom.net
  • 3. Perspectives of Free SW as a Social Movement Importance of software and digital devices in contemporary societies The quality of our lives and our civil rights depend every year more on which software and electronic devices are used around us and on how they are used. Even if we don't own a computer! Quito, Congreso Internacional “Software Libre y Democratización del Conocimiento October 21-24, 2008 3 Marco Fioretti http://mfioretti.net marco@digifreedom.net
  • 4. Perspectives of Free SW as a Social Movement Importance of software and digital devices in contemporary societies (2)  Digital technologies are essential for:  preservation of official documents  efficient delivery of education, professional training, telecommunications and public services  guarantee equal opportunities in the workplace and other fields of life  The way in which they are regulated or deployed already has a great influence on how much people can actually practice freedom of speech or other basic civil rights  Consequence: education and participation in this field does NOT belong to computer education, but is civic education! Quito, Congreso Internacional “Software Libre y Democratización del Conocimiento October 21-24, 2008 4 Marco Fioretti http://mfioretti.net marco@digifreedom.net
  • 5. Perspectives of Free SW as a Social Movement Components and nature of the problem  The actual impact of hardware and software digital technologies on civil rights and equal opportunities is a combination of many factors:  General Legislation (availability of public documents online, freedom of speech, etc)  Hardware costs and limitations  Copyright regulations and copyright duration  Availability of official, international open standards for file formats and telecom protocols  Price and availability of fast Internet connections  Software licenses  Quite often, the license of the software involved in some “digital rights” problem is either irrelevant or a really secondary issue. Quito, Congreso Internacional “Software Libre y Democratización del Conocimiento October 21-24, 2008 5 Marco Fioretti http://mfioretti.net marco@digifreedom.net
  • 6. Perspectives of Free SW as a Social Movement Components and nature of the problem (2)  Practical examples of the secondary role of software licenses in the Big Picture:  Energy efficiency  E-voting does e-voting make any sense in the first place? Cfr http://digifreedom.net/node/52)  Net Neutrality  Freedom of speech  Transparency of Public administrations  Restrictions to file sharing and derived works  Digital Rights Management Free Software activists have often been the first to spot a problem, but this doesn't mean the solutions start from Free SoftwareFree Software activists have often been the first to spot a problem, but this doesn't mean the solutions start from Free Software Quito, Congreso Internacional “Software Libre y Democratización del Conocimiento October 21-24, 2008 6 Marco Fioretti http://mfioretti.net marco@digifreedom.net
  • 7. Perspectives of Free SW as a Social Movement Limits of traditional activist approaches  The examples demonstrate the limits of focusing mainly on software, software licenses and software Freedoms when digital technologies limit civil rights and equal opportunities  The ideals of the Free SW Foundation are still valid today, but:  the default attitude and communication strategy to promote often seem just elitist.  the expectation that every computer user could also be a competent and willing contributor to the software he or she uses simply has no basis in reality today.  The same applies to other common assumptions  Cfr: “Seven Things we're tired of hearing from software hackers”, http://digifreedom.net/node/56 Quito, Congreso Internacional “Software Libre y Democratización del Conocimiento October 21-24, 2008 7 Marco Fioretti http://mfioretti.net marco@digifreedom.net
  • 8. Perspectives of Free SW as a Social Movement Limits of traditional activist approaches (2)  Focusing on software is often wrong, or at least less effective, both technically and strategically:  Software programs are pens, file formats are alphabets: if the alphabet is free and standardized, who really cares if the pen is patented? Do pen manufacturers have the same lock-in power of software office suites developers?  Cfr www.opendocumentfellowship.com/files/Open_formats_favor_innovation_LEM_Pisa.pdf  Who limits the freedom of other people the most, that is who damages society the most?  a Windows user who produces and exchange files in the OpenDocument format with MS Office, or...  A Gnu/Linux / OpenOffice user who produces and exchange files in .doc, .ppt or .xls closed formats? Quito, Congreso Internacional “Software Libre y Democratización del Conocimiento October 21-24, 2008 8 Marco Fioretti http://mfioretti.net marco@digifreedom.net
  • 9. Perspectives of Free SW as a Social Movement Why it is important to evolve Free SW activism into a mass Social Movement  Widespread usage of digital technologies in a way more open, efficient, conscious and responsible than it normally happens today: − could facilitate a more active participation of all citizens to public life  reduce public expenses at several levels  help to create small businesses in any sector and ICT jobs less vulnerable to off-shoring  reduce pollution (data centers could surpass the airline industry as a greenhouse gas polluter by 2020) Quito, Congreso Internacional “Software Libre y Democratización del Conocimiento October 21-24, 2008 9 Marco Fioretti http://mfioretti.net marco@digifreedom.net
  • 10. Perspectives of Free SW as a Social Movement Why it is important to evolve Free SW activism into a mass Social Movement (2)  Awareness and involvement about digital issues must become mass social movements, but − In spite of the impact of digital technologies on all citizens, including those who still don't own and never use a computer: − Real, positive change in all these areas will only happen on a scale large enough to make an actual difference in a reasonable time...  ...if there is direct involvement of a number of non-technical citizens orders of magnitude bigger than the current population of Free Software, Free Culture and Digital Rights activists. Quito, Congreso Internacional “Software Libre y Democratización del Conocimiento October 21-24, 2008 10 Marco Fioretti http://mfioretti.net marco@digifreedom.net
  • 11. Perspectives of Free SW as a Social Movement What this implies for activists and educators  Adoption of a new language, new approach, new priorities − Making more people use Free Software, or making all existing software Free as in Freedom, is not the most urgent priority − Focus on making people support Free Software, rather than using it personally − Make people ask for and practice Digital Freedom and always use and demand Free as in Freedom Formats! − Propose Free Software only when it is actually necessary to solve a problem (cfr e- voting) − Start from what people really need and care about cfr “How to turn into Free SW supporters people who couldn't care less”, http://digifreedom.net/node/103 Quito, Congreso Internacional “Software Libre y Democratización del Conocimiento October 21-24, 2008 11 Marco Fioretti http://mfioretti.net marco@digifreedom.net
  • 12. Perspectives of Free SW as a Social Movement What Catholics can do in this space  Catholics have even more reason than others to be active in this field:  Who said the things below? Richard Stallman? − "The technological configuration underlying the Internet has a considerable bearing on its ethical aspects. Use of the new information technology and the Internet needs to be informed and guided by a resolute commitment to the practice of solidarity in the service of the common good." − With the right to be informed goes the duty to seek information. Information does not simply occur; it has to be sought. On the other hand, in order to get it, the man who wants information must have access to the varied means of social communication. Quito, Congreso Internacional “Software Libre y Democratización del Conocimiento October 21-24, 2008 12 Marco Fioretti http://mfioretti.net marco@digifreedom.net
  • 13. Perspectives of Free SW as a Social Movement What Catholics can do in this space (2)  Who said those things? Richard Stallman?  Answer: no, the Catholic Church. Sources: − 1) “Ethics in Internet” − 2) "Communio et Progressio"  For much more links and practical proposals on this theme, please read: − “Free Software's surprising sympathy with Catholic doctrine” (www.linux.com/articles/49533) (also available in Spanish at www.eleutheros.it) − The Eleutheros Manifesto (www.eleutheros.it/documenti/manifesto) from... −− Progetto Eleutheros – A Catholic Approach to Information Technology Quito, Congreso Internacional “Software Libre y Democratización del Conocimiento October 21-24, 2008 13 Marco Fioretti http://mfioretti.net marco@digifreedom.net
  • 14. Perspectives of Free SW as a Social Movement Conclusion  Technology is legislation − Caring about (digital) technology means caring for a better world  This is why Free Software and digital rights movements must become a mass social movement as soon as possible  To make this happen it is necessary to change language and priorities (which does not mean renegading the GNU manifesto or giving up the four freedoms: it's just inserting them in the big picture)  Catholics have even more reasons than others for playing an active role in this field...  as a service to the whole society! Quito, Congreso Internacional “Software Libre y Democratización del Conocimiento October 21-24, 2008 14 Marco Fioretti http://mfioretti.net marco@digifreedom.net