How to Participate in the Linux Community

The Linux Foundation has released a document called "How to Participate in the Linux Community". This gives a detailed picture of the practicalities of radically distributed development, its scale and the methods which evolved to handle that. See also this article on ZDNet.


The Linux kernel, at over 6 million lines of code and well over 1000 active contributors, is one of the largest and most active free software projects in existence. Since its humble beginning in 1991, this kernel has evolved into a best-of-breed operating system component which runs on pocket-sized digital music players, desktop PCs, the largest supercomputers in existence, and all types of systems in between. It is a robust, efficient, and scalable solution for almost any situation.

With the growth of Linux has come an increase in the number of developers (and companies) wishing to participate in its development. Hardware vendors want to ensure that Linux supports their products well, making those products attractive to Linux users. Embedded systems vendors, who use Linux as a component in an integrated product, want Linux to be as capable and well-suited to the task at hand as possible. Distributors and other software vendors who base their products on Linux have a clear interest in the capabilities, performance, and reliability of the Linux kernel. And end users, too, will often wish to change Linux to make it better suit their needs.

Jean-Luc Godard on "extract" vs "quotation"

Referring to his unauthorized use of material for his major "Histoire(s) du cinema" Jean Luc Godard said in an interview in 1996:

For me there's a difference between an extract and a quotation. If it's an extract, you have to pay, because you're taking advantage of something you have not done and you are more or less making business out of it. If it's a quotation--and it's more evident in my work that it's a quotation--then you don't have to pay.

Of course, copyright does not make this difference (yet). But this was mid 1990s, and times were different. The first two episodes in Godard's series, each of which lasts 50 minutes, have been shown on five separate state-funded European TV channels without any permission from the copyright holders. It's hard to imagine this happening today.


From Youtube to the Cinema

Before the Euro2008, Detlev Buck, a well-known German director, issued a call on Youtube to send in fan movies, hundreds of people responded, and now he has edited it down to 50 minutes which will be shown in selected cinemas in Germany. The whole thing is entirely non-commercial, the entry fee is €2,30 (which is less than one third of the normal price) and the proceeds will be donated to charitable orgs. It probably will also be posted to Youtube later on.

Which begs the question: is editing the new directing? In the age of information overload and remixing, the likely answer is yes.

Update: The film has been released on youtube.

Stephen Wright, Digging in the Epistemic Commons

This is an older text, from 2005, but it's still one of the best on the issue of the paradoxical relationship between the attempts to privatize knowledge and its inherent tendency to be social, because it's based on a shared language.

The gentrye are all round, on each side they are found,
Theire wisdom’s so profound, to cheat us of our ground
Stand up now, Diggers all.

The Diggers’ Song, Gerrard Winstanley & Leon Rosselson

Using the ideas of Gabriel Tarde, Ludwig Wittgenstein and George Herbert Mead, writer and critic Stephan Wright reflects on the question of how, in a capitalist knowledge economy, to prevent intellectual property from being commodified and knowledge from becoming increasingly privatized.


Bourgeois anarchism and authoritarian democracies (First Monday, 07.2008)

First Monday published my paper in its current edition. Below is the abstract, the full text is here

Digital communication is profoundly affecting the constitution of (civil) society by drastically lowering the costs to speak across time and space with individuals and groups of any size, and by producing abundant records of all activities conducted through these media. This is accelerating two contradictory trends. On the one hand, a new breed of social organizations based on principles of weak cooperation and peer production is sharply expanding the scope of what can be achieved by civil society. These are voluntary organizations, with flat hierarchies and trust-based principles. They are focused on producing commons-based resources rather than individual property. In general, they are transformative, not revolutionary, in character. This phenomenon is termed "bourgeois anarchism." On the other hand, the liberal state - in a crisis of legitimacy and under pressure from such new organizations, both peaceful (civil society) and violent (terrorism) - is reorganizing itself around an increasingly authoritarian core, expanding surveillance into the capillary system of society, overriding civil liberties and reducing democratic oversight in exchange for the promise of security. This phenomenon is termed "authoritarian democracy."


This article was first published in Italian, in the journal Millepiani. An earlier version was delivered as a talk (view stream presentation at Ars Electronica, 2007, and published in their catalogue under the title "Our new public life".


The aim of this blog is fairly pedestrian. To provide access to the things I write and to the projects I work on. Besides that, it's also an open notebook for things I find interesting in my research of the intersections of culture, technology and politics. (Though these entries are not on the front page, so use the search function, if you care.)

In particular, fields I'm interested in include: Free and Open Source Software, Free Culture, emancipatory cultural practices, theories of networks and the network society, of digital culture, of the transformation of space and its practices, as well as theories of subjectivity. In short, society, technology and the space of the possible.

About Me

My name is Felix Stalder and I'm currently dividing my time between working as a professor of digital culture and network theories at the Zurich University of the Arts (Media Arts Program which I currently co-direct) and as an independent researcher/organizer with groups such as the Institute for New Cultural Technologies (t0) in Vienna.

I've been been working in this area since the mid 1990s. At the end of the 90s, I was pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Toronto (completed in 2001), then as a post-doc with the Surveillance Project, a transdisciplinary research initiative based in the Department of Sociology, Queen's University in Kingston, ON, Canada (completed in 2002). Since 2003, I'm a (part-time) faculty member in Zurich.

On the Differences between Open Source and Open Culture (book chapter)

How would culture be created if artists were not locked into romantic notions of individual authorship and the associated drive to control the results of their labour was not enforced through ever expanding copyrights? What if cultural production was organized via principles of free access, collaborative creation and open adaptability of works? As such, the practices of a collective and transformative culture are not entirely new. They were characteristic for (oral) folk cultures prior to their transformation into mass culture by the respective industries during the twentieth century, and as counter-currents – the numerous avant-garde movements (dada, situationism, mail art, neoism, plagiarism, plunderphonics, etc.) which re-invented, radicalized and technologically up-graded various aspects of those. Yet, over the last decade, these issues – of open and collaborative practices – have taken on an entirely new sense of urgency. Generally, the ease with which digital information can be globally distributed and manipulated by a very large number of people makes free distribution and free adaptation technically possible and a matter of everyday practice. Everyone with a computer already uses, in one way or the other, the copy & paste function built into all editors. This is what computers are about: copying, manipulating and storing information. With access to the internet, people are able to sample a wide range of sources and make their own works available to potentially large audiences.

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