[Research]: Open Source as Culture / Culture as Open Source

The term ‘open source’ is defined as ‘something people can modify and share’ because of its publicly-accessible design. Open source culture, in this day and age, involves projects, products, and initiatives that embody principles of ‘open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy’, and ‘community-oriented development’, thereby challenging the ‘proprietary model of cultural and technological production’.

Despite its contentiousness in the modern age, open source remains ‘all the rage’. In the late 1990s, a team of hackers built a free software programme, ‘an operating-system kernel that would allow an array of [programmes] to work in coordination’, creating Linux. Sparking interest and participation, the open source phenomenon grew and had roots in ‘powerful’ and established’ companies such as IBM (its Linux operating systems), and in the source codes of publications such as The Economist and Forbes. However, in recent years, the ”open source’ model of creativity and commerce’ are starting to reveal ‘serious faults’ in the copyright system.

Famed British sculptor, Anish Kapoor, acquired the rights to Vantablack, one of the darkest artificial substances, which is able to absorb up to 99.965% of radiation in the visible spectrum.

The ‘peer-to-peer social interaction’ in open source culture – unlike the ‘traditional proprietary’ mode of creation – most importantly, allows for redistribution and sharing of tools and techniques. In ‘traditional proprietary’, it allows for innovators and their companies to grow, creating ‘remarkable success and wealth’, at the limitations of ‘communal creation, revision, criticism, and adaptability’, generating an ‘unhealthy cultural and social condition’. Open source, on the other hand, encourages ‘ideologies that privilege openness and nonmonetary reward systems’ and rids the limit on the acquisition and customisation of tools, perhaps allowing for future improvements on software (similar to the case of Richard Stallman). Additionally, open source need not rely on markets nor ‘managerial hierarchies’ to ‘organise production’.

In conclusion, the open source model of ‘peer production, sharing, revision, and peer review’ is beneficial in encouraging creativity, especially for groups that hold little to no power or influence in the modern global economy.



(1) Vaidhyanathan, Sida (2005) “Open Source as Culture-Culture as Open Source,” The Social Media Reader. New York: New York University Press, 2012

(2) Open Source Initiative. (2012). History of the OSI. Retrieved from https://opensource.org/history

(3) Open Source. (n.d.). What is open source?. Retrieved from https://opensource.com/resources/what-open-source