Free and open source software and activism
Wikileaks, the Arab Spring, and the Occupy movement have made the need for user-controlled digital technologies clear, as activists have used the Internet and mobile phones to organise and to communicate with each other and with potential supporters. The consequences of failures in these systems, particularly security breaches, can be extreme: activists may face fines, jail time, or even death. Free and open source software (FOSS) provides one potential solution to these problems, as it is focused on users' needs. FOSS communities also already overlap significantly with many other activist communities, and are working to develop cross-movement connections as well as useful tools. However, many FOSS communities, and particularly those defined by a commitment to open source, rather than than free, software, are reluctant to take overt political stands. Similarly, many activists on both the left and the right have an aversion to digital technologies for both ideological and practical reasons. This means that there are frequently significant barriers to increasing the links between FOSS and progressive political movements. This presentation explores the connections between FOSS communities and the broader activist landscape. It looks at the politics of FOSS, the ways in which global movements and FOSS communities are building links, and the potential benefits of actively seeking cross-fertilisation of ideas and politics between FOSS and progressive movements.
Dr. Sky Croeser is currently a lecturer at Curtin University. Her research and activism focuses on the ways in which activists are working to shape, as well as use, the technologies of everyday life. Her PhD, 'The global justice movement and struggles to control knowledge', was undertaken at UWA in the Department of Political Science and International relations, and her subsequent research has looked at digital liberties activism in Bangalore, India, and at the ways in which Occupy Oakland activists are using Twitter to organise and communicate. As well as carrying out her own research, Sky is a reviewer for several open access journals, including First Monday. Sky has attended two World Social Forums and several conferences (and unconferences) looking at the intersection of activism and technology, is a co-founder of the Bluestocking Institute, has served on the board of Electronic Frontiers Australia, and is currently working with unnamed collective in Perth.