A Look Back On My Final Semester: How Studying New Media Has Affected This Blog

New Media is no longer the future of communication; New Media is the present we are all already living in. As a student and as a professional, I’ve come to realize that the current state of communication is what twenty years ago was science fiction, and though New Media will continue to adapt beyond current understanding, for the most part, the future is now.

Most of you, my dear followers, have been following me for the past six months, starting around the time NaNoWriMo came to its end. You probably followed this blog mostly for my personal day to day updates on my writing progress and the occasional book review. However, if you have stuck around you’ve seen my website transform from just a blog about my writing to a site in which I discuss real topics in more detailed blog posts, and most of it relates to my studies in New Media.

I feel like as I come to the end of my final semester of undergrad, on the cusp of graduating with a BA in New Media and Communication, it would be interesting to take a look back at some of the ideas I’ve tackled these past few months that relate back to lessons we have learned in my final course on New Media. While some of my posts are more detailed than others, and some of the flashier looking ones have the least amount of analytical substance, I would like to think most of you have read and enjoyed my takes on things we learned in my Senior Seminar class and how they are relevant to you, the readers of my blog.

When I first started my final semester of college, my first post regarding New Media was “Interconnected World: How New Media Has Lowered The Barrier To Entry For Global Communication“, a post in which I basically gave an outline of the history of digital media growth in the past few decades and how that changed the way global communication takes place. In this post, I made the claim that,

New technologies as well as the culture around global communication all are part of the idea of New Media.

Ignoring how clunky that is (yikes, was I half asleep when I wrote that?), I still believe that to be true. I do think that the primary function and the biggest success of New Media is the way that we are now able to communicate globally. While some of you are older than me, many of you are younger, and may not remember ye olden days in which just calling someone outside your area code would cost you extra money in long distance phone charges. Today, I can message a girl I know in Indonesia and the only barrier to communication is the time difference.

In “Women’s March 2017: A Textbook Example of New Media’s Contribution To Global Progress“, I used what was at the time very recent news as a relevant example of the ways in which those barriers to communication enabled a political movement to become a greater success than any expected it to be.

The reason that what started as a single planned event, the Women’s March on Washington, became a globally successful series of protests […] is because the way people communicate and the dynamic ways in which organization is possible has changed so much in just the last decade due to the rise of what we consider New Media.

This is as true today as it was when I wrote it. New Media makes not just communication easier, but it makes organization easier. We can access and arrange details that people all over the world can find at one location from their many locations all due to New Media. These logistical norms are something that twenty years ago was unheard of.

Just as New Media allows for a greater democratization of information and communication, so does it allow for a greater democratization of software and technology, which is what I talked about in “Is Open Source Really The Future?“, where I took on the history of the Open Source movement and addressed how it is continuing to progress. Open source is prevalent even if you don’t know that you have used it, as I exemplified by saying,

Most of us at some point have used open source software, whether we knew it or not. You’re using open source software right now. WordPress is an open source software.

We’re still all using that open source WordPress right this moment, and that in itself, is a democratization of access to technology, all due to New Media.

However, New Media goes into far more detail than just ‘lower barriers to communication’ and ‘democratization of access to technology’. I mentioned the ways in which what was once science fiction is now just science, and in one case, fiction itself, not even just science fiction, is what helped build the internet. In “How Literature Impacted The Internet As We Know It“, I talked about how in class, we talked about hypertext in the form of hypertext literature. It is always important for us to understand the origins of technology that we use every day because we find that it is often relevant to our personal interests, and with most of you readers being writers, this is a fun bit of information.

As the semester went on, I also shifted my focus from informative posts based on pure history and information and tried to tailor what I write for my audience. You guys are writers and readers and you want a more analytical approach to New Media, which can be found in “Artificial Intelligence: Not A Matter Of “Can We” But A Matter Of “Should We”“, in which I discussed the psychological implications of what AI androids and the desire to have them could mean about a person. I wrote, “Post-New Media: Cynicism and Modern Media Culture“, a think-piece on the ways my classmates are overwhelmingly more negative towards technological advancements and New Media than I am and how that relates to our class readings. With a small dip into the legal world in, “The Curse of Copyright“, in which I talked about the restrictions copyright can place on the amateur artist and how Lawrence Lessig feels about the future of copyright laws, I then decided to bring things back to the main focus of my audience.

You guys are readers and writers and though you probably dig the analytical stuff, you guys are really into literature and the concepts native to literary arts in the digital world. Relative to the discussion on copyright laws, I addressed the way that the restrictions of copyright in the literary world have relaxed more in recent years in “The Shifting Sands of Creative Writing: Authors Embracing Fan Fiction“, a post in which I addressed Henry Jenkins, one of the most popular writers to assign in New Media classes, and how his views of participatory culture in the form of fan fiction have shifted over time.

When it comes to participatory culture and fandoms, building an online persona is a part of being in a fandom, but it is also a part of being an author. In “How Virtual Is Your Reality?” I asked the question,

Think about your online life. How many of us have a carefully cultivated presence online behind which we build a persona for the world to see?

As writers, everything we do online for our official social media accounts is to cultivate a personal that will appeal to agents and publishers and readers. We want to sell our product, and when you are a writer, you are your product almost as much as your writing is.

To close out the semester, I decided to link what we learned in class to you as writers and readers by writing “Reading In The Age of the Internet“, a piece in which I theorize on how New Media has (or possibly hasn’t) shifted the way we read, and in “Are Video Games The Next Great Frontier For Storytelling?” I addressed the dark shape on the literary horizon that is telling digital stories via the most accessible medium for that: video games.

I started this series of blog posts on New Media as my final semester progressed with the intention of mostly just documenting what I learned. Instead, what I learned taught me how to utilize New Media best by aiming for a specific audience. In shifting focus from broad ideas to finding a way to relate what I learned to my audience’s interests, I am able to engage better with you guys. Through what we read and talked about in class and research outside of class, I learned how to take New Media and apply it to this blog to better success.

I think that’s a perfect example of how much my understanding of New Media has progressed over this semester, and hopefully, in reading my posts, my followers learned something, too.

Reading In The Age of The Internet

As with most people, including the author of, “Is Google Making us Stupid?“, Guy Billout, I’ve found myself unable to read as much for as long as I once did. When I was in middle school, my prime ‘book nerd’ years, I would read approximately 350 pages each day. In the summer, I went to the library at least twice a week and got the maximum 10 books each time. I would read three Nancy Drew books per day. I read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in about a day and a half when I was 14. Needless to say, I was a voracious reader.

However, that changed when, as a teenager, we got a computer at my house. I still loved to read, but instead I would read less and go on the internet more. I still didn’t go on much, mind you, since we had dial-up, but I still went online all the time. By the time I was about 16, I hardly ever read other than for literature class. Once I started college I didn’t read a damn thing other than required books for a few years. In fact, before I joined a book club in the fall of 2015, I read an average of one to two books per year in college that weren’t required for class.

Guy Billout would say that this is because the age of technology has changed the way we read more than just what we read. In his article, he outlines the very problem I mentioned having and addresses the way that information immediacy has changed not only how we access information but how our brain comes to expect information to be consumed.

Thanks to the ubiquity of text on the Internet, not to mention the popularity of text-messaging on cell phones, we may well be reading more today than we did in the 1970s or 1980s, when television was our medium of choice. But it’s a different kind of reading, and behind it lies a different kind of thinking—perhaps even a new sense of the self. “We are not only what we read,” says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. “We are how we read.”

I find this interesting because on one level, I am certain this is true. I’m positive that technology and the immediacy of internet access has changed the way we read and more importantly our attention spans.

However, I also have to question my own certainty, because when I think about it, there are other factors I can track along with all of my reading history.

Before middle school, I didn’t like to read. I found fiction stories boring and only like dreading nature non-fiction books in class. In middle school, around 12 years old, I found a love for reading and read voraciously, as I mentioned. However, in middle school, I also had an incentive to read and that made me discover that I did, in fact, enjoy fiction.  In fact, almost all of my periods of great reading were incentivized.

In middle school, they placed your reading comprehension level with a test and then you were supposed to read a certain number of books on or above your reading level before you could read whatever you wanted. While we had Accelerated Reader (for those who may not know, you read books, took tests on the computer about comprehension of the book, and got points that were linked to how long or advanced the book was) in elementary school, it was only in Middle School when they placed us in a reading level that I found my incentive in that I was at a higher reading level than anyone else in my class – and I was already in the advanced gifted class – and I was cocky about that. I liked being smarter than everybody else, and because I had to read higher reading level books, they were worth more points. The more I read, the more points I got. I never had the most in the school but I almost always had the most in my class. I would have 80 points while others had 12 or 14 points. My teachers praised me for how smart I was and how good of a reader I was, and I ate it up.

So while I did really love reading and did it in the summer without those points, the only reason I got into reading was because I liked hearing how smart I was. In high school when there was no points or praise, I stopped reading so much. Yes, it probably was the internet and computer at home, but there was also the lack of praise.

In college, it was the same thing. I still liked fiction, and I do think it probably still was the instant gratification thing, but even though I was an English major, I didn’t read much that wasn’t required for class. My excuse was always that I had so much to read for class, but often that wasn’t even true. I did start writing in college, which was another excuse for taking up time from reading, but again, it still came to be that there was no incentive for me to read.

Fall of 2015, I joined a book club because I felt ashamed that in the past year, I had only read two books, and one of them I only read because I had a flight that was four hours and it had no wifi. When I joined the book club, I found my incentive again. Someone wanted to talk about books and I could only do that if I read the books.

Last year, in 2016, I read 20 books. The most books I have read in one year since I was probably about 14 or 15. I did so because I made a Goodreads account to review the books I read in book club, and discovered they had challenges you could set yourself. There were days in 2016 I didn’t want to read a thing, but I wanted to beat that challenge. You win nothing. Nobody really praises you for it. It’s a self-set challenge, even. I could have set it at 5 books for the whole year and been done. However, there is little more I love than a good challenge. I read more than I have in years, but it was still incentivized.

This year, since I don’t have a 6-book series to read, I set my goal at 15 books. I’m currently on book number 4 and HATING IT because this book is boring. However, I’ve read 150 pages and I’m not going to let 150 pages of reading go to waste when I want that number 5 towards my goal. It’s still an incentive.

Why am I telling you all of this, you may ask? What does this have to do with digital media? What does this have to do with Billout and whether Google is making us stupid?

It all comes back to the quote I included above. ‘It’s not what we read, but how we read.

While I do think the way we read now, because of the speed of how we take in information now, has adapted to be more goal-oriented, always trying to get the most information in the quickest time, I think that it’s entirely possible that this isn’t a bad thing.

We live in a world these days of ‘time is money’. For many of us, that’s a fact of life. In the state I live in I believe the statistic is something like you would have to work 80 hours a week at minimum wage to afford rent on an apartment on your own. Everything is so fast-paced these days, so is it really bad that our brains are adapting to take in important information from a source in the quickest way possible? Is this ‘skim and go’ reading style online not actually a positive talent in a world where we are incentivized to do it that way?

Just as I have always read best with an incentive to read a book, isn’t ‘time is money’ a good incentive for us to adapt our brains to understanding and comprehending information in the most succinct way possible?

I’m really interested in your thoughts about this, because while there are clear negatives, I still think that adaptation is a more positive than negative. Do we have shorter attention spans? Yes. But the affect of this is that we get more things done in a shorter time because we are better at multi-tasking. Right now, for example, I’m watching Chopped, I’m writing this blog post, and I’m having a conversation about figure skating on twitter. I’m able to watch TV, and then write during the commercials while I’m waiting on the person on twitter to respond to what I said last. I’m optimizing my time, even if it makes it harder to focus on just doing ONE of these things.

Is that not what we need as a skill in this digital world? So in essence, is “Google making us stupid” or is the way our brains are adapting to a new necessary skill a positive more than a negative?

Be sure to let me know what you think in the comments!

Are Video Games The Next Great Frontier For Storytelling?

journey-3_2

In a short answer, yes, I believe they are.

The study of “ludology” refers to video games. This was news to me before we talked about it in class this week. I say this, because I know basically nothing about video games. I have never owned a gaming console, I haven’t played video games since I was about 14, and even then it was once every blue moon when I went to my cousin’s house and we did two-player Need For Speed racing on his PS2. What tiny bit I know about video games at all is from commercials, my 15 year old brother, or my friend who is a media studies grad student that occasionally talks about games, though she doesn’t play them much either.

My experience with video games is pretty much restricted to Sims and Nancy Drew PC games. Why? Because Sims isn’t really a ‘video game’ as much as a simulator game, and I read Nancy Drew books as a child to the point I almost managed to read every single one in existence. I read about 3 of them PER DAY in middle school. So, when I was 11 and discovered the PC games, I went crazy for them. I’m 26 years old and I’m still an avid fan of those games. (WHEN WILL THE NEXT GAME COME OUT?!?! CURSE YOU HER INTERACTIVE!!!)

However, when it comes to ludology, there’s a lot I don’t know and even more I didn’t get in the class discussion regarding it. However, there is one thing that I found very fascinating and absolutely agreed with, and that was an article by Naomi Alderman in The Guardian entitled, “The First Great Works of Digital Literature Are Already Being Written“. In this article, she discusses the reason that literary minds and game creators don’t come to an understanding regarding the fact that video games are the future of digital literature. As you may remember, I discussed the idea of ‘digital literature’ in a post a while back about “How Literature Impacted The Internet As We Know It.” In that post, I discussed the idea of hypertext literature, which is something that Alderman talks about in her article.

“[more] aggravating even than this are the forums, summits, breakout sessions and seminars on “digital literature” run by exceedingly well-meaning arts people who can talk for hours about what the future might be for storytelling in this new technological age – whether we might produce hyperlinked or interactive or multi-stranded novels and poems – without apparently noticing that video games exist. And they don’t just exist! They’re the most lucrative, fastest-growing medium of our age.”

What she says here is true, in my experience. There is so much I don’t know about video games, but what I do know is that there are a plethora of games that have absolutely incredible stories behind them. I’ve witnessed a few such games, whether it be by watching YouTubers play “Undertale”, or by having watched some friends at college play “Journey“, which Alderman calls, “Sublime”. (She isn’t wrong, I managed to catch someone at the ‘end’ and the sheer concept of how it ends/begins is mindbogglingly creative!)

There are tons of games that have no amazing storytelling going on, for sure, but I’ve witnessed the creativity in some video games, and it honestly makes me sad that less people recognize the literary value and potential of video games as an extremely interesting interactive narrative.

However, the truth is simple, as Alderman states very clearly at the end of her article.

“The problem is that people who like science and technology, and people who like storytelling and the arts have typically been placed in different buildings since about the age of 16. We haven’t been taught how to admire each others’ work, to recognise excellence, or even to know that there is excellence in “the other culture”. There’s a kind of sullen arrogance on both sides, with some people in both camps simply denying that the other knows anything worth listening to. There is a kind of “worthy” arts professional who thinks that knowing nothing about games – like saying “I don’t even own a television!” – is a marker of intellectual superiority.”

Until we all get off our high-horses and learn to appreciate and interact with creators of different media, then this digital age we’re all in is going to be an annoying experience for everyone.

 

The Shifting Sands of Creative Writing: Authors Embracing Fan Fiction

Anybody that has ever studied in the field of media and culture studies has read the works of Henry Jenkins, most importantly, his works regarding participatory culture and convergence culture. One of the topics that Jenkins often touches on in his writing is the concept of consuming culture vs participating in culture vis-à-vis fan fiction.

Though I assume every single person reading this knows what fan fiction is, because it’s 2017 and we all have the internet, in case you stumbled upon this while time-traveling from the past, fan fiction is when the audience members of any type of media (usually books, television, or film) write their own stories based off of the characters from the work and share them with like-minded fans.

Though many of Jenkins’s most popular works among professors are a little outdated these days, he has mused at length on the legality of fan fiction and its cultural significance, value, or lack of either in his works for almost the duration of my entire life (Textual Poachers was published in 1992, I was born in 1991). The question of whether or not fan fiction falls under the protection of fair-use regarding copyright law is one that has plagued the world since the beginnings of fan fiction, and it is one that Jenkins has tried his best to reason through.

In 2006, Jenkins posted on his blog in response to a critique from a law professor about how he tried to derive a definition of fan fiction and participatory works as well as their place in the law. In “Fan Fiction as Critical Commentary” Jenkins approaches fan fiction as a method of critical commentary about a work just as relevant as a critical essay:

Just as a literary essay uses text to respond to text, fan fiction uses fiction to respond to fiction. That said, it is not hard to find all kinds of argumentation about interpretation woven through most fan produced stories. A good fan story references key events or bits of dialogue to support its particular interpretation of the character’s motives and actions. There are certainly bad stories that don’t dig particular deeply into the characters or which fall back on fairly banal interpretations, but the last time I looked, fair use gets defined in functional terms (what is the writer trying to do) and not aesthetic terms (what they produce is good or bad artistically). Fan fiction extrapolates more broadly beyond what is explicitly stated in the text than do most conventional critical essays and may include the active appropriation and transformation of the characters as presented but even here, I would argue that the point of situating the characters in a different historical context, say, or in another genre is to show what makes these characters tick and how they might well remain the same (or be radically different) if they operated in another time and place. Fan fiction is speculative but that does not mean that it is not at its core interpretative.

I find Jenkins’s idea very interesting and something quite relevant to the modern author. I think it’s important for authors to notice what he is saying, even if they may not agree. Most of us are old enough to remember the days of Anne Rice’s crusade against fan fiction based on her works, and these days there are still some authors who are harshly against the idea of fan fiction, but for the most part, fan fiction is something that has become more accepted and normal by many authors.

Why am I even talking about all of this, you ask? I ask because many of you, my followers, are authors. Whether you are a published author or a prospective author like me without any published works, I would hazard a guess to say at least 75% of you are authors in some fashion. And because of that, I find myself curious!

What do you think about fan fiction in a legal sense or just in general? Would you be against people writing fan fiction about your works? Would you dislike it enough to seek legal action? Would you embrace it? Would you celebrate that as a measure of status (as in, “I’m so popular people write fan fiction about my work!”)?

I’m really curious to see how you guys feel about this, so let me know in the comments!

The Curse of Copyright

Anyone who has ever looked for something on YouTube has inevitably ran into a video without audio because there’s a song playing in the car while the person is filming, or it’s a video of a child dancing to some song, and these videos were flagged for copyright violation. While these things are frustrating, copyright becomes a real problem when it comes down to amateur artists being sued.

Lawrence Lessig writes about something called Read Only culture and Read/Write culture in his book Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Lessig tells us, something most of us already know: the strict rules of copyright laws are both annoying and a big hindrance to amateur artists’ creativity.

Picture this: A fledgling filmmaker with no budget finds the perfect song to use in their film, they put it into their film, they upload the film on YouTube – no monetary gains, just personal accomplishment – so that they can eagerly watch every time the views number jumps up… and then the film gets flagged for copyrighted content and they’re ordered to remove it. A film studio wants to use the same song in a blockbuster movie to make tons of profits, so they can afford what to the average person would be an exorbitant licensing fee to use the song in their movie, but this first-time-filmmaker suffers because using a song, even not for any gain, is illegal because of our copyright laws.

One of the things Lessig advocated for in his book was to reform the copyright laws in the US to allow a separate measure of access for amateur creative use without being held to the same expectations as those who can afford to buy the full rights to things. This goes for people making fan videos of their favorite TV shows, or young artists sampling beats from a song for their new song, to the filmmaker who wants to use a piece of music in their film.

I am sure most would agree that the future for creativity in the digital age will have to involve some type of this kind of reform simply to ensure creativity manages to flourish.

 

How Virtual Is Your Reality?

One of the things that was once a term related to science fiction that have now become real life is the term “Virtual Reality”. When I was a kid, virtual reality brought about images of giant goggle helmets and gloves with wires on them. These days, VR headsets are things you can get for a relatively low price and just plug in your Samsung smart phone to experience virtual reality. However, that is really the most basic, simple product when it comes to the idea of a “virtual” space.

Have you ever known someone or have you ever played games such as Runescape, World of Warcraft, or Guild Wars? Or even Dungeons and Dragons? These things are all a sort of virtual reality.

Games in which people play a character of their creation and fulfill a role in the gaming world are in every way virtual reality. In her article, “Constructions and Reconstructins of Self in Virtual Reality: Playing in the MUDs”, regarding online PC virtual reality games, Sherry Turkle tells us,

“[These] worlds exist on international computer networks, which of course means that in a certain sense, a physical sense, they don’t exist at all. From all over the world, people use their individual machines to access a program which presents them with a game space-in the high tech world such spaces have come to be called “virtual”- in that they can navigate, converse, and build.”

And while games like this as virtual reality are not something most of us would struggle to imagine, I’m using those as an example to paint a picture of what virtual reality games are for the people who play them. As Turkle told us, these are international networks without any physical location where people can interact and build their own ‘self’ for the world.

Think about your online life. How many of us have a carefully cultivated presence online behind which we build a persona for the world to see? I confess, as a kid I was a HUGE fan of Harry Potter. I’m talking not just reading the books, but going to all the websites and being active on all the message boards. I can’t even remember what my username was, but I remember that I used the same username on every website (this was pre-twitter and tumblr, so I didn’t find just one location to be active on). Remember those little ‘build your own doll’ avatar makers that existed in the early 2000s where you designed a little cartoon version of yourself to use as a userpic? I had the same one of those on all my accounts. Because I was so active on all these websites, people recognized me from other sites they were on.

This was a virtual reality. My little 12 year old self has a virtual persona that wasn’t at all related to my real self. At the time, you had to be 13 to be on any website, so I was 15 to the websites. My avatar was redheaded when I have black hair. My name I do not remember, but it was nothing even remotely related to my real name because I grew up in the era of “never tell strangers online your real name”. I made guesses about what would happen in the next Harry Potter book and discussed these theories with people from all over the world. I would spend several hours each week talking to people who only knew that I was a 15 year old girl with red hair and a different name who loved Harry Potter as much as they did. This was its own reality. I’m sure most of those other people were also too-young-for-the-website kids with fake names and made up features on their avatars, but we all played these roles in our own nerdy fandom reality.

These days, social media allows us all to live in a virtual space. One of my best friends in my whole life, who has been my friend for the past decade, is a lady from England that I have never met in person. For the past ten years, we’ve shared not just correspondence almost daily, but life events, family tragedies, secret hopes and dreams, support, and love. She is just as any friend is to me, even though we have never been on the same continent. Our entire relationship, you could say, is therefore “Virtual Reality” rather than regular reality. Everything we have done together has been virtual by nature of space and time.

But it’s real. Our friendship is inescapably real. That raises the question, is virtual reality necessarily something that’s not real? Do the personas we build that depict a version of ourselves differ from the personas we build face to face with clients at work or relatives we don’t want knowing our secrets (I’m bisexual and very few relatives know this, for example). Though I am my genuine self with my friend, there are still parts of my life she doesn’t witness just by nature of the distance (think how she’s never seen inside my shoe closet, for example, so she may not realize I’m a shoe-addict).

These days, the question between what is virtual reality and what is ‘real’ reality is one that’s much harder to answer than it once was.

Is Open Source Really The Future?

Most of us at some point have used open source software, whether we knew it or not. You’re using open source software right now. WordPress is an open source software. Currently I’m typing this on a Firefox browser. Firefox is also open source. I’m sure at some point you’ve been recommended to use Open Office if you can’t afford Microsoft, and I’m sure you’ve heard of Linux and Ubuntu if you haven’t used it yourself. In some of my IT classes we even used things like GIMP and Blender for image and graphic design stuff. At some point, all of us have used Open Source software.

How many of us know what that means, though?

What is Open Source?

According to the Open Source Initiative, there are 10 points that must be met for something to truly be Open Source.

1. Free Redistribution

The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.

2. Source Code

The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in source code as well as compiled form. Where some form of a product is not distributed with source code, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining the source code for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost, preferably downloading via the Internet without charge. The source code must be the preferred form in which a programmer would modify the program. Deliberately obfuscated source code is not allowed. Intermediate forms such as the output of a preprocessor or translator are not allowed.

3. Derived Works

The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.

4. Integrity of The Author’s Source Code

The license may restrict source-code from being distributed in modified form only if the license allows the distribution of “patch files” with the source code for the purpose of modifying the program at build time. The license must explicitly permit distribution of software built from modified source code. The license may require derived works to carry a different name or version number from the original software.

5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups

The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.

6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor

The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.

7. Distribution of License

The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.

8. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product

The rights attached to the program must not depend on the program’s being part of a particular software distribution. If the program is extracted from that distribution and used or distributed within the terms of the program’s license, all parties to whom the program is redistributed should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction with the original software distribution.

9. License Must Not Restrict Other Software

The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the same medium must be open-source software.

10. License Must Be Technology-Neutral

No provision of the license may be predicated on any individual technology or style of interface.

Why is this significant?

Robert Steel tells us in his book, The Open-Source Everything Manifesto: Transparency, Truth and Trust,

“We are at the end of a five-thousand-year-plus historical process during which human society grew in scale while it abandoned the early indigenous wisdom councils and communal decision-making. Power was centralized in the hands of increasingly specialized ‘elites’ and ‘experts’ who not only failed to achieve all they promised but used secrecy and the control of information to deceive the public into allowing them to retain power over community resources that they ultimately looted.”

Steele’s point is a valid one if we look at society as we know it. In the prehistoric past, societies were reliant upon the idea of working together for a communal good. This was the only way a group of people could survive. This all changed over time as the concept of power and a division of power arose from the advancement of societies to a point that it wasn’t absolutely necessary to have a ‘communal good’ for the society to continue to function. The idea of how society works became one about class and separation of powerful from the powerless. Even though we in today’s modern, democratic societies claim ‘equality and freedom’, there is no denying that there are the powerful elites and the less powerful lower members of society.

Steele tells us that,

Sharing, not secrecy, is the means by which we realize such a lofty destiny as well as create infinite wealth. The wealth of networks, the wealth of knowledge, revolutionary wealth – all can create a nonzero win-win Earth that works for one hundred percent of humanity.

What Steele says is true. The only way to truly combat inequality in the future and work towards a common good for all of humanity is through free exchange of ideas and access to technology.

Now we get to the ‘but’…

But, as expected, Open Source doesn’t make the type of money that people want to make, and instead, it takes away from the paid software if the Open Source alternative is comparable in quality. Take a look at the past Microsoft has had with Open Source. There will always be a large amount of blow back against anything that challenges the status quo and threatens capitalism.

The question we’re left with is the same one that I asked: Is Open Source really the future?

According to the annual Future of Open Source Survey, the uphill battle may be leveling out just a little, because the use of Open Source software is growing and growing with very little to suggest this upward trend will be stopped by the makers of proprietary tech.

Overall, the use of open source software (OSS) increased in 65 percent of companies surveyed. The reasons given for using OSS include: quality of solutions, competitive features, and the ability to customize and fix the software. Additionally, 90 percent of this year’s respondents say that open source improves efficiency, interoperability, and innovation.

The results also show that,

Looking ahead, respondents say that, in the next 2-3 years, the main revenue-generating business models for open source vendors will be: software-as-a-service (46 percent); custom development (42 percent), and services/support (41 percent).

It seems that the answer to the initial question is yes. Open Source is the future, and little can be done to change that projection.