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Title: Closure and stabilization in open source artefacts
Author: Aibar Puentes, Eduard  
Dunajcsik, Peter
Keywords: Open Source Technology
SCOT model
Issue Date: 3-Jun-2014
Citation: Aibar Puentes, Aibar; Dunajcsik-Maxigas, Peter (2014). "Closure and stabilization in open source artefacts". A: Social construction of technology coming of age: new challenges and opportunities ahead. Trondheim, 3-5 juny
Abstract: Stabilization and closure are two central concepts in SCOT, from its very beginning in 1984. They have helped us to understand the result of the social construction of technical artefacts and their diminishing interpretive flexibility, by highlighting both its basic nature as a process in time and its final (relatively) irreversible condition. In the last three decades different scholarly contributions have continued to address this issue: some other mechanisms through which closure is achieved have been described and some new theoretical insights to the concept contours and implications have been provided. But besides these new ideas in technology studies, the studied technologies have also changed since 1984. Just one year before, in 1983, Richard Stallman launched the GNU project and gave rise to a new set of technical projects in software design epitomised by the Linux kernel in 1991. Not only open source computer programs have eventually cemented themselves in the industry as vibrant and viable alternatives but their model of peer production has been exported to other realms (such as encyclopaedic knowledge, as in Wikipedia) and more recently to hardware, particularly in shared machine workshops and hackerspaces. Peer production is a form of network-based voluntary cooperation aimed at contributing to a commons. Significant academic studies from different fields have begun to analyse this phenomenon in recent years and, though STS approaches have not been the most prominent, we think there are important theoretical issues at stake for technology studies in general, and for SCOT in particular. Contrary to standard industrial IT appliances, peer producers work a lot to fend off stabilisation, building functional parts (like loose couplings and Application Programming Interfaces) into technologies and organisations which serve to prevent closure. While these mechanisms for openness do also tend to stabilise, the resulting technologies are not exactly black boxes whose functional composition is rendered inaccessible to gaze, discourse and engineering. They can be understood as ¿unfinished artefacts¿. In this work we want to address how stabilisation, closure and black boxing are themselves socially constructed, deconstructed and reconfigured in this arena, both by innovative social and technical designs. Based on ethnographic study on hackerspaces in different European countries and in a large survey on Wikipedia usage by university faculty, we will also discuss some related and long-standing issues in technology studies and SCOT, such as public participation in technical design and the trade-offs between "professional" expertise and radically open "amateur" contributions.
Language: English
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