Complexities of collaboration : an open source story

Callahan, Brian Robert
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Fortun, Michael
Fortun, Kim
Eglash, Ron, 1958-
Gordon, Tamar
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Science and technology studies
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This dissertation examines how collaboration has been conceived and practiced in two communities of open source digital practice: the open source software community, most famously anchored by the Linux operating systems project; and Hypatia, a community of transgender software programmers. Drawing on extended participant-observation in each of these communities, I characterize different motivations to collaborate, different collaborative ideals, and what collaboration looks like in everyday practice. I also describe how modes of collaboration enact -- and sometimes actively resist -- established social, cultural and epistemological hierarchies, especially gender hierarchies. My overarching argument and contribution is theoretical and methodological: While often treated monolithically and naively -- as the same across instances -- collaboration, closely observed, can be shown to take many forms and is forcefully shaped by political economic conditions, social hierarchies, and arrays of ideas about priority social problems, the value of different kinds of work, and the purpose and promise of collaboration itself. My research also shows that modes of collaboration are powerfully shaped by both hierarchies of expertise and the affordance of supporting technical infrastructure.
August 2018
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Dept. of Science and Technology Studies
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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