Firm discourses and digital infrastructure projects

Mathieu O'Neil, Xiaolan Cai, Laure Muselli, Fred Pailler, Stefano Zacchiroli

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookConference contributionpeer-review


Background and research question IT firms have embraced open licenses and the hacker ethic of self-fulfillment: free and open source software (a.k.a. FOSS or ‘digital infrastructure’¶) is now fully integrated into commercial ecosystems. In 2016 the Linux Foundation released its seventh report to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the famous free software kernel. The report noted that the volume of contributions from unpaid developers had fallen to 7.7%, from 11.8% in 2014. 1 IT firms invest in FOSS in order (a) to share with other firms, under the leadership of foundations, development costs; (b) to help attract prospective employees in a competitive job market where hiring skilled IT professionals is challenging involvement in FOSS has been integrated into IT firms HR strategy; and (c) to shape the governance and technical orientation of projects: firm employees participating in or leading FOSS projects may help IT firms create digital infrastructure more suited to the firmware they develop atop this infrastructure. For critical theorists, this represents a shift from an informational capitalism strongly relying on intellectual property to a new digital capitalism which integrates ‘openess’ into its business model (Birkinbine, 2020; Lund & Zukerfeld, 2020). These critical accounts do not investigate how the world of FOSS volunteers interacts with commercial ecosystems: are firms developing policies in relation to open source communities, requesting projects conform to certain technical or behavioral standards, for example? If that is the case, to what extent are these strategies successful? To answer, we present a qualitative analysis of firm discourses collected during three open source conferences. We then analyze the email discussion lists of Linux and Firefox (the most widely used open source browser) and search for the occurrence of key firm discourse terms in order to ascertain in what way these discourses are being used by FOSS developers.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSelected Papers of #AoIR2020: The 21st Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers
Place of PublicationDublin
PublisherAssociation of Internet Researchers (AoIR)
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Publication series

NameAOIRS Selected Papers of Internet Research
PublisherAssociation of Internet Researchers
ISSN (Print)2162-3317


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