Subverting or preserving the institution: Competing IT firm and foundation discourses about open source

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

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Abstract

The data economy depends on digital infrastructure produced in self-managed projects and communities. To understand how information technology (IT) firms communicate to a volunteer workforce, we examine IT firm and foundation employee discourses about open source. We posit that organizations employ rhetorical strategies to advocate for or resist changing the meaning of this institution. Our analysis of discourses collected at three open source professional conferences in 2019 is complemented by computational methods, which generate semantic clusters from presentation summaries. In terms of defining digital infrastructure, business models, and the firm-community relationship, we find a clear division between the discourses of large firm and consortia foundation employees, on one hand, and small firm and non-profit foundation employees, on the other. These divisions reflect these entities’ roles in the data economy and levels of concern about predatory “Big Tech” practices, which transform common goods to be shared into proprietary assets to be sold.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalNew Media and Society
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Jan 2024

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