24 June 2008

Two Bits; The Future of the Internet (And How to Stop It)

I learned about two interesting books recently.

Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software, by Christopher Kelty, is an anthropological study of the people behind free software. Kelty sets out to answer (among others) some questions about free software: first, what are the defining components and conventions of a free software community? What are the characteristics of software (and of the geeks that create it) that have made free software so powerful and seemingly eternal? Naturally, this can help us better understand other fields which are trying to adopt some of the principles of freedom and openness (education, biology, music and film, to name a few) and figure out how they can better reach their own goals.

The Future of the Internet (And How to Stop It), by Jonathan Zittrain, examines the latest generation of electronic devices that interact with the internet (typified by the iPhone) and laments that their locked-down nature threatens the cycles of innovation that made the internet— and those devices— possible in the first place.

Happily, both of these books are available for download and remixing under Creative Commons licenses (Attribution Non-commercial Share-alike 3.0). When I saw him at MIT, Kelty remarked that he could not in good conscience write a book about freedom and free software and then not make that book free. But it is also fortunate that this freedom allows these books to reach the widest possible audience. Naturally, if you read either of these books online and enjoy them, I would encourage you to buy a paper copy.

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