TITLE: Unleashing our cognitive surplus for a better future
TIMEPLAN: starting date: Aug 1 2011 - July 31 2012
Are open source Mozilla contributors really not more than non-paid employees? How will the tension between free-flowing grassroots idealism vs. harnessed and managed production play out in the 21st century and in a world where cognitive surplus (Shriky 2010) could herald the arrival of unparalleled creativity and generosity in a connected age. Is the future of open source software becoming a cog in the corporate machinery, or a fundamental threat and a radical alternative to business-as-usual in the world of computers, programming and participatory interaction design and development (see for example yr.no)? Does the future of the internet belong to distributed society-oriented generative technologies (Zittrain 2009) that improvise and build on each other (Wikipedia), or to the centralized business- oriented “tethered” applications of today (XBLA, Apple!s App Store) and the “walled gardens” of yesteryear (AOL, Genie)?
concrete and measurable research goals: What are we going to do?
We will publish a book based on this research project! This project will accomplish the first step: we will collect material though surveys, focus groups, interviews and case studies of both “free-flowing” as well as “managed” open source projects. We will also use and develop relevant frameworks and theories to analyze our empirical material.
impact: Why is this research important?
How should one of the most important strategic resources of our time be used – the cognitive surplus of literate educated members of western and other societies? In what kinds projects should it be used and for the benefit of whom? How could our collective cognitive surplus lead to better applications and better use of the Internet by the people, for the people, and for creating better societies?
motivation and justification for the involved personnel: Why are we the right people to do it? Daniel and Cristi have both been interested in, and studied on- and offline communities for 15 years. Both our Ph.d. theses concern these issues, but we haven!t taken an interest in this specific angle before. Cristi has practical experiences of open source software, accounts of which where also published. Daniel has given a Ph.d. course on virtual communities as well as cultures of programming/hacker culture at KTH.