Conference PaperPDF Available

Navigating the open/closed spectrum: the need for layered access in platforms for generative justice

Abstract

Extractive economies alienate value from those who generate it. But the development of a generative economy-one that maintains value in unalienated forms, and circulates rather than extracts-requires more than simply establishing "openness". This paper examines the spectrum between fully open and accessible technologies, and those that are strictly closed. We describe how those barriers are modulated across networks of legal, physical, sociocultural, and technical dimensions. Using brief historical cases (Arduino's legal and technical challenges; the diminished returns from the OLCP; and others), we examine the roles these control points can play in developing more emancipatory forms of value flow. Finally, we use this analysis to illuminate our ongoing research in the development of layered access, in which contributors control the degree of openness. Our case study for this approach is AfricanFuturist.org; a website we developed for decolonial approaches to coupling economic, educational and cultural activities across the African diaspora. We found that Indigenous "heritage algorithms"-in this case coded simulations that could be used for both economic and educational applications-call for different positions across the open/closed spectrum depending on context and usage. These outcomes suggest that emancipatory platforms will not only need to mimic Indigenous systems in offering commons-based production, but also the networks of layered access that were traditional to many of these societies.
Paper delivered at ICA, Paris May 2022
Eglash, Ron; Robert, Lionel; Bennett, Audrey; Robinson, Kwame; Garvin, Matthew;
Hammond-Sowah, Deborah.
Navigating the open/closed spectrum: the need for layered access in platforms for
generative justice
Abstract
Extractive economies alienate value from those who generate it. But the development of a
generative economy--one that maintains value in unalienated forms, and circulates rather than
extracts--requires more than simply establishing “openness”. This paper examines the spectrum
between fully open and accessible technologies, and those that are strictly closed. We describe
how those barriers are modulated across networks of legal, physical, sociocultural, and
technical dimensions. Using brief historical cases (Arduino’s legal and technical challenges; the
diminished returns from the OLCP; and others), we examine the roles these control points can
play in developing more emancipatory forms of value flow. Finally, we use this analysis to
illuminate our on-going research in the development of layered access, in which contributors
control the degree of openness. Our case study for this approach is AfricanFuturist.org; a
website we developed for decolonial approaches to coupling economic, educational and cultural
activities across the African diaspora. We found that Indigenous “heritage algorithms” -- in this
case coded simulations that could be used for both economic and educational applications--call
for different positions across the open/closed spectrum depending on context and usage. These
outcomes suggest that emancipatory platforms will not only need to mimic Indigenous systems
in offering commons-based production, but also the networks of layered access that were
traditional to many of these societies.
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