PhD Theses on Open Hardware

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Dr. Catarina Mota

Janauary 2015 - Bits, Atoms, and Information Sharing: New Opportunities for Participation - Catarina Mota, seminal thesis on Open Source Hardware - on Download: File:Openhardwarephd Mota.pdf

This thesis discusses the important concept of affordances - as related specifically to open hardware - ie, the properties of open hardware that produce certain desirable outcomes


  • The problem, he suggests, is the intrusion of scientific methods

in the lifeworld thus converting ethical and political issues, which ought to be addressed by citizens through communicative processes, into technical questions to be decided by experts according to criteria of efficiency—therefore removing them from the sphere of public discussion where they belong. For Habermas, thus, the problem lies in the “scientization of politics and public opinion” (Ibid., 720) and the application of technical solutions to social issues.

  • “without losing their rational character, would develop in an essentially different

experimental context” and, “consequently, science would arrive at essentially different concepts of nature and establish essentially different facts” (Marcuse 1964, 122). It is to this notion that Habermas objects: To this view it must be objected that modern science can be interpreted as a historically unique project only if at least one alternative project is thinkable. And, in addition, an alternative New Science would have to include the definition of a New Technology

  • “Must not the rationality of science and technology, instead of being

reducible to unvarying rules of logic and method have absorbed a substantive, historically derived, and therefore transitory a priori structure?” (Habermas 1971, 961-967). If that is the case, Habermas suggests, “social emancipation could not be conceived without a complementary revolutionary transformation of science and technology themselves

  • In other words: the organizational demands of industrial

technologies must be accepted if the needs of individuals are to be satisfied, and individual liberties must be sacrificed to economic prosperity.

  • In Marcuse’s view, freedom meant not only freedom from economic forces and the

struggle for subsistence, but also a liberation of individuals from political forces which they do not control and “the restoration of individual thought now absorbed by mass communication and indoctrination” (Ibid.,15). Although labor necessarily preceded the reduction of labor and industrialization preceded the satisfaction of needs, it was expected that, once mature enough, technologies would eventually provide freedom from both. However, just as scientific and technological advancements were reaching the point of delivering on this promise, the mature industrial society kept individuals tightly bound within its structure and refused to be transcended. That is, rather than allowing technologies to free individuals from labor, the industrial society turned to containment of technical progress as a means to maintain the status quo. This suppression of the freeing power of technologies, Marcuse argues, is epitomized in the increasing demands of the industrial system on both labor and free time visible in “the overwhelming need for the production and consumption of waste; the need for stupefying work where it is no longer a real necessity; the need for modes of relaxation which soothe and prolong this stupefaction; the need for maintaining such deceptive liberties as free competition at administered prices” (Ibid., 17).

  • Adopting a similar position, Hebert Marcuse argues in One

Dimensional Man that rationalization has led to a “comfortable, smooth, reasonable, democratic unfreedom” (Marcuse 1964, 13).

  • This domination, Adorno and Horkheimer argue, hinges on a unifying and

standardizing process epitomized in the abundance of products, which, although cloaked under the appearance of great choice and diversity, effectively conform to the sweeping sameness of the mass society:

  • Horkheimer and Adorno - "On the one hand the growth of economic productivity furnishes the conditions

for a world of greater justice; on the other hand it allows the technical apparatus and the social groups which administer it a disproportionate superiority to the rest of the population. The individual is wholly devalued in relation to economic powers, which at the same time press the control of society over the hitherto unsuspected heights. Even though the individual disappears before the apparatus which he serves, that apparatus provides for him as never before. In an unjust state of life, the impotence and pliability of the masses grow with the quantitative increase in commodities allowed them. (Horkheimer and Adorno 1997, xiv)"

  • As Benkler (2006) suggests, the communication and

coordination possibilities opened by digital technologies are what enables the distributed approach to move from the periphery of the industrial system to its economic center.

  • A democratization of the technosphere

promises to bring to the forefront challenges that firms and markets currently have no incentive to address.

  • By facilitating

some actions and not others, technologies help define the realm of options available to their users and, in this way, influence individual and collective behaviors. The configurations and affordances of technologies, in turn, are the result of intentional or unintentional choices made by those involved in their development. Therefore, the question of how and by whom these choices are made is of great importance to both individuals and societies.

  • Thus, a democratization of the technosphere, if allowed to flourish, has the potential

to give rise to technologies that better reflect a democratic society’s citizenry, address a broader range of social and individual concerns, and enrich the experience of humans as authors of their own lives and vital social beings. In other words, it enables the transformation of the technosphere into a public sphere.

Peter Maxigas

  • September 2015 - Peer Production of Open Hardware - Peter Dunajcsik - [1]

Other Theses