How free software developers work. The mobilization of "distant communities"

TitleHow free software developers work. The mobilization of "distant communities"
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsDemazière, D, Horn, F, Jullien, N
Date PublishedJanuary

The work of free software developers is an individual activity carried out in extremely heterogeneous conditions and a collective action with original production methods. We propose to analyze this work starting with the paradoxical notion of a "distant community", that aims to illustrate the tension between, on the one hand, the strength of the sense of belonging to a specific world identifiable in the discourse of the participants and, on the other hand, the distances that separate the contributors in terms of relationships, status, and background. In doing this the aim is to produce a description, necessarily plural, of the different forms of "distant communities" that enables the production of goods in unique social and organizational conditions. More generally speaking, this notion points to methods of coordination that combine two forms of collective action that are usually contrary and antagonistic: a communitarian form based on the subjective feeling of belonging to the same community and a form of partnership based on the coordination of common interests and sharing of objectives (T??nnies, 1887, Weber, 1921). At first, we examine the ways the individual participants organize themselves in order to contribute to a project and we focus on the forms of cooperation and coordination used to deal with the constraints of efficiency and quality associated with the distribution of a product. Secondly, we look at the other side of the coin and examine the ways individual participants take action and we underline the mechanisms of commitment and participation that account for their contribution to the production of free software. These two dimensions, that in our opinion are inseparable, are explored through a survey carried out with free software developers.

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