Daniel Guagnin

Centre for Internet and Human Rights

Daniel Guagnin is privacy consultant and researcher at praemandatum GmbH. He holds a Magister Artium degree in sociology, economics and computer science (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau). He recently finished his Dr. phil on the role of expertise in free and open source software communities at the Technische Universität Berlin (publication forthcoming). Currently he does research on privacy settings and risk awareness in mobile applications, and consulting in the field of privacy and cyber security. In his scientific work he focuses on the analysis of norms in technology development and the shaping of human behaviour through technological artifacts. Since 2010 he worked in a number of research projects on privacy awareness and accountability and the impact of security technologies and policing practices on fundamental rights and values.

Power and Governance in Communities. The role of common values and identity in Common Software Production.

Like many volunteer communities, common production of free and open source software is grounded on norms and values. The reiterated promise of the Free Software Movement is „Free Software – Free Society“. This implies that free software should serve anyone and any purpose, and that anyone can participate and get empowered by software which is made from the people for the people.
However this promise is understood differently in various communities. This can be illustrated with the well known acronym „RTFM“ - Read the Fucking Manual! While some contributors conceive it as harsh and impolite, others think it is a legitimate statement.
Based on an empirical study it will be shown how the interplay between community values, organizational structures and the very practices shapes the common thinking. This even shapes the output the community produces. Analysing different software implementations, it becomes clear that these entail certain specific conceptions of problems and suitable solutions, but this also holds for knowledge products like howtos and documentation.
Finally these outputs have an impact on its users and recipients, who make use of it and are framed by the way knowledge is communicated and which limitations and possibilities are given by a tool or programme.
To look at different (software) solutions for the same problems illustrates the relevance of normative presumptions and perceptions of the communities which shape the world through building these norms and values into their software implementations. Basically this line of thought is part of the free software ideology and more generally communities of open collaboration and sharing. Yet, the idea of technical neutrality and neutral information is still prevalent and a critical reflection of politics in knowledge and technology production is often missing.
For a constructive and reflexive common peer production, it is key to keep in mind the social implications software has for users, organisations and society, and to be aware of the role of communities and their structures and practices for their commonly produced outputs.