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Opening other windows: a political economy of "openness" in a global information society

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date1/01/2008
JournalReview of International Studies
Journal numberSpecial Issue
Volume34
Number of pages24
Pages69-92
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Although analysis in IR and IPE has increasingly started to focus on non-state actors and the information society, the role of the legal architecture of the Internet has been relatively under-analysed in terms of the structural power around communication interfaces. In this paper I suggest the work of Lewis Mumford offers a useful lens for thinking about the political economy of technological change in an information society. I set out the role of intellectual property rights as the legal form of the global information society, and suggest a major challenge to this legal form is the idea of 'openness', specifically in the realm of open-source and/or free software. I examine this issue in the realm of (so-called) informational development, where major proprietary players (predominantly Microsoft) have been confronted by an increasingly vibrant open-source alternative. The open source and free software movement can be analysed as an emerging example of a globalisd 'double movement', seeking to re-embed the tools of informational development in a societal realm of information, establishing in Mumford’s terms a ‘democratic technics’ as a reaction to the programme of information and knowledge commodification spurred by the TRIPs agreement.