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

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/01/2008
<mark>Journal</mark>Review of International Studies
Issue numberSpecial Issue
Number of pages24
Pages (from-to)69-92
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


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.