Openness Disrupts Power
The POWER-PLAY [Episode -01]
I enjoyed a fruitful internship in an open source company for a period of 6 months. Got an exposure to new technologies; I was taught about IAM domain; I was able to learn and improve myself; I was informed about the company practices and norms. I was motivated and felt empowered to discuss, argue and share thoughts and able to receive knowledge.I was inspired to inspire more of my juniors at college.
And what I also learnt is that company practices more than an “open source” — it is open-culture. And from there only I have heard that “Openness disrupts power”. Though I cannot decipher it thoroughly till this moment, have used it many times in blogs, presentations and day-to-day conversations.
History of Open Source
In the 1950s and into the 1960s almost all software were publically available under the principles of openness and cooperation and was not seen as a commodity in itself. But with increasing hacking culture and software production cost, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, computer vendors began charging for software licenses, marketing software as “Program Products” and imposing legal restrictions on new software developments, and seen as assets, through copyrights. This has restricted access to technology , software and solutions. Organizations and general public had to buy softwares and solutions and the prices were too demanding without any compromises. Though there is a specific reason why the software industry turned into proprietary software, later they started to enjoy the privilege of earning a huge money owning a monopoly. The power was vested in the hands of software companies. This had not only curbed the usage of softwares and solutions but also considered as a way of penalizing the younger generation, or a group of people to learn and improve their knowledge.This proprietary software was considered as a blockade for knowledge sharing and alleged for creating the imbalance with software-geeks having an upperhand in the community over general public who has no knowledge of such.
Then the rebellious group of engineers and IT professionals believed that knowledge should be shared and the solutions should be made public. This has resulted in brining open-source concept.
It all started with Richard Stallman who developed the GNU project in 1983 which fueled the free software movement which eventually led to the revolutionary open-source software movement . A main principle of open-source software development is peer production, with products such as source code, blueprints, and documentation freely available to the public.
This open source developers challenged the corporates who were reluctant to share their knowledge and wisdom.They shared their code/piece of software with others. Then the next generation learned and build solutions and make it publically available. Now a days it is obvious that open source is challenging the enterprise softwares.
Open source softwares are equally high demanding and heavily used and still share a bigger market. Group of people [open source community] flock together to contribute and improve and help fix bugs and issues. I would proudly reckon that ‘software industry or computer science’ is the most open environment that shares knowledge and wisdom.For every piece of proprietary software you can find public repositories. You can find publicly available end solutions. And there are lots of resources available free of charge, to learn and apply the software and computer knowledge.
While taking pride how the sharing of knowledge has disrupted the monopoly, never thought that this is a common practice that almost every other individual practice.This is a subtle form of power politics and applying influence. Power and the hunger for power is a motive for many of us; empower or influence a person, family,organization, caste, race, religion , country or globe.
Power politics has a wider scope and I am very naive to explain such a concept with wider scope. But can assure that above proprietary software conceptualization could have employed the power politics. Before understanding the power politics and the influence employed, let me drag you to the basics of power to understand how the power politics play part in our daily life. The society is developed based in this power-basis system; landlords and slaves, majority and minority, US vs Russia — the cold war , class room monitor vs you all, religion and followers, high caste vs low castes, governments vs public. Cold war is the epic battle for the power and the supremacy and the play of power politics at its peak.
Power is the capacity of a person ,team, organization or a government to influence others.
It is not the act of changing someones behaviour but it has the potential to do so.
Consider you, was struggling with your mom to get permission for a field trip and was shouting at her. Mama knows that you are so stubborn like your dad but she can not afford to support with the amount of money you demand with.You was at your high pitch when the gate opens with a voice asking “whats going on?”. That was your papa with a horrific gaze. And you was then dump and ran to the shade of the room.
It is the power that dad holds because of the fact he is the father and the guardian and the person who feeds you. He overpower you. You understand this by any means [not necessarily as a power, but you understand this] and tries to be obedient to the power.
Power has to be perceived by the target as , the power holder controls a valuable resource that can help him to achieve a goal. The deprivation of ‘her’ in generalizing the gender in the line above along with ‘him’ is also a power play of male dominated mindset.
You perceive that your dada has the money that he could lend you to go for the field trip. You perceive that dada has power.
Influence is the power in motion. That is how we employ the power to influence others. Influence is the new gold. There are kinds of influence and information control or knowledge control is such a critical form of influence which a person,group of people are an organization or a government can employ.
- Proprietary software and solutions were a kind of controlling of information and knowledge. This would have created a discrepancies in the society and could have polarized knowledge-imbalance.
- Governments do not share many information and control the flow if it, not because all of them are corrupted but flow of information takes the power out of you.If people have the access to information about what do governments do, people ask questions and if needed enforce their power vested in them[vote or referendum] to bring down the governments. And for a government to rule you, the devour power.
- My internship organisation claims that openness disrupts power. They share knowledge.They share company business details to technicians and engineers. They share information about collaborators ,partners, customers [information is kept within the organization to ensure privacy concerns of customers]. And the source codes are publicly available.And people allow the ideas to flow and share thoughts. This empowers people and help build knowledge and expertise and brand for themselves which is also a kind of power play but as the positive notion.The openness disrupts the centralization of power.Rather, the openness disrupted the power and allow others to empower with information they were provided with.
- You keep secret about yourselves and others.But you share it only with people you trust and love.[Trust is essential to practice power politics].You never talk about your next move to your enemy or a person you hate.You control the information. You influence them by depriving the knowledge about next move and let them awe-struck while you succeed.
- You don't give notes or explain stuffs to a person you hate the most in college as you wanted to employ a power on him by depriving the access to knowledge and allow him to get penalized or realise the power you have.
- Caste-ism did control of information or knowledge.The higher caste doesn't allow and insist to penalize the education of lower caste and force them to repeatedly do what the works that their ancestors were doing. They were not allowed to study. This deprivation provides the power to higher class to influence the lower caste to remain as slaves and poor. This would never let them to evolve from their political, economical setbacks. Education, knowledge and information is power.
Power is a relationship. It is bi directional. If there is a power holder , a person who can apply power there should be a person to be ruled[target]. The power is in the eyes of the target; they perceive that the power holder has the upper hand and control over resources that can control his journey towards his goals. This realization is necessary and vital; even to accept or to oppose.
Those software engineers or IT professionals realized that they are being overpowered. They opposed it[countervailing power] as they considered information control or knowledge blockade as a way of suppression. They found a greater way to grow their power. They form the open source community. They willingly took coalition formation, another form of influencing, to play power politics as their counter-measures. They develop their knowledge,expertise and skills and went on building their expert and referent power. These are more subtle ways of applying power[influencing] and has the positive vibe to empower themselves and inspire[than influence] their peers and colleagues to contribute and share knowledge.
This is an epic battle of power. A war of destructive nature of power vs positive vibe of power to inspire and improve; A heroic moment where a target [being ruled] saw the power politics, took counter- measures and tries to settle the imbalance and bring more of a positive nature of power to inspire younger generation and peers to do good to the society with the knowledge and share the knowledge to battle discrepancies and imbalances. This is how you pen a glorious climax for a movie !!!!
The openness has been disrupting the power and will continue to do so.If you ever feel being over powered than empowered, collect knowledge, improve and information [expert power] and share it freely to group of youngsters[referent power]. Form them into groups and iterate the process of knowledge sharing[coalition formation].
Some terms may be new or need a google search. But why such a haste while I would share the information regarding power politics in forth-coming blogs. I do believe in knowledge sharing and lets disrupt power by gathering more information and knowledge and by being open at least at teams and organizations which we will head in future.