Spring 2008 - Volume 15 / Issue 1
©2008 M. Kastrinou-Theodoropoulou
Maria Kastrinou-Theodoropoulou, Durham University
“The Gift of the Code” explores the boundaries between technology and sociality, computers and cultures. Based on long-term ethnographic research among users and developers of GNU/Linux Operating System, this work analyses how Linux developers and users consume, create and exchange an as much technical as cultural discursive construction of sociality. Like a modern-day kula ring, the Linux code is analysed in terms of a gift: one cannot keep it for one’s self, it contains obligations and a promise of future reciprocity. It is a collective gift of the self-ascribed Hackers that come from different geographic places and meet in lines of code, socializing by exchanging ideas about the code and about themselves. This work shows by what means the computer hackers of Linux, abiding to the original definition of the word, actively constitute their community using discourse: language, e-mail, internal meritocratic hierarchies based on technical ability and ethics of the group, boundaries of exclusion and inclusion. This project is about power relations, resistance networks and the hegemony of a techno-scientific self-indulgence of some post-residents of an imagined cyber-West. Equally, it is about the giving of gifts, hacker culture and the ‘fun’ of hacking, creating and maintaining a ‘guerrilla’ operating system. Studying the anthropology of GNU/Linux operating system is a journey towards an investigation of what makes the social into technology and how technology is translated into sociality.
reciprocity, gift, gnu-linux, internet, cyber-sociality