Hierarchy, Laboratory and Collective: Unveiling Linux as Innovation, Machination and Constitution

Tony Cornford, Maha Shaikh, Claudio Ciborra
2010 Journal of the AIS  
This paper considers the question of how the Linux open source collective structures and organizes itself as complexity and uncertainty increase. The study focuses on Version Control Software adoption in the Linux Kernel collective and the controversies it entails. The analysis draws on theory drawn from Science and Technology Studies and Actor Network Theory to consider the processes by which technology comes to play a role as an active agent within the collective. Through this approach the
more » ... dy helps to reveal how organizing occurs and how restructuring around technical means is negotiated based on constitutional as well as technical and performance criteria. What emerges from the analysis is the strong collective agency to which nonhuman actors contribute, and thus, their place at the core of open source activity. Cornford et al./ Hierarchy, Laboratory, Collective Galbraith, 1977). This exploration helps us to identify in more conventional terms the design challenges that the collective faces in devising, adjusting, and revising its structure in the face of changes in people, tasks, technology, and environment. It also helps us match information processing needs (and, thus, technologies) to organizational structure. We then build our primary analysis on more specifically, Actor Network Theory (ANT). We use ANT first to reveal the dynamics of the interaction of actors, tools, and circumstances as matters of concern arise within the collective and various alternative socio-technical solutions (machinations) to these are asserted, debated, tried, and assessed -as restructuring occurs (Weick, 1979) -and, second, as a way to reframe the issue of concern as one of respect for, and challenges to, the open source Constitution in the form of the GPL.
doi:10.17705/1jais.00250 fatcat:jmtpbfyurnaqlmag6mj6kjr64y