The open source software phenomenon: Characteristics that promote research
Journal of strategic information systems
Since the turn of the century, open source software has triggered a vast volume of research. In this essay, based on a brief review of selected work, we show that research in many different fields and disciplines of the social sciences have shed light on the phenomenon. We argue that five characteristics make the phenomenon particularly attractive to examination from various fields and disciplines using a plethora of research methods: (1) impact: open source software has an extensive impact on
... he economy and society; (2) theoretical tension: the phenomenon deviates sharply from the predictions and explanations of existing theory in different fields; (3) transparency: open source software has offered researchers an unprecedented access to data; (4) communal reflexivity: the community of open source software developers frequently engage in a dialog on its functioning (it also has its own research community); (5) proximity: the innovation process in open source software resembles knowledge production in science (in many instances, open source software is an output of research processes). These five characteristics also promote a transdisciplinary research dialog. Based on the experience of open source software research, we propose that phenomena-driven transdisciplinary research provides an excellent context to promote greater dialog between disciplines and fields. Moreover, we propose that the recent diffusion of the open source software model of innovation to other areas than software calls for new research and that the field of information systems has an important role to play in this future research agenda.