Open Source Responsibility

The uniting theme that I noticed among this week’s many readings is the idea of responsibility.

The Joreen piece speaks of the responsibility of a movement or group to structure itself in a manner most beneficial to the movement itself, not just the elite within the movement.

The Turner interview spans many varieties of responsibility, from the responsibility of engineers to consider the ethics inherent in the tools they design, through the responsibility of society to recognise tech institutions such as Facebook as potentially huge threats to political power distribution, to the responsibility of art and artists to provide a cultural compass in times of political turmoil, and many more examples.

The Choi article covers the short term responsibilities of creator communities to consider the networks and institutions they build, as well as the longer term responsibilities of the same to act as “cultural stewards” for future generations.

In contrast to the vast sweeping nature of the other articles, the Kulkarni guide lays out the specific responsibilities of submitting code to a project.


That’s a lot of responsibility to put on one person. How can one individual both consider what specific emoji to use that will convey polite dissent, as well as contemplate how their pull request will be interpreted by an Ethics of 21st Century Code high school class in year 2318.

The answer is that they can’t, really. All these pieces, even the relatively straightforward code submission guide, read to me in the spirit of ‘best intention.’ There’s no one way to build ethical institutions, there’s no one way rage against the evil machine. It’s as if they collectively say “at least give it a shot, with humanity’s best intentions in mind, and you’ll be on the right track.”

Of course each author has a different way to go about this ‘best intention’; a different contribution so to speak. By publishing their considered thoughts on accessible media, they are each contributing to a growing resource on responsible use of technology.


I see these four vastly different articles as submissions to an Open Source Responsibility project. By no means are these the only submissions; I’m sure we could find many more different considered opinions on the ethical use of technology. Perhaps this project in its current state would be considered unstructured by Joreen. Or, perhaps Choi might say the project has a very organic distribution. That is not the point. 

The point is, however indefinite the bounds, there seems to be a call across the open source world to truly reflect on how the ideology and practice of open source can and will change current institutions, and shape future ones.

What will your contribution be?