t byfield on Thu, 18 May 2000 21:45:32 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> OFSS01: First Orbiten Free Software Survey]

mgoldh@well.com (Wed 05/17/00 at 09:36 AM -0700):

> One thing about the study results that struck me is their general
>  similarity in shape of distribution  and authorship to a simlar analysis
>  of publications in science. Most scientists turn out to have only one
>  publication in thier name; a tiny percentage contribute very many. these
>  statistics were first discussed about 40myears ago by Derek J. DeSolla
>  Price, included, I believe, in a book of his  called "Big Science, Little
>  Science." It would be interesting to make a more detailed comparison. I
>  suspect the factors leading to these distributions may actually be
>  similar in both fields.

an analogous study: richard delgado, 'the imperial scholar: reflec-
tions on a review of civil rights literature' (in crenshaw, gotanda, 
peller, thomas, _critical race theory_ [nyc: new press, 1995]), rev. 
and reprinted as 'the imperial scholar revisited: how to marginalize 
outside writing, ten years later' (pennsylvania law rev. 140 [1992], 

delgado doesn't analyze this phenomenon in latinate or nominalistic
terms like 'contribution,' though; rather, he talks about how legal
scholars (white men, not coincidentally) always cite each other and,
of course, manufacture their own 'success'--and others' lack thereof.
this is the normal course of things; but when race and gender form an
alternative matrix against which this process can be examined, this
procedure becomes much clearer. and when The Law is at stake, its
consequences are quite serious--particularly insofar as law is based
on 'representational' narratives, because racial and gender biases
are conflated with the translation of the 'events' into legal formal-

when it comes to science, the impact of this 'confusion' can be less
or more clear; it depends on the field of science. you'd be very hard
pressed to argue that the theory of the big bang has much effect on
social relations, though intellectually there's no question that it
derives from turn-of-the-century catholic attempts to come up with a
scientistic christian cosmology (abbé lemaitre's 'atom primitif')--
and, as such, can be seen as a rearguard attempt to preserve certain
cultural traditions. but when you're talking about medicine, the idea
that male bodies are 'normal' and female bodies 'deviant' is alive 
and well--in drug-testing, for example, where fears that an experimental
drug's unforeseen consequences might harm women's 'reproductive systems' 
(i guess men don't have a 'reproductive systems'...). these methods--
for testing drugs? from preserving male hegemony?--are then translated
into health-care systems' gender biases in formularies, where men are
far more likely to have the power to pick and choose medicines because
there's a 'body' of literature to support the normalcy of their own
particular deviancy from those norms. women, on the other hand, are
much more likely to encounter a discursive structure in which their
'deviancy' appears at every level: an insurance system's formulary
doesn't cover drug X, here, just use drug Y, it's almost the same, 
most women don't have a problem with it so just shut up and take it,
etc., etc. never mind that, technically (and despite infanticidal 
policies both formal and informal worldwide), women are the majority,
men the minority. never mind embryological morphology. and definitely
never mind much simpler ways of thinking about these things, which
klaus theweleit summed up very nicely in a footnote: (iirc) 'i'm not
about to use literature to make this point. anyone interested in 
pursuing it should discuss it at length with actual women.'

and what does this have to do with this study about software? well,
now, that's a very interesting question, isn't it? if you think the
answer is 'not much,' you're--in a word--wrong. the fact that soft-
ware development is OVERWHELMINGLY a masculine activity is neither 
in its origins a coincidence nor in its consequences immaterial.
while i have my issues with lessig's book _code and other laws of
cyberspace_, his notion that technical and juridical fields are 
collpasing into a real-time regulatory regime in which the distinc-
tion between what you will/not do and can/not do become one--thereby
effacing the foundation of western ethics--is worth considering. and
the fact that this regulatory regime is masculine in its origins
(and, presumably, in its consequences) comes as no surprise.


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