Florian Cramer on Sun, 8 Feb 2009 15:48:31 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> the ?Cathedral? and the ?Bazaar??

Hello Donna,
> I am looking at open source and implementing this metaphor to a curatorial
> practice. What effect would this have on exhibiting artists? Would the
> audience benefit?

There already is a rich tradition of applying Open Source/free software
principles to art; "curatorship" seems a bit problematic as a term
(which it is not only in this context), self-organization may be more
appropriate. Examples can be found in the hack meetings which,
particularly in Italy, were hybrids of activist and artistic events, and
many related Internet art projects. But actually, the tradition is older
than even the terms "Open Source" and "free software". Since Ray
Johnson's New York Correspondance School in the 1960s, the Mail Art
network had its own codified system of decentralized, international,
open participation art exhibitions, events and publications, with 
the festivals and non-juried exhibitions of older avant-garde movements
forming yet another historical pretext.

> Also anyone with an interest in Eric S. Raymond?s free software development
> model. 

He pitched it "Open Source" as a more business-friendly term, against
the older, more activist term "free software".

> I would like to know the following:
>    1. What are your personal views about the ?Cathedral? and the ?Bazaar??

Again, a lot has already been written about this (for example, in "First
Monday" shortly after the Raymond's text appeared). Retrospectively, I
think there have been many confusions and urban myths about this essay.
Like Roland Barthes' "The Death of Author", it is a text that,
polemically speaking, nobody seems to have read yet everybody has an
opinion about. Among those urban myths are:

- that Raymond pitches an Open Source "bazaar" model against a
  proprietary Microsoft-ish "cathedral" model of software development.
  But in fact, it is about the decentralized development of Linux, the 
  operating system kernel supervised by Linus Torvalds [and not what 
  is commonly referred to as the whole Linux operating system], versus
  the classical small, closed committee style of development that had
  been characteristic for GNU software, the free BSDs and the X Window 
  System. On top of that, the text is not even literally about Open
  Source because the term did not yet exist when it was first published.

- Looking back at the above point more than ten years later, it is 
  probably fair to say that a clear-cut division of "bazaar"- and
  "cathedral"-style development methods no longer exists in Free
  Software development. The development of the Linux kernel has become
  more hierarchical, with several layers of developer hierarchies that
  a patch needs to go through in order to be accepted into the main line
  kernel, while on the other hand the development culture of GNU and BSD
  software has adapted itself better towards the Internet than in the
  1990s. (The now-standard use of networked version control systems like
  Subversion and git is a clear empirical indicator.)

- While not using the term "Open Source" in its initial version, the essay 
  fully preempts the later Open Source-vs.-Free Software controversy by
  discussing open, distributed development processes as technically
  superior to closed processes. [There are striking similarities to
  Bertalanffy's earlier General Systems Theory with its claim that
  in nature and society, only open systems survive while closed ones die
  of entropy, and of course to Popper's theory of the open society as
  the counter-model to societies founded on philosophical idealism.] 

  I remember an article from the German IT journal iX that, ten years
  after the manifesto, checked those claims and soundly disputed their
  black-and-white rhetoric. For example, Open Source and distributed
  development are clearly not a 100% cure against software bugs and
  security leaks (as opposed to Raymond's statement that "given enough
  eyes, all bugs are shallow). There have been terrible bugs and
  security nightmares - such as the recent Debian OpenSSL bug - even 
  in high profile FLOSS software projects. And the dialectics is also
  true: If there are not enough eyes, bugs can be annoying, for example
  in FLOSS multimedia authoring software from Cinelerra to PD that
  thrive on very small and often amateur programmer communities (as
  opposed to the OS kernels, file systems, network stacks, database
  servers etc.).

  It is probably fair to put Raymond's essay into the context of other
  optimistic late-1990s Internet theories of "crowd wisdom", "smart
  mobs" etc., that promote a similar cybernetic vision of a
  self-organizing critical mass that is the magic solution to all
  problems. Linux and, more recently, Wikipedia show that these theories
  are not completely off and that networked collaboration can amount
  to critical mass. But none of these projects are without their own 
  issues (such as conservatism: Linux reimplemented Unix
  instead of the arguably more advanced and interesting Plan9 or Lisp 
  Machine kernel architectures because Unix kernel architecture is
  the textbook knowledge of every computer science student; Wikipedia
  nowadays insists, in its angst-ridden compliance to culturally 
  conservative Wikipedia-bashing, on print publication references for
  everything that is claimed in a Wikipedia article), and "open
  collaboration" is not a magic bullet. 

  Mail Art may again serve as a good example, because it was so obsessed
  with egalitarianism that participation implied to never reject other
  people's project contributions although the phenomenon of "junk mail"
  was common and deplored even in the 1970s and 80s.

It should be noted, in case you're not familiar yet with Raymond's ultra
right-wing libertarian political background, that he chose metaphors of
the "bazaar" versus the "cathedral" quite on purpose - referring to a
free market model versus regulated production.

> I believe we need to get art out of its Cathedral ? 

It is certainly true that art, inasmuch we speak of the contemporary
(visual) art system, is still feudalist in its structure. It is the only
of the modern arts whose economy is firmly based on the notion of one
material fetish object, with reproduction (unlike in books, music
records, films, software) being merely a second-rate, plebeian
illustration of the "original". Its sponsors are the modern successors
to the old feudal authorities; back then, the church and the courts,
nowadays rich people as the new aristocrats and, through its grants and
subsidies, the state as the authority that has replaced the church.


blog:     http://en.pleintekst.nl
homepage: http://cramer.pleintekst.nl:70

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