French Software Politics: Activism and the Dynamics of Globalization from Below (WSL 2013)

Pierre-Amiel Giraud (Univ-Bordeaux)
Sara Schoonmaker (UOR)

In this paper, we explore how Frence Free Software activism can help to understand the dynamics of globalization from below. First, we explore the global context within which French Free Software activists built their community. They applied the approach of the global Free Software Foundation (FSF) which grounded its work in what we call the "freedom discourse". Through this discourse, FSF leaders articulated their goals and activities to emphasize the importance of software users and developers having access to source code. Equally important, they established Free Software as a new form of property that provide an alternative to the proprietary form. Second, we explore the development of Free Software community in France. Since 1996, activists applied the freedom discourse to promote and defend Free Software as a new form of property. For the first five years they focused on public education work; however, after 2011 they mobilized to oppose two legislative initiatives that threatened Free Software by imposing digital rights management provisions. Finally, we reflect on how the case of French activists illuminates the dynamics of globalization from below. We highlight the contradictory ways that these activists forged links between local and global communities to create transboundary publics.

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