Open Source Culture


There is a movement, a thing, a culture and a counter-culture that is referred to as Open Source. Open Source software consists of protocols and languages such as MySQL, PHP, and HTML: the building blocks of most online media today. At their core, these computer languages are responsible for content management databases and most all functionalities of the web. For example, “” must keep track of every tweet in a content management system and was written in these languages to display and organize their content. Open source software is the foundation upon which online media is built.

The idea of open source is that it is free to anyone to use and it encourages its users to help develop the software even further. Large companies and individuals alike use these tools. There has been a movement, a culture, and a population of people who believe that all information and software should be open and free. This is the “open source way”.

The nature of open source organizations is not only such that “technology automates as well as augments media practitioners’ abilities to …create…the work done in media industries further supercharges the developments of new technologies (pg. 93).” It is also that because of this culture of free flowing information and data, “loose control of creativity is at the core of managerial practices in media companies (Hesmondhalgh pg. 171, Deuze, pg. 92).” I would also argue that Open Source abides by “editorial logic (pg. 99),” resulting in innovative content (pg. 99).

The idea of free-flowing information has led to a company culture that has evolved similarly.

This article addresses how within this open culture, MySQL, the gold standard for open online database management, dealt with sensitive and often times, closed information that flows through its organization. The article demonstrates the delicate balance between trying to maintain an open culture while at the same time dealing with sensitive and private information. At the same time that this company attempted to perpetuate and allow the open source culture to permeate through it, MySQL needed to hold some information from its employees.

In sum, it seems from MySQL that even “loosely controlled” participatory media organizations can be loosely controlled only to a degree without the risk of failure.

-Dan Schiffman

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