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text drafted by Z.Blace
following the Wednesday discussion at Lueven
For Relational constelations in Software Observatories...
Considering everchanging nature of software development/use and its wast impact on globalized societies, it is necessary to recognize some of the issues of how software is (often) passivly-perceived or activly-observed, without strong attempts of articulating the relations.
More obvious perspectives are (in order of presence):
#1 mainstream pr/marketing naratives
-- that are omni-present in the general population
--- highly uncritical reporting, with some exceptional critical journalism
#2 classical computer science/engineering discourses
-- formed often in isolated academic environments and narrow interests
--- highly dependent on state and private funding, privileged, not self-critical
#3 ?emereging field of software studies
-- looks from perspective of humanities (including arts?)
--- has limited visibility, but remains open for questioning norms/assumptions
When observing we have to be aware than there is no such thing as absolute or neutral perspective, as each such activity constructs a particular cosmic point of departure depending on Who we are or claim to take the position for, but also influences all the relations and constelations in such 'galaxy'. In this context we are likely to assume that WE are Free/Libre/OpenSourceSoftware and Open content/Public domain focused/sensitive users/producers, but then some of US are also developers, deployers, designers, or identify as feminists, queer, proleterian, leftist, anarchist, precarious, dis-abled, non-white, non-English native speakers, migrant, illegal or ... intersect other discriminatory differences. When OBSERVING we _determine_ our 'Perspective' from which we pick a particular 'Lens' that focuses on certain aspects and forms an 'Axis' of our attention or 'Matrix' if we consider multiple that overlay. In the process we _construct_ our 'Vision' that can populate consistent 'Naratives' and can further be presented as particular 'Critique'.
"Biographical interviews" : as we had used the analogy - critical but still - of anthropology and human sciences is interestingly showing up here. One of the tool of social sciences is the qualitative method, and in this ethnomethodology, is the biographical interview, in order to understand agent (of the studied field) motivations and experiences (phenomenology). My question here (PP) is how can we transform this in a service for our software clinic. Do we have to twist the method by being quite directive ?
...meAsHardwareOwnerSoftwareUSER - I did not own a computer personally until very very late as I did not enjoy gaming as kid or had interest in spending much time behind PC beyond work (and work computer). My first was hence I think in 2005 and it was a SGI workstation that was the computer of the year 2000 (costed 10.000USD) and I got it for around 300USD. Propertary drivers for unified graphics+RAM were never released, so it remained a software dead-end in gorgeous blue curved chassis
...meAsSoftwareCONSUMER - I payed/purchased software only twice in my life (totalling less then 25eur), as I could access most commercial software as widely pirated in Balkans and later had more passion for FLOSS anyway, this made me relate to software as material to exchange and work it, rather than commodity goods I could or not afford.
...meAsSoftwareINVESTOR - I did it as both of those apps were niche products in early beta (one was JeeperElvis, real-time-non-linear-video-editor for BeOS) that failed to reach market, but I think I would likely do it again and only in that mode (supporting the bleeding edge and off-stream work), but maybe with more than 25eur.
...meAsSoftwareUserOfOS - I would spend most of 80s ignoring computers, 90ties figuring out software from high-end to low-end, starting with OSF/DecAlpha and SunOS, than IRIX and MacOS, finally Win 95/98 SE, that permanently pushed me into niches (of montly LINUX distro install fests, or even QNX/Solaris experiments and finally BeOS use).
...meAsSoftwareWEBSURFER - I got used to websurfing in more than 15 windows on UNIX systems and never got used to less than that ever since, furthermore with addition of more browser options this number only multiplied (always wondered if my first system was Windows 3.11 - would I be a more focused person and how would that form my relations to browser windows>tabs).
...meAsSoftwareUserOfPropertarySoftware - I signed one NDA contract in person on the paper and with ink on a rainy day while stopping of at trainstaion in north Germany for the software that was later to be pulled out of market due to problematic licencing agreement (intuitivly I knew it was wrong) - it had too much unprofessional pixeleted edges in its graphics.
...meAsSoftwareUserOfDatingWebsites - I got one feature request implemented by a prominent dating website (to search profiles by language they speak), however I was never publicly acknowledged (though I tried to make use of it few times), that made our relations feel a bit exploitative and underappreciated.
...meAsSoftwareUserTryingToGoPRO - my only two attempts to get into the software company failed as they insisted on full time commitments. Later I found out ones were intimidated in interview and other gave it to a person that negotiated to work part time with friend! My relation to professionalism is likely equally complex and pervert as one to the software.