New Materialisms and Digital Culture: Productive Labor and the Software Wars

  • Ted Kafala


Software production is perhaps the epitome of a labor practice that exists in a decentered and placeless space throughout our increasingly shared and global information society. Through the Open Source Initiative, its practitioners have found a powerful voice in support of creativity, the sharing and free redistribution of resources, open legal licenses, and a structure of constraints on the oligopolistic growth of large software firms. As players in the increasingly heated and competitive “software wars,” coders engage in daily resistance to the control of capital by the very few, and struggle for greater control and community sharing of their abstract labor power. New materialisms have emerged that offer renewed explanations of the quasi-material, ephemeral nature of “infoware” and Web 2.0 applications in computer environments—on our pads, laptops, screens, and wireless devices. These materialist philosophies help conceptualize the ontology of information objects and practices that are based on coding and programming practices. To theorize about the nature of software objects is also to promote a continued discussion and debate about the increasingly displaced nodal connections between authors, artists, educators, users, and consumers. Returning science to its practitioners is a force behind the recent reconsideration of the ontology of objects in reference to materiality. Both the coders and users of the Open Source Initiative software are in many ways participants in a diffuse and fluid “class war” against proprietary software platforms and the conventional Microsoft.NET model.


Media Object Ephemeral Nature Computer Object Abstract Labor Software Object 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Ron Scapp and Brian Seitz 2013

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  • Ted Kafala

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