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Free Software Foundation 35

The 35th birthday of the Free Software Foundation was celebrated online on October 9, and the commemorative videos are now available for watching.

Of course, Richard Stallman’s presentation contained much material for thought, and I was really encouraged by how much attention he gave to the problems facing education now that so much of it has had to go online.

Earlier this summer, I was going to write about my frustrations on being forced to use Zoom in education, albeit on the administrative, departmental level, but that editorial turned into the longer and more general article, The Odyssey of Pedagogies of Techno-Scientific Literacies.

Being forced to use Zoom, to say nothing of being forced to accept far more pernicious EduTech spyware, remains a real problem in education but I truly appreciated Stallman’s suggestion that we literally ask to ‘phone in’ where other means of social participation work against our principles.

This is not for the light-hearted; he himself recognized this as resistance, which, to put it more passively, can be understood as the voluntary character building engaged in for quality. It is not easy.

But FSF President Geoffery Knauth made two really interesting comments in his presentation that build this effort into a firmer social fabric. We are not alone – no matter how different we are.

Knauth said: “I have a strong interest in helping people get along.” And observed that in the free software community, “people who hate each other get things done”. This reminded me of the apocryphal Voltairian adage: “I wholly disagree with what you say and will contend to the death for your right to say it.” Is that not freedom?

I made a contribution to the celebration (my name appears on part-1, but I am linking to the video in which my segment appears at 1:57). I would like to note that I credit a mix of free and open software in the credits of my presentation, and that there is an important difference between the two, as outlined in Why Open Source Misses the Point.

To cite Charles Conrad Abbott’s Ramblings of an Idler (1906: 206):

Our goal is a direction,
not a fixed point in space.


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