Posts Tagged ‘open source programming’

In this video Clay Shirky discusses how open source programmers channel social media technologies in ways that could, if thoughtfully and creatively adopted, bring about powerful changes in the way that democratic institutions work.  There are a number of features of this talk that should be of interest to argumentation theorists.  Students of pragma-dialectics and others who believe that disagreement is of central theoretical importance to argumentation theory, for instance, will find welcoming Shirky’s assertion that “The more ideas there are in circulation, the more ideas there are for any individual to disagree with. More media always means more arguing.”  Also of interest for those of us interested in the intersection between argumentation theory and democratic theory is Shirky’s account of how the method of distributed version control used by early open source programmers enabled “cooperation without [top-down] coordination”. Perhaps most interesting, though, is Shirky’s description that changes in media bring about cultural changes largely by introducing new modes of argument.

Whether one agrees with everything Shirky says here or not, it is hard to disagree with the fundamental intuition that I think  lies underneath his points:  that argumentation is the core technology of democracy, and that improving democracy means attending, carefully and critically, to the modes in which we argue.

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