Open Source Publishing – Graphic Design Caravan

What is in a name

Texts · November 5th, 2008 ·

Of course we discuss now and than amongst ourselves, whether it is better to change ‘Open Source Publishing’ to: ‘Free Software Publishing’ (FSP…), or maybe: ‘Free, Libre and Open Source Publishing’ (FLOSP!). Reading Rob Myers text ‘Open Source Art Again‘ makes me bring it up here:

The name Open Source was deliberately chosen for its meaninglessness and ideological vacuity. This was intended to make the results of a very strong ideology more palatable to large corporations by disguising its origins. That ideology is Free Software.1

When we started OSP in 2006, we were only vaguely aware of the many cultures within F/LOSS and merely interested in the idea of Open Source because it felt as an invitation to “open up your sources“. We were trying to re-do design practice, and that seemed a good place to start. For us, however confused our understanding might have been at the time, Open Source was an inspiring thought that went much further than what software we used under which license.

At this point I would say we are most of all interested in the generative and generous ‘four freedoms‘ that form the core of Free Software and try to imaginatively apply them to design. I guess you could describe what we do as a creative version of Free Culture activism, although also that term is not without confusion.

The representational freedom of artists, part of which is the freedom to depict and build or comment on existing culture, to continue the conversation of culture, is the freedom of art.2

Which might explain why we replaced our full name by the acronym ‘OSP’ in the blog header, why we prefer the Free Art License over more neutrally formulated Creative Commons Licenses and if you’ve followed this site for a while, you must have noticed that we slowly became more careful about using the terms ‘F/LOSS‘ and ‘Free Software‘ rather than ‘Open Source‘.

We understand why the difference between Free Software and Open Source Software matters and are grateful for the relentless energy of people around us to make the difference clear. But besides the fact that our lateral kind of practice does not really work from a clear cut definition, Free Software thinking poses problems when you try to extend it to a larger domain than just software. It tends to want to separate the ‘useful’ from the ‘artistic’ expression (what does that mean for design?), and in general it does not go well with non-digital objects. Interesting problems, but we’re not sure what to think about all this yet.

So, after all, for now, we decided to stick to our initial name: Open Source Publishing!

  1. Rob Myers, Open Source Art Again, 2006 http://www.robmyers.org/weblog/2006/09/19/open-source-art-again/ (Find an extended version of this text in FLOSS+Art, GOTO10, 2008) []
  2. idem []

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  • 1. Rob Myers

    Nov 5, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    There’s an expanded version of the essay (“Open Source Art Again”) in the FLOSS+Art book. As well as discussing more concrete examples it has quotations, citations, and excellent graphic design. 😉

  • 2. Femke

    Nov 5, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Thank you Rob! Links + titles updated – will you publish your extended version too (on your blog I mean)?

  • 3. Paulo

    Nov 5, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    Well, i’m a bit affraid of a so popular and long-time known webpage like ‘Open Source Publishing’, having its name constantly changing, since open-source is an interesting issue to be focused, and the free-software can be considered as small and rare exceptions, and easily replaceable with appearing open-source similars… my +1 vote on please keeping the ‘Open Source Publishing’ name

  • 4. yosch

    Nov 6, 2008 at 1:34 am

    Mmm, it seems to me you do a lot more than just publishing… You research, you experiment, you teach, you share, you mix different domains, you explore creative discourse…

    “art libre attitude” as in the artlibre.org license might be a trail to explore…

    /me ducks

  • 5. FeIZocE

    Nov 6, 2008 at 9:58 am

    Opposing “free” and “open source” just sounds like a geek troll to me.
    Moreover, “free” can be restrictive, like in sugar-free or duty-free. It is far from the french word “libre” – which is used internationally and refers to the whole idea of freedom, not just “free”.
    I think FLOSS is a really good alternative and the proof that all open source, free and libres initiatives just have (barely) the same goals, utilities, users… Sounds good to me. We have to generalize it.

    Open Source Publishing forever. XXX

  • 6. minombresbond

    Nov 8, 2008 at 9:17 am

    I’m vote for librepublishing 😛