In some of my previous entries I’ve suggested that the actor-network theory and methodology can be used as a mode of explanation in elaborating the interplay between social structures and information (and IT in general). The factor ‘openness’ emerges as the main ingredient in the elaboration when using actor-network theory to explain how actors in a given topology can affect other actors, and also at the same time being affected by them.
The explanatory power of the actor-network methodology relies on the fact that in the same topology both human and non-human actors (elements, structures, processes, etc.) are treated as equally able to affect and influence each other. The affect is carried via the links between the various actors attempting to inscribe their attributes and properties into other actors with congruent properties and attributes (see: Translation).
So, is the Internet open-source?
Or, a more appropriate question would be: is it possible to produce an open communication medium such as the Internet without the open-source software?
Basing this argument on the actor-network theory and methodology and the openness factor, had the software that was used to build the Internet been a closed source software hidden from outside scrutiny, the resulting product, the Internet (whether we see the Internet as a mass medium, a publishing phenomenon, a set of communication tools, etc.) would not have been as open as we see it today. Why?
To use the actor-network language and the openness factor, the closed-source software is almost totally closed in both aspects: its content and its communication. With a closed content (i.e. the code) it is much harder to build compatible and interoperable software tools and much harder to make people use it. Modification to the closed-source software is limited to a very small group of people whose agenda is driven by the bottom line: profit. This suggests that the not so open content and not so open communication about the content is indeed a stagnating force in the exchange of ideas, thoughts and opinions, and innovation in general.
The open content and open communication concepts (with their attributes and properties) are indeed positively responsible for the openness of the Internet. Whether the open-source software is directly responsible for the openness of the Internet, or both the open source software and the Internet openness are both results of the open source philosophy is not very important.
In any case, the open content and open communication concepts have inscribed their properties and attributed onto the openness of the Internet (with varying degrees depending on the various form and flavors the Internet is being used) and also onto the open source software.