Open Ambiguity

Emily outsources her keynote presentation for 'Open Source and Feelings' to a gig actor from the sharing economy. It was a hit!


“Owning pipelines, people, products or even intellectual property is no longer the key to success. Openness is,” proclaims Internet pundit Jeff Jarvis. Open Source has gone mainstream, and everyone wants to be down with being open. But what does “open” mean these days? And how does the ambiguity of openness, which allows for the extraction of free labor from individuals eager to contribute to open source projects (because love) by institutions eager to #openwash all of the things (because capitalism) impact us beyond the technologies they produce?

Under this apolitical free-for-all: How do the social and ethical values associated with our technologies get defined and expressed? When do the practical benefits of an efficient development model start to give way to shared exhaustion? Finally, how do we collaborate without giving away our power?


I was invited to give a keynote presentation at Open Source & Feelings, a technology conference about the intersection between software and the humanities, and how we engage with/in the communities that have emerged from the Open Source movement.

The organizers of Open Source & Feelings believe that:

"While Open Source is successful from a technical or business perspective, on the human side of things, the promise of the Open Source Software community has gone unfulfilled. Open Source culture, left to grow untended, has been co-opted, diluted, and leaves too many individuals behind. It is a garden in need of tending, with too few gardeners available—we want to change that."

So, in the spirit of openness (and critique), I decided to outsource part of my presentation to a gig actor from the sharing economy.


Creative Director, Producer/Editor, Writer, Presentor


A lot of reading. A lot of annotating. A lot of remixing.


The outsourced portion of my talk includes a crash course on the history of open source and the rise of the sharing economy, ruminations about love and labor, and other important topics about openness and sharing such as: Will I have a job tomorrow? How soon before my skills become obsolete, outsourced, or displaced by an algorithm? Is sharing bad? Also, why am I so exhausted?


Stallman, Richard. “GNU/Linux FAQ”. GNU Operating System.

Wikipedia. “Open Source.”

Stallman, Richard. “When Open Source Misses the Point of Free Software”. GNU Operating System.

Morozov, Evgeny. “Open and Closed.” The New York Times: Op Ed. March 16, 2013.

Levi, Ran. “Richard Stallman & The History of Free Software and Open Source.” Curious Minds Podcast. June 27, 2016.

Bauwens, Michel. “The Cooperative Model Revisited.” Commons Transition. Dec 15, 2014.

Slee, Tom. What’s Yours is Mine: Against the Sharing Economy. OR Books, 2016.

Jordan, Marvin. Interview with Hito Steyerl. “Hito Steyerl: Politics of Post-Representation”. Dis Magazine.

Wood, Brian Kuan. “Is It Love?” e-flux Journal. 2014.


The Internet of Ownership: a directory for the online democratic ecosystem The Internet of Ownership.

Schneider, Nathan. “Platform Cooperativism as a Critique of Open-Source.” The Internet of Ownership.

Scholz, Trebor. “Platform Cooperativism: Challenging the Corporate Sharing Economy”