[iDC] introduction: where's the labour in software studies?

Dr. David Berry D.M.Berry at swansea.ac.uk
Tue Jun 16 11:34:19 UTC 2009


Trebor has asked me to introduce myself a number of times but I have  
just never found the opportunity. However with the general chorus of  
introductions I thought I would make an extra effort :-)

I am David Berry, based in the UK at Swansea University and my  
research is focussed around the concept of code, through notions  
developed through what is now being called 'software studies', but  
more particularly my work has engaged with Free/Libre and Open Source  
software. I recently published a monograph on FLOSS groups call Copy,  
Rip, Burn: The Politics Of Copyleft and Open Source (Pluto 2008). I am  
extremely interested in concepts of the information society and how  
these relate to changes in the representation of and the means of  
production themselves, more concretely in changes in the notion of the  
commodity and its relation to labour-power. I am also looking at the  
nature of finance capital, especially its spectacular nature and its  
relation to technology and computability. My research spans the entire  
breadth of technology-related theory, including the philosophy of  
technology, phenomenology and actor-network theory (I am currently  
fascinated by Latour's rather interesting notion of the Plasma, for  

In regard to the discussion I wonder if the focus on 'labour' needs to  
be unpacked with notions of the labour process, in addition to labour  
power itself, and the Marxian notion that 'moments are the elements of  
profit'. Certainly it is interesting to see the way in which Agile  
Programming and Extreme Programming, for example, concentrate on the  
spatial and temporal organisation of the programming  process (both  
with a panoptic, or perhaps oligoptic (Latour), inflection) and the  
'craft' dimension to programming increasingly under threat (one thinks  
here of UML/Z, and other mechanisms, mostly not completely successful,  
to deskill or automate elements of the process). Other important  
points in the rationalisation of programming include: modularity, code  
review/peer review, outsourcing of labour (even to open-source  
projects), and such like. Programming still takes time, and that time  
is being paid for somewhere, somehow, whether it be via a foundation,  
university, business entity or even by the individual themselves so we  
must not lose sight of the production and political economy of  
software/code but also the fact that the production of code is in  
someway also a consumption of other code (interesting to think of this  
in terms of Marx's depreciation model of machinery, but also linked to  
the notion of software aging).




Dr. David M. Berry

Room 412
Media and Communications Department
School of Arts
University of Wales Swansea
Wales, UK

Web: http://www.swansea.ac.uk/staff/academic/Arts/berryd/

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