Mujeres en Red

A Techno-Feminist Perspective on the Free/Libre Open Source Software Development

Yuwei Lin

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In this paper, I discuss the potential of free/libre open source software (FLOSS) in terms of empowering women and minority users in computing compared with other proprietary software, and how the current status of women and minority users in the FLOSS development can be improved through engaging in the process of the FLOSS development. Though taking a "techno-feminist" perspective (Wajcman 2004), I am not going to simplify the gender issue in the FLOSS community to the level of a fight between men and women. Staying away from such a reductionism, the issues I attempt to address include not only the inequality that women face in computing, but also other inequalities that other users face mainly emerging from the power relationships between expert and lay (namely, developer and user) in software design. Instead of splitting women and men in the FLOSS development, this analysis helps motivate both men and women to work together, reduce the gender gap, and improve the disadvantaged statuses of women and a wider users community in the FLOSS development. I also provide three examples on how both women and men are encouraged to become mobile grassroots IT workers supporting organisations and individuals with advises on technology with non-technical language, rather than just fixing problems.

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