[IAEP] Child in charge of FOSS or Sugar

Teemu Leinonen teemu.leinonen at aalto.fi
Tue Sep 21 09:21:13 EDT 2010

Hi Søren et all.

interesting discussion. Some comments:

On 20.9.2010, at 14.13, Søren Hougesen wrote:
> I'm interested to know more about this FOSS culture. As I've  
> understand it, Sugar (-Lab) is part of a this greater FOSS culture.
> At the same time I find it difficult to capture the culture-essence  
> in the context of Sugar.

Culture is a big word. I think that when we consider Sugar as part of  
FLOSS culture we should locate it in a greater context than the  
software development or the software development community.

I have found Pekka Himanen's book Hacker Ethics (http://www.amazon.com/Hacker-Ethic-Pekka-Himanen/dp/0375505660 
) as a great introduction to FLOSS culture. Also Stalman's classics  
like the article "GNU Project" (http://www.gnu.org/gnu/thegnuproject.html 
) are great reading for people to get an idea of the FLOSS culture.  
And if you are super busy, just check the Free Software Song (http://www.gnu.org/music/free-software-song.html 

>  These ideas¨[freedom, sharing and open crituiqe] are embodied in  
> the culture of free software, which is a powerful
> culture of learning. Educators are discovering the culture,  
> technology, and values of the open source movement which engages  
> both teachers and students: empowering them with both the freedom to  
> act and the freedom to be critical." (sugarlab.org).
> Does it mean that anyone who uses Sugar is part of this FOSS  
> culture, or does FOSS culture has more to it? How is it possible
> to distinct FOSS culture from other cultures?

I think it does not mean that anyone who uses Sugar is part of the  
FLOSS culture. You may use it for teaching and learning in very  
traditional way, too, as we have seen in some OLPC videos:


In this example, for instance, there is very little that reminds of  
the FLOSS culture, as I have understood it. Still, I am not  
criticizing the practice shown in the video. If you ask me you need  
this kind of activities in classrooms, too. You need guided and  
moderated discourse and "self-driven" hacking and collaboration (that  
is FLOSS culture or what ever you want to call it).

So, for me, FLOSS culture lives in us and in our "cultures". In the  
tech. circles we call it FLOSS culture, but from the history of  
philosophy we may find similar ideas in several traditions. In Africa  
the "culture" is widely knows as Ubuntu:


I think, it is extremely important to state openly that in the Sugar  
project one of the key approaches is the free software culture. I  
actually interpret it to be part of the "mission statement" or "sub- 
mission" that should guides the project and the software development.  
In practice, one may ask, just like you did Søren, is this or that  
track of development really according to the FLOSS culture or how  
maybe could be made more FLOSS like? I think, however, that looking  
for "rules" for FLOSS culture would be silly, although some actions  
can be qualitative less FLOSS than other.

>  I can illustrate this complexity with OLE Nepal. Sugar-FOSS gives  
> Nepal as a 'particular' culture/context the 'freedom' to fit Sugar  
> into specific needs in terms of language and national curriculum  
> i.e. E-Paath. Where in this proces are the students
> (and teachers as well) empowered with the freedom to be critical  
> about E-Paath and the national curriculum? As I see it, E-Paath  
> doesn't correlate to students beeing free to act and beeing  
> critical... or does it? Are OLE Nepal part of  the FOSS culture?

Great point. I have ben critical about the OLPC's design practice. I  
have been questioning how come the OLPC is not implementing any  
Participator Design methods with the people living in the locations  
they are aiming to serve. I have not found any reports of contextual  
inquiry that have took place in rural schools in developing countries,  
before making decisions on the main design drivers of the XO. I  
haven't seen reports about the designers and developers working with  
the hardware and software design together with local people, except  
some people who have tried to do this but obviously too late in the  
development process.

The issue is even more important when the project is claiming to  
promote FLOSS culture, like in the case of Sugar. In my definition of  
the FLOSS culture the freedom covers freedom to design your own tools  
and your own content, too. When reading the website of the OLE Nepal,  
claiming: "Digital content is the backbone of ICT-based education" I  
agree if we mean with the "digital content" two things: (1) software  
that one can use do more software and (2) software that makes it easy  
to create, use, share and remix existing digital texts, images, audio  
and video.

I also think that in a good and healthy FLOSS culture one should work  
the "bootstrapping" to the FLOSS culture with the people not "just  
give them laptops". That is why all Sugar meetings and development  
sprints in the developing world are extremely important.

Best regards,

	- Teemu

Teemu Leinonen
+358 50 351 6796
Media Lab
Aalto University
School of Art and Design

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