May 28, 2007
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Emancipatory Software

Interesting Tinderbox email from Denmark's Dan Hirslund.

"Can software be emancipatory?

If the core to freedom is to be able to act upon the world - and thus to create or recreate it - then one of its tools is language. A package like Tinderbox, for instance, has created a new language for action (attributes, agents, adornments) that allows the user to develop new ideas and thoughts; to see relationships. Within its own language - that is restricted like all languages are - it opens up for creativity ('to write is to think').

"Write it down" is admittedly the first step but the software provides its own new language (tools) for aiding thought. Now, the critical question: Does the emancipatory potential within advanced software packages (Photoshop is another) primarily work as a safety valve for social repression - think of the gaming community - or does it also have a revolutionary function?"

Perhaps the gaming community is merely enjoying bread and circuses, but it seems to me that productivity tools must, in revolutionary times, be revolutionary. Of course, that only matters if the times are indeed right, and if the revolutionaries are willing to pick up the tools. But if workers of a former age were symbolized by hammer and sickle, surely workers today are symbolized by the cubicle and the laptop?