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Version control software in the open source process: A performative view of learning and organizing in the Linux collectif.

Shaikh, Maha Iftikhar Ahmed (2007) Version control software in the open source process: A performative view of learning and organizing in the Linux collectif. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This research describes a study of learning and organizing within the Linux kernel open source collective. For its empirical focus it concentrates on Linux kernel development activities and this collective's debates about the role of, and need for, an agreed approach to version control software. This is studied over a period of eight years from 1995-2003. A textual analysis of messages in the Linux Kernel mailing list is used as the primary data source, supported by other contemporary accounts. In this work learning and organizing are understood to be mutually constitutive, where one entails and enables the other. Learning is about interacting with the environment, organizing is about reflecting this in the collective. The thesis uses the theoretical approach of actor network theory, Bateson's levels of learning and Weick's concept of organizing, to analyze learning and organizing in the kernel collective. The analysis focuses on the discourse and interplay between relevant actors (human and non-human), and the ongoing debates among kernel developers over whether to use version control software, and then which version control software to adopt. The persistence and passion of this debate (it spans the 8 years studied and is ongoing) is evident, and allows a longitudinal study of the becoming of learning and organizing. Drawing on actor network theory, the thesis emphasizes the performative (worked out, lived, 'in the doing of', in other words the becoming) character of learning and organizing. The findings of the study reveal how learning is understood in the collective and is, to a degree, reflected in its organizing activity. Key themes that emerge include: the organizing of time and space, maintaining of transparency and the overall concern with sustaining the assemblage. The thesis offers a distinctive account of technical actors as an essential part of the open source process. In conclusion, it re-emphasizes the significance of code and the agency of non-human actors.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Information Technology, Sociology, Organizational
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Management

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