Reading up on the Free and Open Source Software movement this afternoon conjured up all sorts of warm and fuzzy language: "help your neighbor", "so the whole community benefits" "create communities of practice that promote learning", "free exchange of ideas", "sharing", "stewards . . entrusted by society with resources and with the mandate to feed and nurture the world of ideas and innovation", "openness", "gift culture", and my favorite, the tongue and cheek: "magical pixie dust that gets sprinkled over software to imbue it with various kind of goodness."
None of these phrases got to me, however, (not even the pixie dust), as much as the word "sharing". Why? To put it simply, I live with a two year old.
To be clear, Lucy (aforementioned two year old) used to be a big believer in collective meaning making and social constructivism. She loved bestowing her toys or artistic creations upon her friends, piling them in heaps on my lap, etc, etc. But then, she turned two.
And now, everytime I enter her daycare cooperative (Knee High Daycare) to work my weekly shifts, I hear a chorus emerging out of the door : "MINE!" "THAT'S MINE," cries that are often followed up with shriek-inducing punches, pushes, and scratches. My daughter is not the lone aggressor. She is one of five two year olds. Together, they spend the day taking ownership over a toy, pacifier, a kleenex, a spoon, a chair, a bib, a swing, a coloring page, pile of blocks, etc, and then spend the rest of that day zealously protecting their righteous ownership.
And, although I discourage her behavior in all of the ways good and loving parents do, I really can't blame her. We humans seem kind of wired to want to keep what we claim, to own what we have, and to take credit for what we do. This is why I find the FOSS movement kind of miraculous. What we do together is always much more fun than what we do alone. The towers out of blocks we create together are much more astounding than the ones we create on our own. But this takes some getting used to. And it takes some maturity.
But I have some hope, because even Lucy is learning to say: "Dat's not Lucy's toy. That's Knee High's toy." And if we could all start to think that way, if we could recognize that every good thought that we have, every cool toy we possess, couldn't be possible without a grander collective . . . a bigger story . . . we might have the grace to say: "That's not my brilliant discovery. That's everybody's."