Open Culture/Printable version

Open Culture

The current, editable version of this book is available in Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection, at

Permission is granted to copy, distribute, and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.


You might have heard of Open Source, and perhaps you have heard about Mozilla Firefox, a web browser, or of Linux, an operating system that rivals Windows; both attempt to challenge the mainstream software provided by many big tech corporations, much of which is locked behind a paywall, and/or spies on their own users. Open Source Software is not explicitly political - it has adherents across the political spectrum - but the method of development has led a number of theorists to suggest it is applicable to other areas of life. Moreover, it has the potential to change the way we work, govern ourselves and access the media.

This is a new area of study with an unstable lexicon, however, Lawrence Lessig - a professor at Stanford Law School, has dubbed the movement 'Free Culture', a term he borrowed from Richard Stallman's Free Software. Cooperation, Sharing, Global and Knowledge are its key concepts. In its most extreme (and idealistic) form, it is a system where everyone has a equal access to knowledge and information, where society would be free to live in a world of peace, discussion, tolerance, happiness, and understanding. Yes, this is the most idealistic view and we think that it is a goal that society should have. Even many of us claim that it is not possible, but we should strive for it.


The first subject, Information, is perhaps the oldest part of this movement. Gutenberg can be considered one of its earliest advocates, since he invented the printing press, allowing the public at large to read and become educated. Today, Open Information has grown phenomenally with the Internet, which allows anybody online to access an immense wealth of knowledge.

More recently there have been more or less successful attempts to centralize open knowledge. Wikipedia, for example, is an online encyclopedia where anyone can contribute, correct, or complete articles. On August 25, 2022 it had some 6,544,007 articles in English,[1] making it larger than any printed encyclopedia.




Technology, the most visible part of the Open Culture movement can be most easily illustrated in the field of both computer software and hardware.

A branch of the Free Software movement known as Open Source software is a commonly-cited example. As in all cases of "free" culture the free software and open source movements are founded on a premise whereby the user is not restricted in the use of the software. The user is encouraged to build upon what has gone before without any fear of being restricted by legal or ethical constraints.

Many users of free software from around the world are able to contribute to the development of applications that are useful, so it is in effect not a single company that creates software for the customers but customers that contribute to making useful and efficient software for themselves as part of a community and society.



Common examples of this technology include the GNU/Linux Operating System, the Mozilla Firefox web browser, and the LibreOffice office suite. Other examples of this include WordPress, Apache, VLC, Blender, and others. Each of those applications have very significant shares in their respective markets and may pose a threat to their traditional, proprietary competitors.


Sprite Fright, an example of a movie made with open source software, and released under a Creative Commons licence (CC-Attribution-4.0).

Media, another area of Open Culture, includes content-sharing such as BitTorrent, and other P2P networks. It is very recent, mainly having come with the development of the Internet. These networks allow everyone to share their photos, music and videos so that everyone has access to all the media he would like and gives his own production to everyone.

What are the incentives to produce new media if one can't get any money out of it? Some incentives include communicating one's thoughts, beliefs and knowledge. And to be sure that one's work will at least have a reference to the author, one can use licenses like the ones that Creative Commons proposes.

People increasingly are influenced by media. This is called the "media imperative".


Many different websites and groups are promoting discussions about national or international politics, these are strong actors in the open culture movement, because they want to have everyone contribute to the different subjects to advance the general knowledge. Though this has been said to be a manifestation of left wing politics.

However, politically-oriented websites tend to attract politically opinionated individuals, and, as a result, Open Culture has not been as successful in such venues as might have been anticipated. For instance, Indymedia, regarded by some as Open, is regarded by many as a failure in that deletions and IP banning is performed by a closed group, and the Open publishing is exploited by parties who might better be deleted, but are not deleted, because the deletion powers vest in the closed groups.


Some see Open Culture as a way to enhance the way people work. An interesting example of this is the sub-movement of Open-source Cola, which aims to openly share and improve recipes for making cola flavor soda pop.