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A Participation Paradox: Seeking the Missing Link between Free/Open Source Software and Participatory Design

Zegaye S. Wubishet1, Bendik Bygstad2, and Prodromos Tsiavos3
1. University of Oslo, Norway
2. Norwegian School of Information Technology, Norway
3. London School of Economic, UK
Abstract—The success of Free Open Source Software (FOSS) has resulted in thousands of robust and ubiquitous products such as Linux, Firefox and Apache. However, the usability of many other FOSS products is often poor, and the most successful projects are the ones where the user and the developer are one and the same. The lack of broader participation is worrying, because it threatens the entire production model of FOSS. In this paper we investigate the reasons for this situation, drawing extensively from research on participatory design and commons based peer production (CBPP), and on a case study of three FOSS projects. Potential lessons are also drawn from the CBPP model in general, and the FOSS approach in particular, to mitigate the challenges facing distributed participatory design (DPD).

Index Terms— open source software, participatory design, commons based peer production

Cite: Zegaye S. Wubishet, Bendik Bygstad, and Prodromos Tsiavos, "A Participation Paradox: Seeking the Missing Link between Free/Open Source Software and Participatory Design," Journal of Advances in Information Technology, Vol. 4, No. 4, pp. 181-193, November, 2013.doi:10.4304/jait.4.4.181-193
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