November 13, 2012

The People Who Support Linux: IT Manager Pursues Masters Degree in the Art of Open Source

How is the Linux community like a terrorist organization? This is a question graduate student, IT Manager and Systems Engineer Joel Burleson-Davis recently explored for his master’s thesis on sociological and philosophical systems, including Linux.

Though he has a technical background and is employed remotely by a structural and mechanical engineering company in Western Australia, Burleson-Davis is pursuing a Master of Arts degree, driven by his fascination with the open source community.

Joel-Burleson-Davis“While the technology of Linux and open-source in general is flexible and robust, the community and social dynamics that make it all possible are much more interesting to me,” Burleson-Davis, who lives in Austin, Texas, said via email.

His most recent paper draws on the framework of social researcher Arjun Appadurai from his book "Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger." The book argues that small numbers of loosely connected terrorist cells are enabled by technology to antagonize and win against large nation-states.

Burleson-Davis equates the Linux community and its development model with the terrorist cells in Appadurai’s book, and organizations like Microsoft and Apple with the massive nations under attack. He writes:

“The Linux community, made up of volunteers, people from various organizations (often competing organizations like SUSE-RedHat-Oracle, Broadcom-Atheros, etc) many of whom work at home (like most of the core Kernel developers as far as I know), have given MS and Apple a run for their money, and actually dominated huge areas of the technosphere…

“Linux is the dominant platform now for Smartphones, WebServers, and super-computers and is a foundational element of the largest and most powerful technology companies and websites today (Google, Amazon, Samsung, IBM, Facebook, Wikipedia, etc).”

Linux Insider

Burleson-Davis’ intellectual curiosity with Linux comes from more than a decade working with the platform as a development and learning environment for C programming. He started with Corel Linux in 2000 before moving on to Debian and Fedora Core.

He’s now devoted to Linux for its “limitless flexibility” and the “vibrant community that supports it,” he said. You’ll find him in the support forums for Arch Linux, Zeroshell, Fedora, OpenWrt and CyanogenMod.

“At home, Linux is on my laptop (Arch Linux), phone (Android), router (OpenWRT), my workstation (Fedora), and my HTPC (Fedora as well),” he said. “At work, I use Linux for our WLAN (OpenWRT), Routing (Vyatta), Virtualization (KVM), and our Internet Kiosks (Ubuntu).”

He recently joined The Linux Foundation as an individual supporter to boost his professional ties with Linux. He also plans to attend more LinuxCon events and interact more with the community.

“While I have various Linux certifications, I wanted an organizational attachment, much like my membership with the IEEE and the ACM,” he said.

Thanks for supporting The Linux Foundation, Joel!


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