Kim H. Veltman

On the Links Between Open Source and Culture

Keynote Lecture at: Oekonux Conference, Dortmund, April 2001.
Mirror site:,

The Internet has at least five consequences: 1) technological (invisibility); 2) material (virtuality); 3) organizational (systemicity); 4) intellectual (contextuality) and 5) philosophical (spirituality). Most discussions of the Internet focus on the first three consequences. This lecture focusses on the last two.

Major advances in civilization typically entail a change in medium, which increases greatly the scope of what can be shared. Havelock noted that the shift from oral to written culture entailed a dramatic increase in the amount of knowledge shared and led to a re-organization of knowledge. McLuhan and Giesecke4 explored what happened when Gutenberg introduced print culture in Europe. The development of printing went hand in hand with the rise of early modern science. In the sixteenth century, the rise of vernacular printing helped spread new knowledge. From the mid-seventeenth century onwards this again increased as learned correspondance became the basis for a new category of learned journals (Journal des savants, Journal of the Royal Society, Göttinger Gelehrten Anzeiger etc.), whence expressions such as the "world of letters."

The advent of Internet marks a radical increase in this trend towards sharing. Conservative estimates claim that there are over 7 million new pages per day with over 2.1 billion pages in all. Some claim that there are over 550 billion pages on the Internet. The Internet began as a new method for sharing in the sciences, particularly physics and astronomy and is now becoming essential for advances in the life sciences and especially in emerging fields such as the human genome project and biotechnology.

Read full article