There is this concept of open collaboration, which with the invention of open source software, has entered into other fields. This research aims to find out how students at Augsburg University feel about open collaboration and it's spread into the economy.

Keywords: Open Collaboration, Open Source, Free Software, DIY Movement, Wikis, Open Access, Creative Commons


Openness and Collaboration

By Paul Downey (Flickr: Openness and Collaboration) [CC BY 2.0 (] via Wikimedia Commons

Although there has been a lot of research in the topic of Open Collaboration, the general public may not understand it very well. I want to know how well students at Augsburg University understand about it, and how they feel about it. In order to understand Open Collaboration, we need an example. One of the more commonly referred to examples of Open Collaboration is Open Source. So what is it? For something to be considered Open Source it must have source code, it must not restrict the distribution of the software, it must allow modifications and derived works under the same license as the original work, it must not discrimate against anyone or any groups of people or fields of work and, it cannot restrict other software (Kierkegaard, P., & Adrian, A.; 2010). What does this mean in English? Basically, you give the people rights to modify and distribute the code that you wrote. Free Software is a related concept - while the Open Source movement stresses the importance of nonowned software, the Free Software movement is a movement focuses more on the ethics of open code, and to keep it from being sold if borrowed for proprietary software (HERTELIU, E. E.; 2010).

Another example of Open Collaboration is the DIY Movement (DIY stands for Do-It-Yourself) (Aitamurto, T., Holland, D., & Hussain, S.; 2015). The DIY Movement is centralized around community cooperation, and rejection of the heirarchy; it is opposed to capitalism and came into existence in a similar way to Hippies and Punk Rock(Hemphill, D., & Leskowitz, S.; 2013).

A third example of Open Collaboration is Wikis. Wiki communities work by having Trust within a community and "shar[ing] knowledge interactively" (Wang, W., & Wei, Z.; 2011).

Some other examples of Open Collaboration movements are Open Access - scientific data made open, no copyright restrictions (HERTELIU, E. E.; 2010), and the Creative Commons organization (Sullivan, J. L.; 2011).

But why care about Open Collaboration?

OpensourceOpen Source and open collaboration are becoming more common (GITTLEN, S.; 2016). In fact the Open Source paradigm is spreading, and forming a new open hardware design community (Aitamurto, T., Holland, D., & Hussain, S.; 2015). We care about this shift because it can be thought of as opposed to captialism. Or, it could actually act as an economical structure - a modification on capitalism in order to make it more fair (Marthaller, J.; 2017). Even film animators are adopting some open collaboration practices (Velkova, J., & Jakobsson, P.; 2017). It's even been suggested to use Open Collaboration to keep track of countries ownership of weapons of mass destruction, in order to get to world peace (Jeremias, G., & Himmel, M.; 2016). In 2021, Open Source jobs are predicted to take over many IT jobs, which are traditionally proprietary software jobs; A normal future computer science job might very well be working on Open Source software (GITTLEN, S.; 2016).

In this research study, I've decided to ask Augsburg University students whether or not they have heard of various forms of Open Collaboration, and what their opinions are on them. I've decided to ask university students because the future of open collaboration is likely decided by people who are a few years away from entering the workforce. How they feel about how this is going to affect their careers, is going to affect their opinions, and therefore open collaboration's future (We care about it's future because of the above paragraph).

Arguments against and for Open Collaboration

Rack001 To counter the spread of Open Collaboration there has been some hesitation to adopt it for different reasons. Both IBM and Microsoft worried about competition with Open Source software (Gruen, N.; 2005). There is a large fear that programmers will not be able to be payed if the company can't sell the software to make money. The Open Source movement, by some is thought to be a threat to proprietary software markets; Linux mostly has taken over the server market (Xing, M.; 2015). Windows and other proprietary servers are rare to come by, because Linux works just fine for the task; Just about no one buys an operating system to run their server. Others have a more practical than ethical problem with Open Source. Their argument against Open Source is that in the case of a software project like OpenSSL (code that handles basically all security), the software is not being funded very well - the code base is a mess, and bugs like heartbleed have been introduced that could have been caught if people were being payed to look over the software, and maintain good-quality (KAMP, P.; 2014).

IBM and Microsoft have recently abandoned their view that Open Source is a threat. Open Source is actually working within our current economy. In fact, 90% of Linux patches come from tech companies; this means a lot of people are being payed to work on Open Source software (Gruen, N.; 2005). Even Microsoft and IBM are now working on open source software (GITTLEN, S.; 2016). Open Source and Open Collaboration in economic practice can actually allow for commercialization and financial gain, without requiring anyone to actually own the product (Georgopoulou, P.; 2009). Through a combination of donations, sponsors and employees at tech companies, the people who make the software can make money. And, Open Source Software actually "favors market expansion more than proprietary software does by tapping into spontaneous work input" through an "open division of labor" (Garzarelli, G., Limam, Y. R., & Thomassen, B.; 2008). It is also said that technological and cultural freedom can increase from Open Collaboration movements (Sullivan, J. L.; 2011), and that it could allow for a "moral economy" (Velkova, J., & Jakobsson, P.; 2017). Often times Open Source software users tend to be more involved in the development of the software than proprietary software users, so issues are reported and found if not fixed by the user in a shorter period than proprietary software (Garzarelli, G., Limam, Y. R., & Thomassen, B.; 2008).


In order to figure out how Augsburg Students feel about open collaboration, I have made a Google Forms and emailed it out to people. 17 people took the survey (4 within the computer science department, and 13 outside of it). The charts were made with Libre Office. Survey takers were asked whether or not they are in the computer science department. We can compare their results (computer science vs. non-computer science students).

Results and Discussion

Are you familiar with the concept of Open Collaboration?

As expected, computer science students are more familiar with Open Collaboration than non-computer science students, likely due to the Open Source movement. But still, half of computer science students still don't know what it is. And people outside of the computer science department may have heard of it, but no one who took the survey was familiar with the concept. Seemingly, the phrase "Open Collaboration" is not commonly known at Augsburg.

Are you familiar with the concept of Open Source?

Again, the computer science students have more knowledge on the concept. Open Source is a more widely understood concept than Open Collaboration. Still, half of the students have not heard of it.

Do you....

In the computer science department, if you use Open Source then you tend to also be a contributor. Most people said that they don't use open source - but this could be because half the people are not familiar with the concept (They could be using it, but not realise). About a quarter of Augsburg students who took the survey use Open Source.

DIY Movement

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It looks like about half of Augsburg students who took the survey are familiar with the DIY Movement. Only a few are actively involved though. Familiarity with the DIY Movement doesn't seem to depend much on whether or not the student is in the computer science department.

Wikis (websites like Wikipedia)

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Wiki usage/contributions also doesn't depend on whether or not the student is in the computer science department or not. About 1/8 of Augsburg students who took the survey contribute to Wikis, which is a relatively large amount of Open Collaboration involvement in the population.

Open Access

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Open Access usage also doesn't depend on whether or not the student is in the computer science department or not. More than half of the survey takers have never heard of Open Access.

Creative Commons

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Creative Commons usage is more common among computer science students is much higher than other students. About 3/4 of non-computer science students have never heard of it. This is unfortunate, as I think that it could be a valuable resource for students.

Do you think Open Collaboration is a good force in the world? (Questions differentiated Open Source or not, but they gave identical results, meaning people who think Open Collaboration is a good force also think Open Source is)

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Computer science students seem more unsure about about Open Collaboration being a good force in the world than non-computer science students. This could be because they are worried that it will take their jobs, or that it will lessen the quality of their work. No one thinks that it's definitely a bad thing, but the majority either way is unsure.

How would you best describe yourself? (various answers no one picked, so they are left out)

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The wide majority of Augsburg students at least partially identify themselves as socialist. No one describes themselves as completely socialist, though, which explains why most respondents were unsure about whether Open Source / Open Collaboration is a good thing; The way Open Source usually plays out in our society is through socialist or communist economical practices.

Are you concerned about Open Collaboration (excluding Open Source) negatively affecting the economy?

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Half of the the Computer Science students think Open Collaboration will help the economy, while most of non-computer science students think that it won't affect the economy. Only one person was concerned about it affecting the economy negatively.

Are you concerned about Open Source negatively affecting the economy?

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Computer Science students seem to be more concerned about the open source negatively affecting the economy (they're likely worried about the future of the computer science industry). Non-computer science students are not concerned - this is likely because a lot of them don't use Open Source (as shown several questions above).

Do you think the Open Source cause is more justified on mobile or desktop applications?

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This question has the clearest divide between computer science students and non-computer science students. Computer scientists seem to not see a difference between desktop and mobile applications. Everyone else seems to shift more towards desktop open sourcing being more justified. This is likely because desktop applications are usually needed more by the user. I have a lot of games on my phone - which are just for fun, while the programs on my computer I often use for homework and projects, and are more necessary for what I do as a computer scientist and student. And, no one wants to buy something proprietary just to do homework or their job - they'd rather spend money on something fun.


Open Knowledge logo Unlike I thought, before conducting this survey, Open Collaboration is NOT more common among computer science students. In fact, they seem to be more skeptical about it than the average Augsburg student. But, they certainly know more about it. Nevertheless, the computer science community is shifting towards it (and other industries too), whether we like it or not. But it doesn't look like people have a strong opinion yet, since none of the survey-takers are convinced that open collaboration is bad, and none of them think it will negatively affect the economy.

But why be so skeptical of open collaboration? The research that I have done seems to point out that it works very well. I think that people don't know enough about open collaboration. Survey-takers overwhelmingly reported not having heard of it before, and just about all of them have used some form of it.

With the coming rise of Open Collaboration, people need to have a better understanding of what it is, and how it affects life. In the future, we may see economic laws passed, and more companies adopting the practice of open collaboration. Current college students may get hired for open collaboration. These are all reasons why I think that it is important for college students to understand the concept. But, despite the research, we have yet to see it's full potential - and it's weaknesses - which is even more reason for the public to try to understand it.


Aitamurto, T., Holland, D., & Hussain, S. (2015). The open paradigm in design research. Design Issues, 31(4), 17-29. 10.1162/DESI_a_00348 Retrieved from

Research on how design in innovation is changing with open source This can provide some possibly useful insights on open source as a concept.

Garzarelli, G., Limam, Y. R., & Thomassen, B. (2008). Open source software and economic growth: A classical division of labor perspective. Information Technology for Development, 14(2), 116-135. 10.1002/itdj.20092 Retrieved from

Explores both costs and benefits of open source. Gives reasons for both sides of the argument.

Georgopoulou, P. (2009). The free/open source software movement resistance or change? Civitas - Revista De Ci�ncias Sociais, 9(1), 65-76. Retrieved from

Comparing open source economies to other economies Opinions could be drawn from this research, for either side

GITTLEN, S. (2016). Open source career-maker or wipeout? Computerworld Digital Magazine, 2(7), 26-31. Retrieved from

Explores several different views about open source. Good to see what opinions already exist.

Gruen, N. (2005). Geeks bearing gifts open source software and its enemies. Policy, 21(2), 39-44. Retrieved from

Analysis of the open source phenomenon as an economy. Good for description of what open source actually is.

Hemphill, D., & Leskowitz, S. (2013). DIY activists: Communities of practice, cultural dialogism, and radical knowledge sharing. Adult Education Quarterly, 63(1), 57-77. 10.1177/0741713612442803 Retrieved from

An overview of a different way of living in society, based on concepts of open source Helpful to understand how open source works / how some people think it can work in other aspects of life.

HERTELIU, E. E. (2010). Open source and free software concepts implemented in publication of academic research. Journal of Applied Quantitative Methods, 5(4), 692-705. Retrieved from

Talks about open access Important for talking about other uses of open collaboration.

Jeremias, G., & Himmel, M. (2016). Can everyone help verify the bioweapons convention? perhaps, via open source monitoring. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 72(6), 412-417. 10.1080/00963402.2016.1240487 Retrieved from

Using open collaboration for world peace. To get more examples of open collaboration.

KAMP, P. (2014). Quality of software costs money--heartbleed was free. Communications of the ACM, 57(8), 49-51. 10.1145/2631095 Retrieved from

Explains how open collaboration does not always have to lead to less jobs Arguments for one side of the argument.

Kierkegaard, P., & Adrian, A. (2010). Wikitopia: Balancing intellectual property rights within open source research databases. Computer Law & Security Review, 26(5), 502-519. 10.1016/j.clsr.2010.07.008 Retrieved from

Exploration of the conflict of contributing to wikis. Arguments for both sides of the argument

Marthaller, J. (2017). Beta phase communities: Open source software as gift economy. Political Theology, 18(1), 5-21. 10.1179/1462317X15Z.000000000146 Retrieved from

Alternative to capitalism. Gives a useful theory about open source.

Sullivan, J. L. (2011). Free, open source software advocacy as a social justice movement: The expansion of F/OSS movement discourse in the 21st century. Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 8(3), 223-239. 10.1080/19331681.2011.592080 Retrieved from

How open source ideas can be used in social justice How the ideas of open collaboration can be applied in multiple places is useful opinion.

Velkova, J., & Jakobsson, P. (2017). At the intersection of commons and market: Negotiations of value in open-sourced cultural production. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 20(1), 14-30. 10.1177/1367877915598705 Retrieved from

A look at open source communities Useful to see how these communities function.

Wang, W., & Wei, Z. (2011). Knowledge sharing in wiki communities: An empirical study. Online Information Review, 35(5), 799-820. 10.1108/14684521111176516 Retrieved from

A study of knowledge sharing in wiki communities Helpful to see how wikis work.

Xing, M. (2015). The effect of competition from open source software on the quality of proprietary software in the presence of network externalities. Journal of Industrial Engineering & Management, 8(3), 861-876. 10.3926/jiem.1362 Retrieved from

A look at how open source production practices have affected proprietary code. Useful to see that this may be a preferred method of working on software development.