Kirkus Reviews QR Code


What the Open-Source Revolution Means for Power, Politics, and Change

by Jared Duval

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-60819-066-9
Publisher: Bloomsbury

Political treatise suggesting that the wired and tolerant under-30 “millennials” must apply open-source principles to the process of governance.

Demos fellow Duval was national director of the Sierra Club’s student chapter and received awards for his own organizing efforts. From adolescence, he was intrigued by the notion of tackling difficult social problems in a collaborative fashion, and his early experiences as a Howard Dean volunteer convinced him that the democratic process was ready for innovations. “I was intrigued by the possibilities this new approach held for our politics,” he writes, “with the potential for people to become active participants at all levels of our democracy.” Later, his experiences as a volunteer in Tanzania dealing with HIV prevention suggested to him that today’s challenges are interconnected and thus require solutions reflecting the linkages of wired social media so familiar to millennials. Duval argues that such online, interactive game-changers as Wikipedia demonstrate that collaborative content management “turns out, however improbably, to work remarkably well.” The most powerful chapter examines the Coast Guard’s improvisational rescue efforts during Hurricane Katrina, and the efforts of residents to rebuild, as examples of collective efforts that benefitted from nontraditional leadership and technologies. His argument reflects the work of, among others, Linus Torvalds, revered for developing the “open-source” Linux/GNU operating system. Torvalds’ invitation of widespread user contributions resulted in quicker, more efficient improvements to the OS, and Duval sees this as applicable to politics. He examines projects like SeeClickFix in New Haven, Conn., which allows real-time critiques of urban problems, and President Obama’s ultimately successful pursuit of health-care reform. The author’s social outlook is ambitious and hopeful, but his prose is neither fiery nor forceful and relies on jargon-heavy repetitions of his basic argument. The book lacks historical context or a cold-blooded sense of the real opposition to progressive movement in contemporary America. Includes a foreword by Tim O'Reilly.

Well-intentioned but repetitive and too hypothetical.