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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Recent Work

The UCSD Communication Department studies how humans, individually or institutionally, make sense of the world and act in the face of meanings others seek to impose on them, and how this sense-making activity is symbolically mediated by communication technologies.

Cover page of The Labor of Maintaining and Scaling Free and Open-Source Software Projects

The Labor of Maintaining and Scaling Free and Open-Source Software Projects

(2021)

Free and/or open-source software (or F/OSS) projects now play a major and dominant role in society, constituting critical digital infrastructure relied upon by companies, academics, non-profits, activists, and more. As F/OSS has become larger and more established, we investigate the labor of maintaining and sustaining those projects at various scales. We report findings from an interview-based study with contributors and maintainers working in a wide range of F/OSS projects. Maintainers of F/OSS projects do not just maintain software code in a more traditional software engineering understanding of the term: fixing bugs, patching security vulnerabilities, and updating dependencies. F/OSS maintainers also perform complex and often-invisible interpersonal and organizational work to keep their projects operating as active communities of users and contributors. We particularly focus on how this labor of maintaining and sustaining changes as projects and their software grow and scale across many dimensions. In understanding F/OSS to be as much about maintaining a communal project as it is maintaining software code, we discuss broadly applicable considerations for peer production communities and other socio-technical systems more broadly.

Cover page of Guns, germs, and public history: A conversation with Jennifer Tucker.

Guns, germs, and public history: A conversation with Jennifer Tucker.

(2021)

In this wide-ranging conversation, historians David Serlin (UC San Diego) and Jennifer Tucker (Wesleyan University) discuss the role of material culture and visual media in shaping how museums communicate histories of science and technology. Tucker describes recent a public history project focused on 19th-century histories of firearms and gun regulation in light of contemporary debates about the Second Amendment "right to bear arms." Serlin and Tucker conclude by speculating about possible curatorial directions for a future public history exhibit focused on the social and cultural impact of the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020.

Cover page of The good fight

The good fight

(2020)

Through solidarity and resistance, workers can guide the ethics of tech giants

Cover page of Financialized Hollywood: Institutional Investment, Venture Capital, and Private Equity in the Film and Television Industry

Financialized Hollywood: Institutional Investment, Venture Capital, and Private Equity in the Film and Television Industry

(2020)

The financial sector has a hidden, but dramatic effect on Hollywood: three institutional investors hold the largest investment stakes in nearly all major companies; corporate venture capital has arisen within every entertainment conglomerate; and private equity firms have enacted leveraged buyouts of companies in all sectors, including production, distribution, exhibition, talent agencies, audience measurement, trade press, and content catalogues. This article argues that “Financialized Hollywood” is a dangerous development; financial engineering strategies are extracting capital and reducing operational capacity, further depriving Hollywood of the diversity and heterogeneity it might provide the public sphere.

Cover page of The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Fragility

The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Fragility

(2020)

Impermanence and fragility have become the defining conditions of the digital age. Technologies that were ubiquitous barely a decade ago, like floppy disks, now look like archaeological relics. It takes only a few years, if not months, before software environments are replaced by newer versions, often with limited backward compatibility. At the same time, digital technologies rely on hardware that has short life expectancy. The radical obsolescence of this new digital register raises a number of important questions. How are we going to prevent the fragile memories of contemporary digital cultures from receding into oblivion? This essay answers this question by looking at one of the institutions in which the problems associated with digital fragility are most especially felt, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and by exploring the ontological displacements that digital objects are operating at the heart of the museum.