Two Bits - The Cultural Significance of Free Software
Christopher M. Kelty (2008)


Anthropology is dependent on strangers who become friends and colleagues—strangers who contribute the very essence of the work. In my case, these strangers are also hyperaware of issues of credit, reputation, acknowledgment, reuse, and modification of ideas and things. Therefore, the list is extensive and detailed.

Sean Doyle and Adrian Gropper opened the doors to this project, providing unparalleled insight, hospitality, challenge, and curiosity. Axel Roch introduced me to Volker Grassmuck, and to much else. Volker Grassmuck introduced me to Berlin’s Free Software world and invited me to participate in the Wizards of OS conferences. Udhay Shankar introduced me to almost everyone I know, sometimes after the fact. Shiv Sastry helped me find lodging in Bangalore at his Aunt Anasuya Sastry’s house, which is called “Silicon Valley” and which was truly a lovely place to stay. Bharath Chari and Ram Sundaram let me haunt their office and cat-5 cables [PAGE xiv] during one of the more turbulent periods of their careers. Glenn Otis Brown visited, drank, talked, invited, challenged, entertained, chided, encouraged, drove, was driven, and gave and received advice. Ross Reedstrom welcomed me to the Rice Linux Users’ Group and to Connexions. Brent Hendricks did yeoman’s work, suffering my questions and intrusions. Geneva Henry, Jenn Drummond, Chuck Bearden, Kathy Fletcher, Manpreet Kaur, Mark Husband, Max Starkenberg, Elvena Mayo, Joey King, and Joel Thierstein have been welcoming and enthusiastic at every meeting. Sid Burris has challenged and respected my work, which has been an honor. Rich Baraniuk listens to everything I say, for better or for worse; he is a magnificent collaborator and friend.

James Boyle has been constantly supportive, for what feels like very little return on investment. Very few people get to read and critique and help reshape the argument and structure of a book, and to appear in it as well. Mario Biagioli helped me see the intricate strategy described in chapter 6. Stefan Helmreich read early drafts and transformed my thinking about networks. Manuel DeLanda explained the term assemblage to me. James Faubion corrected my thinking in chapter 2, helped me immeasurably with the Protestants, and has been an exquisitely supportive colleague and department chair. Mazyar Lotfalian and Melissa Cefkin provided their apartment and library, in which I wrote large parts of chapter 1. Matt Price and Michelle Murphy have listened patiently to me construct and reconstruct versions of this book for at least six years. Tom and Elizabeth Landecker provided hospitality and stunningly beautiful surroundings in which to rewrite parts of the book. Lisa Gitelman read carefully and helped explain issues about documentation and versioning that I discuss in chapter 4. Matt Ratto read and commented on chapters 4-7, convinced me to drop a useless distinction, and to clarify the conclusion to chapter 7. Shay David provided strategic insights about openness from his own work and pushed me to explain the point of recursive publics more clearly. Biella Coleman has been a constant interlocutor on the issues in this book—her contributions are too deep, too various, and too thorough to detail. Her own work on Free Software and hackers has been a constant sounding board and guide, and it has been a pleasure to work together on our respective texts. Kim Fortun helped me figure it all out. [PAGE xv]

George Marcus hired me into a fantastic anthropology department and has had immense faith in this project throughout its lifetime. Paul Rabinow, Stephen Collier, and Andrew Lakoff have provided an extremely valuable setting—the Anthropology of the Contemporary Research Collaboratory—within which the arguments of this book developed in ways they could not have as a solitary project. Joe Dumit has encouraged and prodded and questioned and brainstormed and guided and inspired. Michael Fischer is the best mentor and advisor ever. He has read everything, has written much that precedes and shapes this work, and has been an unwavering supporter and friend throughout.

Tish Stringer, Michael Powell, Valerie Olson, Ala Alazzeh, Lina Dib, Angela Rivas, Anthony Potoczniak, Ayla Samli, Ebru Kayaalp, Michael Kriz, Erkan Saka, Elise McCarthy, Elitza Ranova, Amanda Randall, Kris Peterson, Laura Jones, Nahal Naficy, Andrea Frolic, and Casey O’Donnell make my job rock. Scott McGill, Sarah Ellenzweig, Stephen Collier, Carl Pearson, Dan Wallach, Tracy Volz, Rich Doyle, Ussama Makdisi, Elora Shehabbudin, Michael Morrow, Taryn Kinney, Gregory Kaplan, Jane Greenberg, Hajime Nakatani, Kirsten Ostherr, Henning Schmidgen, Jason Danziger, Kayte Young, Nicholas King, Jennifer Fishman, Paul Drueke, Roberta Bivins, Sherri Roush, Stefan Timmermans, Laura Lark, and Susann Wilkinson either made Houston a wonderful place to be or provided an opportunity to escape it. I am especially happy that Thom Chivens has done both and more.

The Center for the Study of Cultures provided me with a Faculty Fellowship in the fall of 2003, which allowed me to accomplish much of the work in conceptualizing the book. The Harvard History of Science Department and the MIT Program in History, Anthropology, and Social Studies of Science and Technology hosted me in the spring of 2005, allowing me to write most of chapters 7, 8, and 9. Rice University has been extremely generous in all respects, and a wonderful place to work. I’m most grateful for a junior sabbatical that gave me the chance to complete much of this book. John Hoffman graciously and generously allowed the use of the domain name, in support of Free Software. Ken Wissoker, Courtney Berger, and the anonymous reviewers for Duke University Press have made this a much, much better book than when I started. [PAGE xvi]

My parents, Ted and Anne, and my brother, Kevin, have always been supportive and loving; though they claim to have no idea what I do, I nonetheless owe my small success to their constant support. Hannah Landecker has read and reread and rewritten every part of this work; she has made it and me better, and I love her dearly for it. Last, but not least, my new project, Ida Jane Kelty Landecker, is much cuter and smarter and funnier than Two Bits, and I love her for distracting me from it.

License: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike License, available at or by mail from Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, Calif. 94305, U.S.A. "NonCommercial" as defined in this license specifically excludes any sale of this work or any portion thereof for money, even if sale does not result in a profit by the seller or if the sale is by a 501(c)(3) nonprofit or NGO.
Duke University Press gratefully acknowledges the support of HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory), which provided funds to help support the electronic interface of this book.
Two Bits is accessible on the Web at

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