November 8th & 9th, 2024
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SeaGL speaker Q&A: Benjamin Mako Hill

Benjamin Mako Hill shares some thoughts with SeaGL:

Q: Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background?

I’m an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington and a faculty affiliate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and an affiliate at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science — both at Harvard.

By night, I’ve been a hacker and contributor to a bunch of different free software communities over more than a decade. Most visibly, I’ve contributed to the Debian and Ubuntu projects. I’ve written several best-selling technical books, I’m a member of the Free Software Foundation board of directors, and I’m an advisor to the Wikimedia Foundation.

Q: Without tipping your hand on the actual talk, can you give us an idea of what we might expect?

The free software movement has twin goals: promoting access to software through users’ freedom to share, and empowering users by giving them control over their technology. For all our movement’s success, we have been much more successful at the former. I will use data from free software and from several related movements to explain why promoting empowerment is systematically more difficult than promoting access and I will explore how our movement might address the second challenge in the future.

Q: Is this your first visit to SeaGL? If so, what are your expectations? If not, can you give us your impressions of the event?

I attended last year’s conference and I had a fantastic time. I love that it’s a real community driven conference. Back when I first started playing in the free software world in the nineties, GNU/Linux conferences (like the Atlanta Linux Showcase) were places for excited newcomers to get together with other likeminded folks. Between then and now, most have become big corporate affairs. SeaGL reminds me of why I loved going to conferences in the first place.