sábado, 16 de diciembre de 2017
These are changing times. The impact of the ever-changing technological landscape has forced individuals to adapt to a society that is constantly consuming technological devices and services in ways never seen before.
Some people, especially in the education sector, see this revolution as a promise land where every gadget is a potentiator for the teaching-learning process (shouldn't it be processes?). In this idyllic view, people who are consumers of technologies tend to promote what is trendy, from iPads to Facebook, as the snake oil that solves all education-related problems. Rarely is it that they stop and analyze limitations that sometimes become show-stoppers, such as the tech-divide, terms of service that contradict student privacy policies, or technological discrimination.
Interestingly, in my country, educators tend to be the least flexible concerning new technologies. Most of them, for example, cannot distinguish the difference between an .odt and a .PNG file. Driven by either recalcitrance or inertia, they have not been able to embrace the migration from MS Office to LibreOffice, a process that started in 2010. And now that MS Office was removed, they are crying in desperation.
This phenomenon is not new; many users believe that productivity is equal to procedural automation. Such idea rests, however, on the false assumption that software is unchanging. They forgot that Microsoft actually changed the Office interface in 2007 and they had to adapt. Now that they have to use LibreOffice, they claim that adaptation to an interface that they used before 2007 is way too difficult.
I suspect that the problem has never been the interface, nor is the productivity assumption. The problem at the core is the rejection of FLOSS because of fear or hatred, a phenomenon that I call FLOSSophobia.
While some people will sneer and dismiss my thought as a hyperbole, there is plenty of evidence to categorize this recalcitrance as the product of a hegemony with political an economic power to propagate both fear (FUD) and sheer hatred toward FLOSS. They resort to ridicule, insulting remarks, and unproven claims to slow down the adoption of free/open source software.
I have seen it many times. "Linux is a cancer". "Open sauce". "Linuxtard". I even remember the teacher who did not bring a laptop for her presentation and, when I offered her my Linux netbook, she rejected it as if I had presented her something illegal. She tried to use an old Windows computer instead but, when the computer failed, she ended up displaying her presentation with my Linux netbook.
Clearly, this teacher's position was not based on ignorance or lack of expertise because she knew Linux existed and all she had to do was to display slides. Her refusal was due to indoctrination: she had learned that Linux and non-Microsoft office suites had to be rejected.
The case of my colleagues is similar. They think they are computer literate because they use MS Office (despite knowing nothing about file formats). With LibreOffice, their inconsistencies manifest and they feel self-conscious, exposed, and incompetent. They both hate and fear feeling this way, so they cling to that which makes them feel validated and, in so doing, they assume a rejection discourse on FLOSS.
No doubt; FLOSSophobia is a new reality that the information era has brought about. From the social standpoint, there is virtually no difference in the mechanics of FLOSSophobia and, say, xenophobia or homophobia. The only difference rests on the fact that society is still oblivious to the adverse consequences of FLOSSophobia. However, a day will come in which this phenomenon will be subject of analysis, like Cyber-bullying, sexting, and other realities that ICTs have put onto the table.