While Taylor’s dismissal of free software as ‘freedom to tinker’ captures something real about its prima facie narrowness as a political programme, she misses the peculiar way in which this very narrowness gives rise to significant implications when we broaden the frame and examine a more social picture. While the individual user may not be interested in tinkering with, for example, the Linux kernel, as opposed to simply using it, the fact that it can be tinkered with opens up a space of social agency that is not at all trivial. Since everyone can access all the code all the time, it is impossible for any entity, capital or state, to establish any definitive control over users on the basis of the code itself. And since the outcomes of this process are pooled, one does not have to be personally interested in ‘tinkering’ to benefit directly from this freedom. With non-free software one must simply trust whoever, or whichever organization, created it. With free software, this ‘whoever’ is socially open-ended, with responsibility ultimately lying with the community of users itself.
"opens up a space of social agency that is not at all trivial" is nice (on open source)