At HKW’s The Principle of the City tonight, Eve Blau was one of the speakers offering a reaction to Richard Sennet’s (et al) discussion 1. Sennett had referred to one of his central ideas, the Open City, 2 and mentioned that he has become interested in open software, specifically Linux. Blau contrasted this form of open-ness with Umberto Eco’s idea of the open work. 3.
Insofar as I’d ever thought about it, I realise that I had always taken “open” to mean the same thing in both cases. For Eco, a work is open in the sense that it can be “closed off” in one of many ways by the reader; open in the software (and, perhaps, Sennett’s) sense is probably something else. There is not really the distinction of reader/producer. The readers are assumed to be future producers.
Having said that, it is also a principle of open software, that the software can be put to different uses, read differently, closed off’ differently in Eco’s sense. 4
While listening to Sennett, the military term of art, open city kept coming to mind. An open city is a demilitarised city, one that is not defended and therefore—in international law—not legitimately attacked.