1. Introduction

2. Open Source in Computers and Composition

3. Defining Access

4. The Access Research Agenda

5. Access and Open Source Research

6. Conclusion: Directions and Challenges

7. References

8. A Note on Webtext Design
Open Source in Computers and Composition

Open source software has been on the research and pedagogical agenda of scholars in computers and composition for almost a decade, despite the small amount of published research (Lowe, 2001; Taylor and Riley, 2004; Ballentine, 2009a, 2009b). I have been involved in work with open source software in the field of computers and composition since 2006, when several scholars met at CCCC to discuss drafting a statement about open source applications in colleges and universities. At the time, our main concerns were the monopolies that software corporations have on some campuses, technological literacy and transferability (the concern that students would get experiences with only certain programs and not have the ability to learn new software and interfaces), and access: particularly  underfunded universities' technology budgets. We also wanted to do the basic work of raising awareness that open source software -- software that's available for free and was intended to be free -- exists, programs we used and enjoyed, like OpenOffice, GIMP, NVU, Moodle, Sakai, Sophie, and Firefox. Finally, we wanted to bring our research and teaching tools into alignment with our research and teaching practice, which meant resisting restrictive copyright licenses that prevent the free sharing of knowledge. We later proposed a Special Interest Group on open source that met at CCCC the next year. By 2007, we had a “Sense of the House” motion, which was approved. It read:

CCCC should:
   1. Support consideration of and strategic use of open source software whenever possible;
   2. Explore use of open source software within its own organization;
   3. Encourage and support CCCC members pursuing open source alternatives; and
   4. Educate CCCC’s members about the results of these initiatives, including associated costs.

By 2008, we had a resolution that was passed at the CCCC annual business meeting in New Orleans:

Whereas open source software is freely distributed software with open, accessible code that can be readily improved upon by communities; and
Whereas open source software has the potential to control spiraling technology costs because software and upgrades are often free; and
Whereas open source software allows teachers, students, and institutions to participate in customizing software according to the specific, situated needs of a program or institution; and
Whereas open source software development permits collaboration with other institutions and organizations in its creation and maintenance; and
Whereas investment in open source software can prevent vendor lock dependence, that is, dependence upon one software company because it controls maintenance, development, and support; and
Whereas the open source development model parallels the academic model of knowledge creation and distribution; and
Whereas open source embodies a set of principles in which collaboration, peer review, and public knowledge are highly valued; and
Whereas investment in open source software development by institutions results in software which can be freely shared with all of education with the benefits described above;
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the Conference on College Composition and Communication support consideration of and strategic use of open source software whenever possible; will explore the use of open source software within its own organization and recommend that educators, institutions, and other educational organizations do the same; will educate CCCC’s members about the results of CCCC initiatives to use open source software; and will inform CCCC's members about the associated costs of any open source implementation by CCCC.

The language in the resolution reflects the original concerns about monopoly and access with its point about cost. Ballentine (2009a, 2009b) questions whether open source software, for institutions, is in fact less expensive than proprietary software, given maintenance and technology support staff costs. The Open Source SIG understood the arguments about tech support but did not attempt a study that would capture the dollar amounts for universities; I would argue that that research is still needed. In 2009, the open source SIG folded, opting to join the CCCC Intellectual Property Caucus, which has espoused open source as one issue the Caucus tracks. This article is a preliminary attempt to place open source software on the research agenda of scholars interested in access, and it is likewise my intention to suggest access as a research direction for those interested in open source software. I will begin by explaining, in the next section, the ways the field of computers and composition studies has defined access.