New Media, Fall 2019/Lesson 4

From Gerald R. Lucas
Syllabus R1 R2 R3 L1 L2 L3 L4 L5 L6 L7 L8 L9 L10  
85288 nmac 4460.01 Online Fall, 2019

Proprietary v. Open Software
September 16–September 20

Which OS do you choose? Is there even a choice?
Feedback for L3, September 17, 2019.

Lesson four takes a look at software: specifically proprietary software written by corporations and open-source software developed by a community of coders. The former takes the philosophy that a small group of experts should take their time in developing software to be released only when it’s ready to be used, while the latter considers software should be released early and often to the community that uses it. The former usually costs more and gives no access to the source code for local changes. The latter is often free and allows for endless reconfiguration. Proprietary vendors are top-down, open-source developers are bottom-up. You can see why the former are often associated politically with autocracy and the latter with democracy. Software development is political.

We will also continue our work on Wikipedia by learning more about sourcing.

Wikipedia Sourcing

One of the best approaches for sourcing on Wikipedia — especially when writing in an academic way — is to use the combination of a bibliography and shortened footnotes, or Harvard citations. Because we will often cite a source more than once, this approach often makes the most logical sense for our projects and journals. Here’s how we do it.

First off, have a look at an example: “The Man Who Studied Yoga” is an article that I (mostly) wrote. If you scroll to the bottom, you’ll see the references section contains three subsections: Notes, Citations, and Bibliography.[1] Let’s start with the latter.


This section contains all of your references in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. This is easier for two reasons: (1) you only need to list the reference once in the article, and (2) it cleans up your body text of much of the confusing code.[2] This section is created like this:

* {{cite book |last= |first= |date= |title= |url= |location= |publisher= |pages= |isbn= |author-link= |ref=harv }}
* {{cite journal |last= |first= |title= |url= |journal= |volume= |issue= |date= |pages= |access-date= |ref=harv }}
* {{cite magazine |last= |first= |date= |title= |url= |magazine= |pages= |access-date= |ref=harv }}
* {{cite news |last= |first= |date= |title= |url= |work= |location= |access-date= |ref=harv }}
* {{cite web |url= |title= |last= |first= |date= |website= |publisher= |access-date= |quote= |ref=harv }}

This might look a bit confusing, but I’ll go through it. The first line adds a subsection. I used a sub-subsection (four ====) but you can use whatever is appropriate and logical.

All references should appear between {{Refbegin}} and {{Refend}} in a bulleted list (notice each reference is on its own line and begins with *.

I have given you the codes I use for the main types of references you will likely need, from best to least best: book, journal, magazine, newspaper, and web site.[3] Notice many of the codes contain similar elements, but one in particular must be used for this technique to work: ref=harv — I usually put this at the end. This code for the Harvard citation and points a shortened footnote to the detailed bibliographic entry.

Shortened Footnotes

The shortened footnote {{sfn}} may now be used in the body of the article to cite a source. First, add a section where your citations will appear, just above your bibliography:


Here’s an example of the shortened footnote at work in the body of the article:

This novella was first published in ''New Short Novels 2'', 1956.{{sfn|Lennon|2018|p=25}}

This is a Wikipedia template. “Sfn” calls the template in the code; the author’s last name follows the first pipe (this must correspond with the name that follows |last= in the detailed citation); the date of the publication follows the next (exactly the same as |date= in the citation); and the page number(s) are put last. This will insert a footnote in the text; when a user clicks it, she is taken to the citation and if she clicks the citation, she is taken to the bibliographic entry. Try it on the example article I linked above. Simple and elegant.

See the link to the shortened footnote template for other options.

Explanatory Footnotes

The final section is for explanatory footnotes {{efn}}. This is not a required or even necessary section, unless you need it. In fact, don’t even include it if you have no explanatory footnotes. You can often use it in combination with the shortened footnote to make a complex and detailed reference section.

If you need it, add a section where your explanatory citations will appear, just above your citations section:


Any explanatory footnotes you add will appear first. Here’s an example of in the text of an article:

{{efn|The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain.}}

The note would appear like this.[a]

Refer to the links for more explanation about this method. You might take a few minutes and convert your journal over to this method. You might be happy you did so as your references and citations grow.

Revolution OS

Watch Revolution OS. This 2001 documentary chronicles the rise of Linux, an open-source variant of UNIX meant to be run on inexpensive hardware for free. The proprietary model that had been so successful for hardware and software companies was under attack. Revolution OS shows how a band of hackers challenged the behemoths. It introduces some of the key players in the open-source movement and how they contributed to the open-software movement.

Key Players

As you watch, please keep notes on the major players, some listed here. Please refer to them by name in your discussions and tweets.

Journal Post 7

Research and write about any aspect of the film, open source v. proprietary software, and/or Linux. You might start your research with some of the “see also” links on RevOS. Consider how these topics fit into your understanding of new media so far.


Look at a couple of the texts on the suggested readings. Of particular importance in Raymond’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar, as it develops this political metaphor of the difference between software development philosophies and approaches.[5]

Journal Post 8

What did you learn about open source, free software, copyleft, etc? How does that fit into your understanding of new media? Try to bring in several different sources to support your ideas.

Reply to at east one of your colleagues’ journal posts for this lesson.

Due Date

Please have all of the above completed by Sunday, September 22, 2019. I will evaluate your this lesson the following day, email everyone a progress report, and post audio feedback at the top of the next lesson if necessary.


  1. The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain.
  1. Remember, you can always click “Edit” to see how each of these sections is formatted. I’ll explain, but often the best way to learn is to see how it work in a real situation.
  2. Not to mention, you needn’t remember what name you gave a reference if you used it before.
  3. All citation codes and explanation for the variables may be found on “Citation Templates.”
  4. External sources are always footnoted as references; Wikipedia entries are always just linked in the text. Never cite a Wikipedia article like you would an external source.
  5. Revising and supplementing this Wikipedia article would also be a good choice for your project.