The goal of this section is prompt students to consider the nature of information and the nature of software as an information good. The goal is also to help students realize that there is a fundamental difference between informational and material goods—namely, the former can reproduced at zero marginal cost. It will also introduce the concepts of "ownership" and control of information and prompt students to reflect on these ideas.
This section may be well served by the Software Freedom/Information Goods Activity.
Alternatively, the following activies or explorations might help the students explore and discover the key concepts in this section. Each is framed in terms of the key questions it raises.
This is a discussion that prompts students to suggest, compare and contrast the production of a single good that is material with information goods that are purely immaterial.
Possible material goods include a widget, sweater, or vegetable. Possible immaterial goods might include a song, a melody, or a rumor. Students should feel free to suggest possible goods.
Students should discuss or write the process necessary to create that both types of good. Students should then be prompted to describe what happens when they give a copy of their creation to a friend. They should then be asked to reflect on this everyday action. Questions raised might include:
Students should be asked to brainstorm and discuss a variety of related issues to the immaterial nature of their immaterial good and the way it was copied. Important issues might include:
If students are familiar with MP3, DIVX, software piracy, etc., these may each provide useful examples to seed a discussion. A good way to enter this discussion may be to bring up these examples.
Keys questions for discussion might include:
Students could walk away from this section with:
The following readings help frame the questions addressed in this section although all, with the possible exception of Stallman's, may be inappropriate or necessary for students unless they express interest in this concept and want to read more.