User freedom or user control? The discursive struggle in choosing among Free/Libre Open Source tools in the Finnish public sector

Stephanie Freeman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the often complex and contradictory argumentation of a spectrum of different Finnish public sector actors interviewed on the topical issue of Free/Libre Open Source (FLOSS) adoption.

Design/methodology/approach - The science and technology-inspired critical discourse-analytical approach combines insights from Billig et al. and Fairclough, with a special focus on dilemmatic aspects of socially embedded discourses. The vocabularies used to justify FLOSS implementation highlight power struggles on the level of speech.

Findings - The identified dilemmatic discourses express the continuing tension between the freedom to choose, use and develop one's desktop in the spirit of FLOSS on the one hand, and the striving for better desktop control and maintenance by it staff and user advocates on the other.

Research limitations/implications - The research acts as an opening for reframing common and axiomatic knowledge on FLOSS tools.

Practical implications - The asymmetry between the layperson (the ordinary user) and the expert (IT staff) manifests itself in discourse in a way that calls for critical re-evaluation of the language used in information communication technology (ICT) implementation and support. It also questions the role of pilots in ICT implementation.

Originality/value - The paper critically examines the often taken-for-granted ideals of open source software and elaborates a methodological tool for spotting power struggles on the level of speech.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-128
Number of pages26
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Free/Libre Open Source software
  • Information communication technology
  • Public sector
  • Dilemmatic discourse
  • Freedom
  • Control
  • User
  • Open source
  • Finland
  • User studies

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