Episode 3

Argyri Panezi and Jessica Feldman: What makes an open source project “critical digital infrastructure?”


October 25th, 2021

35 mins 7 secs

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About this Episode


Argyri Panezi and Jessica Feldman

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to the Digital Infrastructure Fund podcast! This is the podcast where we focus on recipients of the Digital Infrastructure Grant Fund which has funded by multiple funders. We don’t just interview current cohorts, but also past cohorts who have gotten funding from this grant pool.

Today I have joining me, Argyri Panezi, the Assistant Professor of Law and Technology at IE Law School, and Jessica Feldman, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Media and Culture at the American University of Paris, the Director of the Civic Media Lab, and an Affiliated Researcher at Stanford along with Argyri. The grant they worked on was called, “What makes an open source project critical digital infrastructure?” and they will go in depth about this today. We learn more about the Stanford Digital Civil Society Lab that they work with, the research and interview process they went through, and how they found digital infrastructure in this research. Find out what Argyri and Jessica working on currently and what digital infrastructure means to them.

[00:01:20] Jessica and Argyri explain “What makes an open source project critical digital infrastructure?”

[00:04:27] Find out more about the Stanford Digital Civil Society Lab that Jessica and Argyri work with.

[00:06:03] We learn more about when the grant was funded, what the work looked like, and the research and interview process. Jessica tells us about one of the fun and interesting groups she worked with called “Battle Mesh.”

[00:10:28] Earlier, Jessica mentioned “moral implications for how things are built.” What did she mean by that? Also, she explains what she means by “Civil Society.”

[00:13:02] Argyri talks about the report coming out soon and what they found. She also explains why they showed that the state doesn’t value participation.

[00:16:05] Richard explains the “Adopt-A Highway” Program and he wonders if Argyri and Jessica drew a lot of parallels to the Digital Commons. Jessica touches on Elinor Ostrom’s work on “Governing the Commons.”

[00:20:20] When they did this research about critical digital infrastructure, Richard wonders if they talked about the corporate influence on open source ideology and how that influences civil society open source projects.

[00:23:41] Argyri shares how she found digital infrastructure in this research, and she tells us what else they looked at besides civil society and government.

[00:26:05] We learn what Argyri and Jessica are each working on currently

[00:30:18] Argyri and Jessica tell us what digital infrastructure means to them.

[00:34:03] Find out where you can follow Argyri and Jessica and their work online.

Grant Details

Title: What makes an open source project “critical digital infrastructure?”

Grantees: Lucy Bernholz, Jessica Feldman, Argyri Panezi

Description: There is currently no clear policy argument to help define which open source projects can be considered critical digital infrastructure. The legal system has developed a framework for regulating non-digital utilities such as roads and bridges, and has only started to navigate a similar approach to designating and regulating critical digital infrastructure. The regulation of non-digital public goods can be used as an analogy to help define and provide a policy framework for critical digital infrastructure. This project will bridge a quest for legal definition of “critical digital infrastructure” with an investigation of the values, methods, and funding relationships of the community groups that build open source software projects.


[00:13:29] “There’s a serious misalignment between the values and what the community considers as critical and what the nation, state, and also market stakeholders, what is not civil society thinks of us critical.”

[00:22:13] "[On the bus factor:] the problem is not buses, it’s bosses.”

[00:24:57] “The question is: what is infrastructure and according to whom? What does infrastructure mean to whom?”