The Third Design Space: A postcolonial perspective on corporate engagement with open source software communities

Kenneth E. Kendall, Julie E. Kendall, Matt Germonprez, Lars Mathiassen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Corporations increasingly engage with open source software communities in the co-creation of software. This collaboration between corporate professionals and open source software community members is strikingly different from the early days of software development where for-profit firms attempted to dominate and control the industry while attempting to throttle the success of independent developers offering an alternative, open source option. While many metaphors like trading zones, common pool resources and ecosystems have helped understand the phenomenon, the metaphors do not portray what the industry was like before and after the transition. We adopt a postcolonial metaphor as an analytical lens to examine such collaboration based on qualitative data gathered over three years from executives, managers and developers within corporations that engage in open source software development. Drawing on these insights, we then theorize a “Third Design Space,” based on the concept of the third space proposed by Bhabha. This metaphor encourages the cultivation of a new design environment, creation of new design associations and circulation of shared design resources. Together these practices and behaviours make it possible to nurture innovative methods and new rituals for designing software with results and methods that represent a distinct departure from the competitive and proprietary past, even creating innovative artefacts that could not have been created without the Third Design Space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-402
Number of pages34
JournalInformation Systems Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications


  • Third Design Space
  • metaphor
  • open source software
  • postcolonialism
  • software development
  • third space


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