Open Work

Open Work

An inclusive definition
for all kinds of Work.

This project is maintained by Open@RIT
Hosted on GitHub Pages

Why Are We Using The Term
Open Work?

Goal of Open Work

People produce and collaborate on all different types of Works within academia and beyond. Different types of Works can be released and developed among communities of practice in different ways.

To treat each type of Open Work as its own silo hinders the ability for these Works to be used interchangeably among each other.

We use the term Open Work to talk about a larger theory of practice in which Works of all types are developed, distributed, and collaborated upon.

Open Work Definition Version 0.1

Definition of Open Work

An Open Work delineates the meaning of “Open” with respect to work products and projects that are released into the public domain or under a license recognized by an entity such as, but not limited to, the Open Source Initiative (OSI), the Free Software Foundation GNU, the Creative Commons (CC) or the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF) with the intent of promoting a robust community of collaboration around the work itself and other work that it may interoperate with.

The Roots of "Open Work"

The intellectual “Family Tree” of the term Open Work includes examples from technology, science, and the arts.


Distribution Religion: Arguably the first “Open Hardware” license, from the manual/instructions for the Sandin Image Processor) (1976-1978)

CopyLeft: Li-Chen Wang's Palo Alto Tiny BASIC (1976)

Free Software, the FSF and the GPL: Richard Stallman et al beginning in 1984-Present

Open Source: The term coined by Christine Peterson and the creation of the Open Software Initiative, 1998

Literature and the Arts

Umberto Eco's “The Open Work” is art with “two constituents: a multiplicity of meanings and the participation of the audience."


The intellectual “Family Tree” of the term Open Work includes examples from technology, science, and the arts.

Types of Open Work

Note from
Open@RIT Team

Open Work Definition is an open source document for everyone who wants to contribute to the open work community.

Please don't hesitate to contact us, send a pull request, and share your thoughts.