Sara Schoonmaker

Professor, Soc & Anthropology
Soc & Anthropology

Sara Schoonmaker


Ph.D. Sociology, Boston College 1990

B.A. Latin American Studies, Earlham College 1981


Bekins Hall
P: 909.748.8712

Academic Interests and Areas of Expertise

  • Free Software, Net Neutrality, and Surveillance: Civil Liberties in the Digital Age

  • Theorizing the role of digital technologies and digital cultures in contemporary capitalism

  • Alternatives to the dominant form of neoliberal globalization and consumer culture

Current Research

Sara's book Free Software, the Internet, and Global Communities of Resistance, was published with Routledge in 2018. The first chapter is available here:

This book explores software's pivotal role as the code that powers computers, mobile devices, the Internet, and social media. Creating conditions for the ongoing development and use of software, including the Internet as a communications infrastructure, is one of the most compelling issues of our time. Free software is based upon open source code, developed in peer communities as well as corporate settings. It challenges the dominance of proprietary software firms like Microsoft and Apple. Free software promotes the digital commons where users are free to access, share, remix, sell and redistribute software and the myriad cultural products it is used to create. Consumers may thus become producers of cultural content, such as videos, music and more. Drawing upon key cases and interviews with free software proponents based in Europe, Brazil and the U.S., the book explores three pathways toward creating the digital commons. First, the initial foundations for the digital commons were laid in the 1980s, as advocates in the U.S. and Brazil created free software as a new form of property and opened up access to the emerging Internet. Second, free software can be produced in both peer communities and market-based firms. The software market itself thus provides opportunities to develop the commons. Third, free software communities employ a range of strategies to ensure community control over the ongoing creation of the software. Peer producers organize themselves to resist what they view as threats by corporations to undermine the open source, community-based nature of the software. Free software and net neutrality advocates forge global communities of resistance, uniting diverse local participants in global projects. They promote the freedom to share and collaborate, as well as respect for sovereignty and civil liberties like the rights to free speech and privacy. 


Courses Taught

SOAN 338 Children and Youth

SOAN 336 Consumers and Consumption

SOAN 331 Consuming Paris

SOAN 391 Contemporary Social Theory

SOAN 222 Development and Change in the Americas

SOAN 348 Economic Justice and Migration in Mexico

SOAN 340 Sustainable Alternatives to Capitalism


Assistant Professor. Colgate University, 1989-1994

Visiting Instructor. Hamilton College, 1988-1989


Free Software, the Internet, and Global Communities of Resistance. Routledge, 2018.

“French Software Politics: Activism and the Dynamics of Globalization from Below.” Co-authored with Pierre-Amiel Giraud. Revista Eletrônica de Sistemas de Informação 12 (3), May-Aug. 2014. 

“Hacking the Global: Constructing Markets and Commons through Free Software.” Information, Communication & Society 15 (4), 2012, pp. 502-518.

“Software Politics in Brazil: toward a political economy of digital inclusion.” Information, Communication & Society 12 (4), 2009, pp. 548-565.

“Globalization from Below: Free Software and Alternatives to Neoliberalism.” Development and Change 38 (6), 2007, pp. 999-1020.    

“Piece of Cake: Children’s Birthday Celebrations and Alternatives to Consumer Culture.” Sociological Focus 39 (3), 2006, pp. 217-234.

“Shifting Strategies of Sovereignty: Brazil and the Politics of Globalization” Pp. 301-331 in Philip McMichael and Fred Buttel, eds., New Directions in the Sociology of Global Development. Elsevier, 2005.

High-Tech Trade Wars: U.S.-Brazilian Conflicts in the Global Economy. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002.

"High-Tech Development Politics: New Strategies and Persistent Structures in Brazilian Informatics," The Sociological Quarterly 36 (2), 1995, pp. 701-727.

"Regulation Theory and the Politics of Global Restructuring," Current Perspectives in Social Theory, Vol. 15, Spring 1995, pp. 213-244.

"Capitalism and the Code: A Critique of Baudrillard's Third Order Simulacrum," Pp. 168-188 in Douglas Kellner, ed., Baudrillard: A Critical Reader. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1994.

"Trading On-Line: Information Flows in Advanced Capitalism."  The Information Society, Vol. 9, 1993, pp. 39-49.

Awards, Honors, Grants

University of Redlands Faculty Research Grant, 2014 ($1,650)

University of Redlands Faculty Research Grant, 2013 ($1,650)

University of Redlands Faculty Research Grant, 2012 ($1,500)

University of Redlands Faculty Research Grant, 2011 ($2,000)

University of Redlands Faculty Research Grant, 2010 ($1,500)

University of Redlands Faculty Research Grant, 2006 ($3,000)

University of Redlands Faculty Research Grant, 2002 ($1,250)

University of Redlands Faculty Research Grant, 2001 ($3,000)

Invited Presentations

Forking toward the Commons: From to LibreOffice and The Document Foundation. Presented at the University of Brasilia, 2014.

The Power of Code: Free Software and Implications for Networked Individualism. Presented at Internet Research 14.0: Resistance and Appropriation, 2013.


American Sociological Association

International Sociological Association