The balance of power between personal and corporate has had some interesting shifts over the last century — and it hasn’t all gone in the direction of the corporate.

It occurred to me that the Hollywood studio system was the ascendency of the company over the individual. Over time, however, the studio system broke down, and stars became brands in their own right. Rather than signing a studio contract and working on whatever movies are being produced by “the company”, actors work on projects of their own choosing.

In the sports world, the system of free agency shifted the balance between corporate (team) control, and the individual control. Over the years, players have acquired more individual control over their careers and working conditions.

In both cases (movies and sports), the greater emphasis on the personal resulted in increased earning power for the individual as well.

So, in the software world, is the Open Source movement akin to the drive for free agency, or the breakup of the studio system? Is it an opportunity for programming stars to emerge and prosper greatly? Is there a parallel in the software world for the waiter or receptionist who is really an actor. Didn’t the shift in control from companies to the individuals result paradoxically in even greater profits for both the companies and the individuals?

I wonder what other industries have seen a similar evolution.