Freedom isn’t free

In the acknowledgements section of NW, her 2012 bestseller, Zadie Smith thanked a computer application called “Freedom” for “creating the time” she needed to finish the book. It may be the highest-profile printed acknowledgment of a computer program in a work of fiction—The New York Times put NW on its list of the ten best books of 2012—and Smith is not alone in her admiration. The Economist called Freedom “the virtual equivalent of retiring to a remote getaway, or going on a writers’ retreat, to get things done.”

Freedom is the creation of Fred Stutzman, an entrepreneur, expert on the intersection of social media and privacy, and visiting professor in the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill. Stutzman created Freedom to help him focus as he wrote his dissertation, but its core concept is related to his broader interests. “My research comes from a HCI [human-computer interaction] background,” he says, “and the basis of my work is improving people’s experience with technology.”

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