Definition of “hacker” is broadly disputed, incl. generational differences. Old school = university grad students. New school = teenage suburbanites at home.
Hackerism began w/ a healthy dose of adolescent subversion, but was increasingly paired w/ criminality in the public imagination beginning in the 80s. Meanwhile, hackers themselves identified with the films War Games and Sneakers.
Hacking = boy culture, with all the attendant implications
Hacking = pomo, both because it
decouples information from matter and because it undermines
conventional notions of embodied identity
Book looks at hacker discourse from inside and outside, and at the relationship between discourses
hackerism also owes its roots to the Yippies – specifically from their hacker journal Technical Assistance Program (TAP)
transition c. 1980 from ethic of free information to ethic of commodification. Gates, Allen and Wozniak all modified open source stuff and made it private property.
Roots of hacker culture in sci-fi.
Old hackers – Asimov, Dick. Cautionary tales.
New hackers – Gibson, Brunner. Dystopia, anti-heroes.
-- ethic of free info becomes
problematic when information sharing is criminalized
90s hackers continue 60s ethic despite the failure of 60s hackers to do so parallel w/ counterculture/remix culture?
“white hat” hackers – altruistic, hope to point out security flaws
“black hat” hackers – opportunistic, hope to exploit security flaws
“script kiddies” - use hacking
software w/o programming it
most news-sensationalized hacks are simple script kiddie operations, misrepresenting the true spirit of hackerism.
133+ and other hacker language games
are an effort to make transparent the technological coefficient in
[mediated] communication. Similarly, hacker handles problematize the
trope of authorship.
Hacker authority is coded as male
apple's success was predicated on the separation of the end-user from programmers and engineers producer/consumer dichotomy
microsoft, through challenging the hacker ethic and ignoring security concerns, politicized hackers for the first time.
Origins of DIY/hacking/“anarchy of convenience”[Bruce Sterling] was the Yippies. Relevant to remix?
news coverage of hacking eroded the underground, and with it the
hacking ethic. Old-schoolers complained of “semi-skilled” (139)
programmers intruding on their space collision
of underground and mainstream
hacker ethic was founded on accrual of cultural capital through elegant programming
DT considers the shift of the bricolage ethic from the production side to the consumption side to be a diminishing, a reduction. His beef is that mass-marketed bricolage loses the qualities of invention and innovation. Everyone gets to feel like a hacker, even though no hacking is actually happening. This is an argument i will address and possibly counter in my dissertation. Consumer-side bricolage should not be reflexively viewed as a crass marketing tactic, but as containing the potential for a cultural shift toward distributed innovation.
Hacker style transformed itself in the 80s and 90s, moving further from the machines that initially defined it, in order to evade further incorporation. Hackers maintain control over info (freed of material constraints), which gives them more power over the shaping of meanings. In other words, the standard hierarchy between mainstream and subculture is inverted because, with hacker culture, the subculture precedes the mainstream in terms of production. This fact, combined with slipperyness of information compared to material, makes hacker culture harder for mainstream to incorporate. In fact, such attempts only further separate the real hackers from the hackerfied mainstream. I really need to address this. Not sure i buy it – for culture, anyway. Does mainstream availability of remix software like GarageBand increase the gap between musicians and consumers? I don't thinks so... Maybe what DT is failing to take into acct is that authenticity is a moving target. The mass availability of hacking/remixing tools changes what it means to program/compose.
Hacker innovation is essential to the industries that thrive on painting hackers as an evolving threat (e.g. security co's).
criminality in hacking is problematic – the hacker's physical body must be identified so it may be punished (thanks, Foucault), but the hacker's crimes can only be instantiated/substantiated digitally. Possession of information (e.g. passwords) becomes a transitive and punishable act – i.e. hacking. Relevant to my diss – fitting new behaviors into old definitions is tough.
computers are the vessels for society's displaced anxieties about the future. And hackers are the scapegoats for these fears. This is a diversion which allows state surveillance to increase with impunity and even participation from its own constituents. This is the real thesis statement of the book. Interesting.
“these two constructions, hacker
identity and mainstream representation, often reflect on each other,
blurring the lines between fact and fiction.” (ix) pertains
to my dissertation
“[hacking] is, in all cases, undoubtedly about the movement of what can be defined as ‘boy culture’ into the age of technology.” (x)
“hacker culture is a ‘postmodern’ moment that defines a period in which production is being transformed from a stable, material, physical system to a more fluid, rapid system of knowledge production.” (xvii) well put. Useful quote.
“hackers actively constitute themselves as a subculture through the performance of technology” (xx) thesis statement
“what hackers and the discourse about hackers reveal is that technology is primarily about mediating human relationships” (xxi) thesis statement
“hackers and hacking constitute a culture in which the main concern is technology itself, and society's relationship to the concept of technology” (37)
“hacking culture is, literally, about hacking culture” (38) great fucking quote
degree to which machines are user-friendly, then, corresponds
directly with the degree to which the user is ignorant of the
computer's actual operations.” (49) wonder
whether this can be said of culture, too – are consumer-friendly
cultural artifacts those which obscure their own processes?
Interesting line of thought to explore in my dissertation...
“both hero and antihero, the hacker is both cause and remedy of social crises [as portrayed in popular film]” (52)
“hackers do technological violence to language as a means to show the violence that language has done to technology.” (58)
“the hacker ethic used to describe old-school hackers has not been abandoned but has been transformed within the context of a new series of technoscapes [per appadurai]” (82-3) thesis statement
“what defines the value of the information is not necessarily how useful the information is but, rather, how secret the information is.” (131) analogy to connoisseurship in the arts. It's not about representation, but about technique
making subcultures virtual, online culture becomes fluid and
increasingly resistant” (144). not
sure i agree with this. Virtuality (or digitality or what have you)
can itself be prohibited, appropriated or commercialized. And,
arguably, all three have taken place. I'm not convinced any
subculture can actually eschew confrontation from the dominant
culture. This is because the process of organizing a system of
resistant meanings can never be more than a footstep ahead of the
hegemony. Subculture isn't instantaneous. It requires public
expression. And that becomes its Achilles heel.
“the shift from a culture of bricolage in the production of computer software to the culture of bricolage . . . in the consumption of computer software represents an important moment of incorporation of hacker-subculture style. . . . Where bricolage originally was a way for the hacker to be close to the machine, tinkering with its various elements and operations, as a commodified form of software, bricolage serves to separate the user from the machine, effectively rendering the computer as an opaque object.” (147) production bricolage >> consumption bricolage = mainstreaming. This is very important to my dissertation. See notes section above for my partial rejection of this thesis.
information is less constrained by material forces, it is able to
remain fluid [and thus resist incorporation better than material
culture” (150). this is a
central premise of DT's but i am not sure i buy it. Although it does
offer a valuable lens through which to view the battle over DRM –
could be construed as an attempt to fix virtual culture more
“hackers, as noncorporeal criminals, have corporeality juridically forced upon them. . . . Criminality becomes defined by possession, rather than action” relevant to propertization of culture “there are striking parallels between the discourse of computer crimes and that regarding illegal drugs.” (175) wow, i have made the same argument about music
“the discourse surrounding hacking reveals little about hackers themselves; instead, it tells us a great deal about social attitudes toward technology.” (188) thesis statement
Bolter, J. D. and Grusin, R. (1999). Remediation: Understanding New Media.