[Fsf-india] 'Hacker Culture' article

Frederick Noronha fred@bytesforall.org
Wed, 19 Jun 2002 12:43:06 +0530 (IST)


   Date: Fri, 31 May 2002 13:59:36 +0200
   From: Patrice Riemens <patrice@xs4all.nl>
   To: CSL
   Subject: 'Hacker Culture' Article

   This  is  the  translation  of  an article that appeared in the French
   Quarterly "Multitudes", Vol 2, No 8, March-April 2002: 


   I  couldn't resist editing and expanding it a bit, and it is still far
   from  complete  and flawless as it stands. Your criticism and feedback
   is therefore most welcome and appreciated.

   The  following  text  presupposes  a  certain  amount of knowledge and
   familiarity with the hacker phenomenon, beyond the usual cliches about
   'bad  guys  tampering  with  our  computers'.  It also presupposes the
   acceptance  of  the  'hacker  spirit'  as a habitus and frame of mind,
   rather  than  a  particular (ICT-related) activity. Hence no effort is
   made at defining or explaining 'hacking'.


Some thoughts on the idea of 'hacker culture'.

   Patrice Riemens

     "The  Theory  of  'Free  Software' as the seed of a post-capitalist
     society  only makes sense where it is understood as the exposure of
     those  very  contradictions of the development of productive forces
     which  are  relevant  to  the process of emancipation. It does not,
     however, make sense as a discovery of a format for their deployment
     out of which would automatically spring forth a better society. And
     it  does not make sense either as the first stage of a process that
     one ought to follow as if it were a blueprint."

     (8th thesis of 'Eight Theses on Liberation' - Oekonux mailing list,
     2001) (1)

   As  the  new  information and communication technologies (ICT) entered
   our  lives  and became increasingly important in our daily activities,
   so  did  all  kinds  of knowledge, working habits and ways of thinking
   that  were  previously  the  exclusive  domain of 'geeks' and computer
   experts.  Even  though  the  vast  majority  of  ICT users are passive
   consumers,  a  modicum  of  technological  know-how  is  more and more
   prevalent    among    non-professionals,and   these   days,   artists,
   intellectuals,  and  political activists have become fairly visible as
   informed  and  even  innovative actors in what has become known as the
   public domain in cyberspace....

[See rest of the paper at the URL above.]

   'Hackers', also often, but inexactly referred to as 'computer pirates'
   or  other  derogatory  term, constitute without doubt the first social
   movement  that was intrinsic to the electronic technology that spawned
   our networked society.  Hackers, both through their savyness and their
   actions, have hit the imagination and have been in the news right from
   the  onset  of the 'information age', being either hyped up as bearers
   of  an  independent and autonomous technological mastery, or demonised
   as  potential  'cyber-terrorists'  in  the process. More recently they
   have  been  hailed  in certain 'alternative' intellectual and cultural
   circles  as  a  countervailing power of sorts against the increasingly
   oppressive   onslaught  of  both  monopolistic  ICT  corporations  and
   regulation-obsessed  governments  and  their experts. Transformed into
   role-models  as  effective  resistance  fighters against 'the system',
   their  garb  has  been  assumed with various degrees of (de)merit by a
   plethora  of  cultural  and political activists associated, closely or
   loosely, with the 'counter-globalisation movement'.

   Yet,  whereas hackers (if we take a broad definition of the term) have
   been pioneering the opening up of electronic channels of communication
   in  the  South, in the North, they initially were held in suspicion by
   those  same  circles.  Political  militants there hesitated for a long
   time  before  embarking  into  computers and the new media, which they
   tended  to view as 'capitalist' and hence 'politically incorrect'.  By
   the  mid-nineties,  however,  'on-line  activism'  made rapid progress
   worldwide  as  more  and  more  groups adopted the new technologies as
   tools  of  action  and  information  exchange.  The dwindling costs of
   equipment   and   communication,  the  (relative)  ease  of  use,  the
   reliability  and  security,  and the many options that were offered by
   ICT  were  a boon to activists of all possible denominations. All this
   was  also  a  very bad surprise to the people at the helm of corporate
   and   political   power,   as  they  saw  a  swift,  substantial,  and
   many-pronged  breakdown  of  their  stranglehold  on communication and
   information taking place. For some time, it looked like as if a 'level
   playing  field'  between  hitherto  dominators  and dominated had come
   within sight....