This fall marks my third (and Flying Spaghetti Monster willing, final) year as a PhD student, and although I’m no longer taking courses, I often wonder how my seminars might have differed if other hacker-types were in the classroom contributing to the discussion.
Hacking and Philosophy is a new column that explores scholarly research about hacking, and does so with a community that lives the hacking experience. It’s a chance to discuss how researchers and deep thinkers handle our culture, its image, its philosophy, etc. Put simply, think of it as a weekly book club meeting. I’ll choose the text and proceed one chapter at a time, giving you my complete response to that week’s reading while engaging your replies in the comments as well as including your important or insightful contributions in future posts. Further, I promise never to venture into Ivory Tower territory: I hate being talked down to as much as the next person.
Hacking and Philosophy only works if it’s a conversation, so I encourage contributions, corrections, respectful disagreements, and as much hypertext (obviously literally, but philosophically a la Landow) that you can manage. Think of me not as an instructor but as a fellow participant who will occasionally guide us through obscure concepts and terminology.
Keep reading after the break for a tentative book list and the reading for next week!
I propose the following reading list (sorted alphabetically, by author) because I consider these texts canonical and they provide a crucial foundation for future discussions. These are works that I have read; I’ll refrain from including those on my shelf that I’ve merely skimmed or not yet opened. I also prefer to limit the texts to rigorous scholarship and exclude books targeted for popular audiences, with few exceptions. Keep in mind that the goal here is to discuss philosophy.
- Blankenship, Loyd. “The Conscience of a Hacker.” Phrack Magazine 7, no. 3 of 10 (1986), http://www.phrack.org/issues.html?issue=7&id=3
- Himanen, Pekka. The Hacker Ethic: A Radical Approach to the Philosophy of Business. Random House, 2010.
- Jargon File (too many authors and versions to cite, not convinced Raymond’s print version is a better alternative, either, though I am a fan of Cathedral & Bazaar)
- Levy, Steven. Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution. New York: Penguin Books, 2001.
- Sterling, Bruce. The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier. New York: Bantam Books, 1992.
- Thomas, Douglas. Hacker Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002.
- Wark, McKenzie. A Hacker Manifesto. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004.
I suggest these merely as a starting point, and working through each chapter one week at a time amounts to at least one month per book. That’ll keep us busy. From there we could explore a Deleuzian, high-theory route, or get lost in a sea of books about the surveillance state, but let’s worry about that later.
The reading for next week: Blankenship’s (The Mentor) “Conscience of a Hacker,” also known as “The Hacker’s Manifesto.” (Not to be confused with Wark’s). Full text on Phrack’s website.
Give it a read and scribble down some notes if you like, but save your comments about the article for next week’s post: that way they are all grouped together under the correct heading. In this week’s comments, let me know which of the above books you want to tackle next (I’m going to wait on the Jargon File for now, but you can help convince me which is the best version to use). I also welcome your suggestions for other works to include, or even arguments against any of the ones I have chosen, as long as you provide a compelling argument.
Hacking & Philosophy is an ongoing column with several sections:
- October 28th: Hacking & Philosophy: An Introduction
- November 4th: The Mentor’s Manifesto
- November 11th: Sterling’s Hacker Crackdown: Intro & Part I
- November 18th: Sterling’s Hacker Crackdown: Part II
- November 25th: Sterling’s Hacker Crackdown: Part III
- December 2nd: Sterling’s Hacker Crackdown: Part IV