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Re: [jox] CFP: Expanding the frontiers of hacking

Hey all - it's worth noting that Golumbia is not at all ignorant of
these issues. His book, "The Cultural Logic of Computation", is well
worth reading. But I too wonder why he cares so much. Everyone knows
that these terms are all contested and refer to multiple histories and
practices. And it's pretty obvious which ones the cfp is gesturing to.


On Saturday, June 18, 2011, Mathieu ONeil <mathieu.oneil> wrote:
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At first I thought so too (trolling) but the angry tone and fact that he reposted our CFP with his negative comments on his blog (!) led me to believe it might be someone with some kind of "issues", or at any rate he really hates computer crime.

FWIW, here are the responses from N Poor and then from Alex pasted from the AOIR list:

David that view can continue to be promulgated because it's correct.

You  see no real hacking from anonymous because they are not a hacker group,  although from time to time some of them are involved in hacking. When  you say "anonymous and other groups", what other groups do you have in  mind? (If you want to learn more about anonymous, Biella Coleman does  work on them, she's at NYU. She even has a class on hacker culture and  politics. )

The items you list in the bullet points are not hacking, they are either organized crime or government espionage.

The  problem you are running into is one that hackers themselves have run  into, that is, of different definitions of the word hack/hacker. Mostly  in the mainstream media (news, movies, television), it has a negative  connotation (good for news, and good for dramatic tension in movies).  There have been suggestions I've seen to call the criminal side of  hacking either "cracking" or "black hat hacking", while the legal side  that most people do but yet that few hear about "white hat hacking"  (since if it's legal it certain isn't of much interest to the news media  and is rather ho-hum for movies).

Hacking has a very old  history (that the CFP does not touch on enough to my liking). Early  wireless telegraphy, young men with their crystal radio sets  transmitting over the ether, they were hackers (since they had to build  their sets and keep them tuned). Early hot rodding was car hacking, and  to this day car modding has its own cultures, meetups, and magazines  (and these days web sites).

No hackers have been identified in  the cases you mention since it can be very hard, if not impossible, to  identify perpetrators. Not every non-computer crime is solved either.  And when it's done with the backing of the Chinese or American  governments, that simply won't happen.

The examples at the end of  your email aren't hackers in the sense of the CFP, they are organized  crime syndicates who use computers. Organized crime goes where the money  is. There's money to be had over the internet, in a variety of ways  (bank accounts, personal info, botnet creation), so of course that's  where they are now. It would be quite surprising if they weren't.

If you'd like to learn more about real hackers and hackerspaces, there is, for instance, one a few blocks from where I live:
I've  been there, and met the people there for an event they had around the  Debian conference. As you can see they have a variety of classes for the  public, so that people can learn more about the computers they own and  what they can do with them. Part of the ethic, in my understanding, is  that, "this computer that I bought is mine, I'd like to play with it and  see what it can do, beyond what it does currently, beyond what the  manufacturer says I can do with it."

There are lots of examples  of hacking all around you on the internet. Most of the software that  runs the internet is open source, and, given the methods of open source  programming, it's all a hack, not in the sense of a kludge (somewhat  badly hacked together) but in the ethos of its manufacture. (Again we  see how the word "hack" has multiple and conflicting meanings.) Linux is  a total hack, which has been well-detailed elsewhere so I won't go over  it here (but I'd suggest Torvalds's book, "Just For Fun"). Basically,  Torvalds wanted to do something else with his computer, so, he did it.  He hacked his computer. Now Linux is so mainstream that even IBM ran a  advertising campaign that consisted of spray-painting the Linux penguin  on the sidewalks of several cities (this was a few years ago, the cities  were generally not amused). Because Linux is so mainstream (relatively  speaking), those not overly familiar with it probably don't consider it a  hack, but it is.

Ten years ago when I took apart two Intel  boxes, bought some new parts, and built a new computer (I went AMD if  anyone is curious) and then installed Linux on it (Red Hat or Slackware,  I don't recall), that was hacking (installing back then was terrible!).  When someone took a version of Linux and stripped it down to boot off  of a floppy (which I used to make a router), that was hacking.

Even  the titanium screw I have in my jaw is essentially a hack, a biological  one. (It's part of a crown, but that's a long story that involves the  summer of 1972 and a springer spaniel.)

Hacking is all around us.  Always has been, always will be, even if the mainstream news uses the  term for the more negative side of its meaning. Hacking (not the  organized crime side of it) is a form of play, which is why it is a part  of who we are -- see Brown's "Play", an excellent book -- he's an MD  who is a play researcher -- I liked it so much I'd advise everyone read  it:
Brown  differentiates nicely between rough play (in children) and violence,  which I think is a decent parallel here between what I call hacking  (play) and organized crime (violence).

Hopefully now you have an  idea that there is this whole other component to the word "hack" that  the CFP is, quite correctly, talking about, but one that is almost never  covered in the news (it does get touched on from time to time in movies  and on TV, though).


I tend to agree with Nat, but I'll note that arguments over what
hacking "is" seem to me to be as useful as whether or not Apple makes
great computers.

There has been a battle over the term itself for decades. Looking at
how that term has been deployed as an identity marker is more
interesting, but it's surprising to see it played out here. We all
know better than to accept that "hacker" is a stable term.

There can be little doubt that--for a number of reasons--the word
"cracker" has never caught on. So "hacker" means different things to
different communities. I suspect that most of the people on this list,
having been involved in social computing for some time, are more
likely to associate the term with the definition in the call and
perhaps the longer history that Nat relates. Get a group of
journalists in a room, and they will likely draw the connotations
David has made, to groups that trespass (though this is a loaded term)
on computing systems.

Not only is Anonymous a difficult case to classify as a "hacker" group
of either stripe (the borders between hit web site, virtual sit-in,
and DDoS is hardly clear), that's truer of hacking than many would
like to admit. Yes, most of the cases like those David lists are acts
perpetrated by organized crime, national governments, organized crime
in the service of governments, governments in the service of
corporations, etc. But they are often perpetrated by individuals who
might otherwise consider themselves "hackers" and might in some
contexts be considered as such by others.

It seems the main question is not the types of skills one has--anyone
skilled at computing should be able to discover and exploit
vulnerabilities in a security system, for example--but how they are
employed. So, if you look at the introduction to the MIT lock-picking
manual, or go to a Makers Faire session on picking locks, the ethics
surrounding such breaches are at the fore. Asking journalists to draw
a distinction between "white hat," "black hat," and "gray hat" hacking
seems even more doomed then getting them to use the term "cracking."

I don't think we can fault the call for using "hacking" as a term of
art frequently used within academic communities studying social and
technological systems. Nor do I think there is anything wrong with
exploring "hacking" as the term is used in other discourse
communities. But I think arguments over how the word *should* be used
are both silly and ultimately irrelevant.




----- Original Message -----
From: Alex Halavais <alex>
Date: Friday, June 17, 2011 9:39 pm
Subject: Re: [jox] Tr : Re: [Air-L] CFP: Expanding the frontiers of hacking
To: journal

FWIW, I think it was a troll. Someone answered, I replied to try to
strike a conciliatory tone. The original poster wrote to say
none of
us read enough to understand, and that was the end of that :).


On Fri, Jun 17, 2011 at 3:14 PM, Athina Karatzogianni
<athina.k> wrote:
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that was i *wouldnt *worry about the comment, sorry

On Fri, Jun 17, 2011 at 8:14 PM, Athina Karatzogianni
Hi ye all
I ve written about the ethical debate in hacktivism myself on
my chapter on
sociopolitical cyberconflict, but also a good
reference here, and I think it takes a wonderful take on the
issue is *Graham
Meikle* (2008) 'Electronic Civil Disobedience and Symbolic
Power' in
Athina *Karatzogianni* (ed.) *Cyber-conflict and Global
Politics*, London:

I would worry about the comment, if I have to be honest, the
person who
made it sounds a bit too ignorant about the debates Gabriella
is referring
too, and I am sure the call is taking a specific side to this
and it is more
than obvious for those in the know. You dont have to explain
for the
ignoramus. Whoever gets it, gets it. Better still whoever
doesnt, will stay
well clear.....



On Fri, Jun 17, 2011 at 7:42 PM, Gabriella Coleman
<biella> wrote:

On 06/17/2011 01:09 PM, Stefan Merten wrote:

3 days ago Mathieu ONeil wrote:
We've been counter-spammed! I dont know if this warrants
a response -
could be a troll - or just point out that it is a
misunderstanding of

A note pointing out the difference between hacking and
cracking would
have been useful probably...

I tend to prefer to hightlight the fact that there are
differences and
tensions among hackers about what is appropriate in hacking
rather than
just draw a neat line between hacking and cracking. There
are many
transgressive acts in the history and contemporary face of
hacking I
would not simply place in the cracker category for example.
I usually
just highlight the internal debates among hackers as a way
to prevent
such responses.


Gabriella Coleman, Assistant Professor
NYU, Department of Media, Culture, & Communication
On Leave 2010-2011, The Institute for Advanced Study

< <>****
Dr Mathieu O'Neil
Adjunct Research Fellow
Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute
College of Arts and Social Science
The Australian National University
email: mathieu.oneil[at]

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Nate Tkacz

School of Culture and Communication
University of Melbourne


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