Hacker Culture: The Old and the New School


2017-07-25 11:30 @ Lancaster Sociology

Calafou: Eco-Industrial, Post-Capitalist Colony

Open University of Catalunya, Internet Interdisciplinary Institute

+Kaos: 10 Years of Hacking and Media ActivismInstitute of Network Cultures


Hackers are at the forefront of structural transformations in contemporary capitalism and media industries, configuring the society/technology/politics nexus.

  • Hacking history
  • Media culture theories (of value)
  • Penetration testing practice

“So that’s the real ethical question involved here: do you go to Apple and get your $50-200,000, knowing that Apple will give you credit for the bug, let you talk about it at the next conference, and seems to care enough to try to fix these things quickly… or do you sell your bug to a group that resells it to some government which then uses it to try to spy on people like Ahmed Mansoor, ‘an internationally recognized human rights defender’?” — ‘saurik’ (Thanks to Paul Wise, from Linux Weekly News, Security Quotes of the Week).


  • Second World War interdisciplinary research culture (Kline 2015)
  • Californian counter-culture / cyberculture (Turner 2006)
  • Theories of appropriation, legitimacy exchange and recuperation (Söderberg and Delfanti 2015)

Surfaces of emergence (Levy 1984)

  • MIT AI Lab
  • Homebrew Computer Club
  • Phreakers

Practice: Enumeration with nmap and zmap/masscan

Theory: the Hacker Ethics (Himanen 2001; Söderberg 2008)

Crosscutting theme: Expertise and participation (von Hippel 2005)

Modulations in Europe Alberts and Oldenziel (2014)

  • Warez/Demoscene (Silvast and Reunanen 2014)
  • Chaos Computer Club (Kubitschko 2015)
  • Hacklabs/Hackerspaces (Maxigas 2012; Davies 2017)

Practice: Passive attacks with Wireshark

Theory: Peer production (Benkler 2006; Rigi 2012)

Crosscutting theme: Masculinities in hacker culture (Ames and Rosner 2014)

World Hacking

  • Shenzen innovation culture: Hacking with Chinese characteristics (Lindtner and Li 2012)
  • One Laptop Per Child in Peru: Beyond technological fundamentalism (Say Chan 2014)
  • Gambiarra: Repair culture (Brasil; Fonseca 2015)
  • Anti-colonial hacking (Toupin 2016)

Practice: Active attacks: man in the middle, SQL injection

Theory: Digital labour (Fuchs 2015)

Crosscutting theme: World Systems Theory, global division of labour (Wallerstein 2004)

Contemporary Horizon

  • WikiLeaks / Wikipedia
  • Anonymous (Coleman 2014) / RiseUp (Maxigas 2017)
  • Hacking as/in pop culture

Practice: DDOS attack, metadata removal…

Theory: Ontological analysis (Pickering 2010; Maxigas 2014)

Crosscutting theme: Risk and care (holistic vs. operational security)


Historically, geographically and ideologically situated study of media cultures and industries:

  • Shifting meanings of computing in engineering cultures
  • Ethical dilemmas of practitioners, political economical consequences
  • Safety and security concerns of vulnerable users

New resources

“You will be encouraged to reflect critically on the role of popular media in structuring our everyday lives.”

  • Network lab
  • Credit card sized computers
  • Routers


“Enhancing critical digital media practice skills:”

  • Industry relevant expertise
  • Practice-based learning
  • Key theoretical debates


Industry: Penetration testing companies Silent Signal, Prezi, governments, …

Practice: Hackerspaces Lancaster and Morecambre Makers, London Hackspace, …

Research: Hacker studies groups Tech Culture Matters, Media@McGill, …

Thanks to Gabriella Coleman’s hacker class and curricula.


Email address:


Slides URL:


Website URL:


OpenPGP fingerprint:

FA00 8129 13E9 2617 C614 0901 7879 63BC 287E D166


Alberts, Gerard, and Ruth Oldenziel, ed. 2014. Hacking Europe: From Computer Cultures to Demoscenes. First edition. History of Computing. London; Heidelberg; New York; Dordrecht: Springer-Verlag.

Ames, Morgan G., and Daniela K. Rosner. 2014. “From Drills to Laptops: Designing Modern Childhood Imaginaries.” Information, Communication & Society 17 (3) (January): 357–370. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2013.873067.

Benkler, Yochai. 2006. The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Coleman, Gabriella. 2014. Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous. London; New York: Verso. http://monoskop.org/File:Coleman_Gabriela_Hacker_Hoaxer_Whistleblower_Spy_The_Story_of_Anonymous.epub.

Davies, Sarah R. 2017. “Characterizing Hacking: Mundane Engagement in Us Hacker and Makerspaces.” Science, Technology and Human Values XX (X) (April): 1–27. doi:10.1177/0162243917703464.

Fonseca, Felipe. 2015. Gambiarra: Repair Culture. Quick version. Amazon Digital Services.

Fuchs, Christian. 2015. Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media. New York: Routledge.

Himanen, Pekka. 2001. The Hacker Ethic. New York, NY: Random House.

Kline, Ronald R. 2015. The Cybernetics Moment: Or Why We Call Our Age the Information Age. First edition. New Studies in American Intellectual and Cultural History. New York: Johns Hopkins University Press. http://gen.lib.rus.ec/book/index.php?md5=254527E594A49CE50D59528C18556C7F.

Kubitschko, Sebastian. 2015. “Hackers’ Media Practices: Demonstrating and Articulating Expertise as Interlocking Arrangements.” Convergence 21 (3) (August): 388–402. doi:10.1177/1354856515579847. https://sci-hub.cc/10.1177/1354856515579847.

Levy, Steven. 1984. Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution. Anchor Press, Doubleday.

Lindtner, Silvia, and David Li. 2012. “Created in China: The Makings of China’s Hackerspace Community.” Interactions XIX (6) (November-December): 18–22. doi:10.1145/2377783.2377789. http://www.silvialindtner.com/s/p18-created-in-china.pdf.

Maxigas. 2012. “Hacklabs and Hackerspaces: Tracing Two Genealogies.” Journal of Peer Production 2. http://peerproduction.net/issues/issue-2/peer-reviewed-papers/hacklabs-and-hackerspaces/.

———. 2014. “Symmetric and Assymetric Cybernetics at Work Inside and Outside of the Hackerspaces: Challenging Modernities.” Presentation at the Interference conference, Amsterdam. https://interference.io/.

———. 2017. “Introduction.” In +Kaos: Ten Years Hacking and Media Activism, ed. Laura Beritelli. Amsterdam: Institute for Network Cultures. https://networkcultures.org/blog/publication/kaos-ten-years-of-hacking-and-media-activism/.

Pickering, Andrew. 2010. The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future. Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press.

Rigi, Jakob. 2012. “Peer to Peer Production and Advanced Communism: The Alternative to Capitalism.” Journal of Peer Production 1. http://peerproduction.net/issues/issue-1/invited-comments/a-new-communist-horizon/.

Say Chan, Anita. 2014. “Beyond Technological Fundamentalism: Peruvian Hack Labs & ‘Inter-Technological’ Education.” Journal of Peer Production (5) (June). http://peerproduction.net/issues/issue-5-shared-machine-shops/peer-reviewed-articles/beyond-technological-fundamentalism-peruvian-hack-labs-and-inter-technological-education/.

Silvast, Antti, and Markku Reunanen. 2014. “Multiple Users, Diverse Users: Appropriation of Personal Computers by Demoscene Hackers.” In Hacking Europe: From Computer Cultures to Demoscenes, ed. Gerard Alberts and Ruth Oldenziel, 151–166. First edition. History of Computing. London; Heidelberg; New York; Dordrecht: Springer-Verlag.

Söderberg, Johan. 2008. Hacking Capitalism: The Free and Open Source Software Movement. London: Routledge.

Söderberg, Johan, and Alessandro Delfanti. 2015. “Hacking Hacked! The Life Cycles of Digital Innovation.” Science, Technology and Human Values (July): 1–6. doi:10.1177/0162243915595091.

Toupin, Sophie. 2016. “Gesturing Towards ’Anti-Colonial Hacking’ and Its Infrastructure.” Journal of Peer Production (9) (September). http://peerproduction.net/issues/issue-9-alternative-internets/peer-reviewed-papers/anti-colonial-hacking/.

Turner, Fred. 2006. From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. First edition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. http://libgen.io/book/index.php?md5=6916B53A2F276602174090943602E3F2.

von Hippel, Eric. 2005. Democratizing Innovation. Cambridge, MA; London: MIT Press.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2004. World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction. Durham, NC; London: Duke University Press.