HIST 677 Print Project (draft) – From Pioneers to Pranksters to Proclaimed Protectors: Hackers

“My crime is that of curiosity … I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto. You may stop this individual, but you can’t stop us all.”
~ The Mentor, the Hacker Manifesto, 1986

“We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”
~ Anonymous

The subculture group known as hackers has constructed a polarizing image ever since its emergence in the early 60s.From forging new paths in the early stages of programming to causing fear through created virus, worms, and hacked databases, hackers are seen with both pride and loathing in light of their contributions and work within the internet/computer community. How the media constructs the public perception of hackers also reflects their actions, as seen in movies such as War Games, Hackers and the Matrix. Because of the power of media in shaping public perspective, we are often left with an image that is not representative of the group.

In my print project I want to look into what hackers are about, tracing their origins alongside the development of computers and the Internet. I intend to look at how the changes in how the public viewed hackers through the media, such as movie depictions. Some of the literature I will use are Steven Levy’s Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, and articles that chronicle the acts of such hackers (for example, the coverage of Anonymous and their actions against government/corporate websites). My focus is to see how their principles influence their actions and attitude towards digital information, and how their actions in turn influenced the public. With the expansion of digital media and increased use of the internet to publish and share information, hackers are again rising to prominence as the activists and champions of free information, striking out against those they believe are a threat towards their idea of openly shared knowledge in the public community. I hope to show that despite the changes in their image over time, hackers remain true to their core beliefs and change only their methods of expressing their beliefs, remaining an influential force within the online community.

One Reply to “HIST 677 Print Project (draft) – From Pioneers to Pranksters to Proclaimed Protectors: Hackers”

  1. I'm interested in your primary source material. "Hackers" tend to operate in two types of media. First, large public boards like the chans, or Somethingawful in which they discuss and organize, and in much more private closed boards where they exchange software, and methodology. Anonymous, who you quoted is particularly tough to deal with, because there is no one Anonymous. Sure, there are plenty of people claiming to represent Anonymous, but do we take them at their word? If so, are we only reifying their illusory control? How do we classify such a group? Anonymous may seem to communicate with the rest of culture through Youtube videos, but are they really? Or is this just a form of posturing for other members of the group, claiming authority that does not exist?

    Also there's the issue of perspective. If we paint Anonymous as computer crusaders are we only playing up to a certain faction of it, the "moralfags" as their detractors call them? If we examine their less than stellar moral track record, do we risk painting them, as the alarmists have done as an "internet hate machine?" I don't want to sound like I'm detracting from this work, it's something that is a) Long overdue, and b) well worth studying (this could easily be a dissertation). I think you're brave for undertaking it, and I'd love to see how you're navigating what is a confusing minefield of information, traps and nonsense, even for people who know about the subculture.

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