Print Project – Hackers – Final Thoughts

At the beginning of this project I felt that it would be difficult to talk about hackers, because the lack of a consistent “face” and their predisposition towards secrecy over the internet would make it difficult to create an “image” of what hackers were. But with more research, I realized that the media creates the medium which the image of the hacker is created. Works such as film and articles that use the hacker as a character become valuable sources in tracing the changes in what the public thinks about hackers.

It was through media that the public was introduced to the hacker subculture community, where in the 1980s the film War Games features a young hacker played by Matthew Broderick, and his actions unwittingly create as a dangerous situation with the government’s weapons system. The hacker in this film is the first major attempt of creating an image of a hacker, and it reflects public sentiment on what role hackers played in the emerging field of computer programming.

With advancements in computer and information technology, the part hackers played in this field expanded, along with changes in how the public views them. These changes in public opinion on the importance of information would be reflected in the depiction of hackers. In the 1980s the hacker was seen as a free spirit, championing free information while blazing new trails in an expanding internet/computer frontier. But in the 1990s, increasing fears on the damage hackers were capable of would change the hacker character into a more sinister figure, a mercenary working for self interest. The hacker image would shift into a middle road from 2000 into the present, a more diverse group with figures representing both ends of positive and negative portrayals of hacker intentions.

In only a short period of 30 years between 1980 and the present, the image of the hacker has come through numerous changes, reflecting the thoughts and perceptions of the public regarding information technology. Even at the end of this project, I feel that I’ve only scratched the surface of a group that surprisingly is deeper than the initial images they project.

2 Replies to “Print Project – Hackers – Final Thoughts”

  1. I only imagine this is too late to deposit my two cents but I'd be interested in finding out how the geographic locations of hackers has shifted as well as how dramatically the role of said hackers has shifted along with that change.

    I know for a fact that many of the original hackers were in Asia and even the United States, with Seattle hosting a large amount of illicit hackers (along with grunge music – boo). In current day, however, I hear that the rumor mill has it that the majority of hackers have moved to Eastern Europe – with particular regard to states formerly under control of the soviet union.

    That said, I'd find it really cool if an exploration of the hero hacker v the villain hacker could be made. With particular regard to Chernobyl, hackers were considered worldwide heroes as they leaked information to the world despite Soviet efforts to cover them up.

    I only imagine your project is excellent and my comment is far, far too late but I'd love to check this out one day and, if you loved your topic too, maybe you'd find it compelling as well.

  2. I didn't really think of this until a day or two ago, but I was wondering if you spent any time looking at this hacker school in Paris I heard about a couple of years ago. I don't really remember much about it other than it existing. I wish I had thought of it sooner.
    Still, I like the idea of looking at the image of the hacker. I know that popular culture has this warped sense of how computers work and like portraying hacking and coding being very fast paced and full of action, when it actuality it is just typing. I haven't really thought of how they have changed in popular culture though. Maybe it has something to do with growing up in the 90s, so I am just more familiar with the cyber terrorist perception.

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