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.

Earning Your Badges: A review of Gowalla

In Julie Meloni’s article, she reviews the Gowalla site and discusses how its features can be applied as a supplement towards education and visitor experience at museums.

At first look, Gowalla is a location-based social network, much similar to the Foursquare application. Users on their mobile devices “check-in” at spots near notable locations, such as landmarks, statues or building sites, receiving a badge/item to add towards your account’s collection (these may be redeemed for real-life prizes). Gowalla comes with challenges to get special badges and users can create customized trips to provide other users tours that target specific sites to visit.

The ability to create these custom trips becomes a useful tool for education. Because any location can be marked for visit on the trips, these places can range from favorite stores, to little-known historical markers and sites; this allows users to reconnect the history of special locations to others. As each location has a short paragraph with information about the site along with photos made by other users, Gowalla can help bring more exposure about these places to other who may not know about them.

Meloni suggests several ways that Gowalla can be used with museums to enhance the visitor experience. These suggestions include linking objects in an exhibit to its place of origin (and vice versa, where going to a location may link the visitor to related examples at nearby museums), creating specialized exhibits to collaborate with Gowalla trips, and creating specific bonus badges that are earned in addition to the initial badges from the exhibit.

Gowalla can become a great tool in uncovering historical sites and locations to both students and visitors, providing a nice interactive approach in combing both sightseeing and learning into a single tour or “trip”. Other than the ways that Meloni suggests in her article, can you think of other ways that Gowalla could be applied to learn about locations?

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.

The Google Custom Engine: Refining Searching in a Few Steps

Sometimes it is a frustrating experience to search for a topic through the internet, only to have the search engine turn up results that are not related to what you are looking for. This problem is similar to what the Bing commercials looked to address with “search overload” during internet searches.

The Google Custom Search Engine provides its users with a search engine to put on their website; the main feature is that it is customizable to refine its search results based upon parameters set by the user.

This makes it easy to find information because the search engine will only look through the user-set websites and pages, and not through other places that are not topic-related.

Setting up a Google Custom Search Engine is an easy three-part step. The first step has the user setting the parameters of the search engine, listing the websites the search engine will use. The second step is only a setup of how the engine will appear on the website, and the third step provides the code to paste into the user’s website.

There are tons of smaller options that allow the search engine to be customized even further, from choosing sites to emphasize during the search, to making money from Google’s AdSense program.

One problem I could see with the search engine is that its usefulness is only as good as the sites that the user lists for the engine to use; if they do not know enough sites to put on the list, the search results may not be as complete.

One solution is that the search engine allows collaboration with invited users with limited access, letting them add sites and labels to the list as needed. The search engine can also choose instead to search through all pages, but emphasize the list of websites provided by the user.

The Google Custom Search Engine is basic in what it is used for, but can be further customized for advanced use in user interaction and how results are shown. Easy to set up, this search engine is one way for websites to ensure that their users are finding search results that are topic-related.

External Link to Example Search Engine
Smithsonian and DC Museums