social justice & hacking

Posted on 2015-04-03T10:42:00Z by aaron.kyle

Posted in hackers

Like finding artistry in any great human work, hackers inspire me in how an awe for human potential. It maddens me, for instance, to think that people actually taught themselves how to 'phreak' a telephone by whistling as one of the first hacks to a computerized communication network.

To 'hack' has always been as much about building as it is about destroying. Hackers, as good programmers, will cobble together strings of operations in order achieve a particular result. To ensure that the system will continue to work when exposed to a variety of conditions, hackers also are skilled security technicians--cognizant of security at a level far beyond that of 'normal' computer users.

None of this is meant to dismiss the "negative" aspects of hacking that garner the attention of media. There are all sorts of malicious ends that might motivate a hacker or hacktivist group. Corporate espionage is always happening. States may have particular political gains that they could realize through hacking (such as silencing the voices of dissidents).

[Jailed hacker Jeremy Hammond lucidly draws the parallel between the tendency of both hackers and convicts to "develop their own codes and ethics", which Hammond alludes is related to their arenas of operation on the social fringes and challenge commonly understood conceptions of what is right as they "constantly finding ways to... exploit cracks in the system".]

Yet while human interests are notoriously malleable and fickle, the skills and practices of hackers are morally agnostic. Exploit testing and penetration testing are just as important for ensuring security as it is useful for malicious activity.

What interests me the most about hacking and 'hacktivism' is that throughout its history, there have been individual hackers and hacker networks operating with a vocal 'social justice' perspective.. It is not a unifying ethos for what is distributed, faceted and heterogeneous movement, but it is noteworthy how ethics comes to bear on the progress of technology and the practices of security and secrecy.

Let me be clear: the hacker movement both interests me and scares me. It interests me because 'hacktavism' (as with many -isms) has a decidedly social element. It scares me because it won't let me escape the terrific duplicity of all things and it reminds me that nothing is 'secure'. Some people wield incredible powers.

social justice & hacking

This history of hackers and the 'hacker movement' is wild stuff. A guy figured out how to whistle his way through switchboard relays. A kid breached the pentagon.

setting up this theme

I would like to learn more about python and how it can be applied in web design. I figured a good way to start would be to learn Pelican and to generate a static site.

getting hacked!?!

Hello hackers! Please know that I appreciate your (collective) work. My own struggle with networked information systems, however, is less than inspiring.

Looking for me?

I welcome invitations to collaborate on interesting research projects—especially those related to OpenSource software development in support of applied social science research.
If you have an idea in mind that you'd like to bounce off someone, I'd be glad to hear from you.