Hacker Culture

Hacker Culture

Douglas Thomas
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 296
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.cttttnjb
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  • Book Info
    Hacker Culture
    Book Description:

    Douglas Thomas provides an in-depth history of this important and fascinating subculture, contrasting mainstream images of hackers with a detailed firsthand account of the computer underground. _x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5296-9
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxviii)

    Since the 1983 release of the movieWarGames, the figure of the computer hacker has been inextricably linked to the cultural, social, and political history of the computer. That history, however, is fraught with complexity and contradictions that involve mainstream media representations and cultural anxieties about technology. Moreover, hacking has its own history, which is itself as complex as it is interesting. In tracing out these intricate, intertwining narratives, this book is an effort to understand both who hackers are as well as how mainstream culture sees them. Part of the complexity is a result of the fact that these...

  5. Part I. The Evolution of the Hacker
    • [Part I. Introduction]
      (pp. 1-4)

      The term “hacker” has been stretched and applied to so many different groups of people that it has become impossible to say precisely what a hacker is. Even hackers themselves have trouble coming up with a definition that is satisfactory, usually falling back on broad generalizations about knowledge, curiosity, and the desire to grasp how things work. For the purposes of this book, I want to think of hackers as a culture, a group of computer enthusiasts who operate in a space and manner that can be rightly defined by a sense of boundless curiosity and a desire to know...

    • Chapter 1 Hacking Culture
      (pp. 5-46)

      This is the common perception of today’s hacker—a wily computer criminal calling up a bank or credit card company and utilizing mysterious tools to penetrate simply and effortlessly the secure system networks that hold our most important secrets. However, any attempt to understand today’s hackers or hacking that only examines the blinking cursors and whistling boxes of computing is destined to fail. The reason is simple: hacking has never been just atechnicalactivity. Perhaps the most striking illustration of this is that William Gibson, who in his bookNeuromancercoined the term “cyberspace” and who invented a world...

    • Chapter 2 Hacking as the Performance of Technology: Reading the “Hacker Manifesto”
      (pp. 47-80)

      Pranks, such as the one described above, illustrate the fact that, for hackers, technology is a playground. It is a space for sophomoric, outrageous, and shocking behavior. A generation earlier, such pranks would have involved phone calls asking, Is your refrigerator running? or Do you have Prince Albert in a can? with the requisite punch line that would follow. As an integral part of boy culture, pranks, Anthony Rotundo argues, are “more than just acts of vengeance.” Instead, they function as “skirmishes in a kind of guerrilla warfare that boys wage against the adult world.”¹ Like earlier pranks, such as...

    • Chapter 3 Hacking in the 1990s
      (pp. 81-110)

      The stereotype of the hacker, either as 1950s or 1960s college hacker or as 1980s criminal whiz kid, has been problematized by the recent and rapid technological developments centering on the growth of the Internet, the availability of networking software that will run on personal computers, and the explosion of related technologies (such as cellular telephones) that make hacking more challenging or that pose a new set of interesting problems or sometimes both.

      As opposed to the 1980s, the widespread availability of hacking software, access to computers, and availability of potential targets in the 1990s has led to a new...

  6. Part II. Hacking Representation
    • [Part II. Introduction]
      (pp. 111-114)

      This part explores hacker culture through an examination of hackers’ relationship to mainstream contemporary culture. In particular, what such analysis reveals is that hackers actively constitute themselves as a subculture through the performance of technology and that representations of hackers in the media, law, and popular culture tell us more about contemporary cultural attitudes about and anxiety over technology than they do about the culture of hackers or the activity of hacking. Although these representations provide an insight into contemporary concerns about technology, they serve to conceal a more sophisticated subculture formed by hackers themselves.

      In particular, I explore hacker...

    • Chapter 4 Representing Hacker Culture: Reading Phrack
      (pp. 115-140)

      Hackers have always relied on communities to share ideas, information, and access to technology. In the 1950s and 1960s those communities were based on physical proximity and common interest, particularly in the computer labs of MIT, Harvard, Cornell, and a handful of other universities. What these early hackers learned they shared with each other, trading code and even access to computers. In such a context, it was easy to determine who was doing the most interesting and innovative work. The problems that were being solved, however, were mostly technical, questions of how one makes a computer do a particular task,...

    • Chapter 5 (Not) Hackers: Subculture, Style, and Media Incorporation
      (pp. 141-172)

      The computer underground emerged in large part in journals such asPhrackand2600. As I have argued throughout, however, it is impossible to separate the representations of hackers from the creation of hacker identity. As a subculture, hackers have developed a particular sense of style that has been transformed over time and has been structured as an increasingly fluid and powerful form of resistance. As a youth culture, hackers are continually looking for ways to perturb or disrupt authority and challenge any understanding or representation of who they are. In tracing out the manner in which hacker style has...

  7. Part III. Hacking Law
    • [Part III. Introduction]
      (pp. 173-176)

      This part returns to the question of the representation of hackers in popular and, most important, judicial discourse to explore how hackers are defined both popularly and legally in terms of criminality. In tracing out the discourse of “computer crime,” I argue that discourse about hackers’ criminality is focused on issues of the body, addiction, and performance.

      The domain of hackers is generally considered a “virtual space,” a space without bodies. The technology of punishment, however, has its roots firmly established in mechanisms that relate almost exclusively to the body. Even surveillance, which takes the body and the visual as...

    • Chapter 6 Technology and Punishment: The Juridical Construction of the Hacker
      (pp. 177-219)

      The image of Secret Service agent Richard Gill in the movieHackersreflects both the hyperbole with which hackers are represented and the shallowness with which they are understood. Gill’s description of hackers becomes something of a mantra, repeated continually throughout the film, making clear the fact that Gill, like many of the law enforcement officers he represents, has no idea what he is talking about. Instead, he is reciting a canned speech that is both sensationalistic and wildly inaccurate.

      For all the hyperbole of Gill’s statement, one aspect rings true—law enforcement’s obsession with the corporeal. The highly sexualized...

  8. Epilogue: Kevin Mitnick and Chris Lamprecht
    (pp. 220-238)

    From the hackers of the 1950s to the present, secrecy has played a crucial role in understanding the place of technology in contemporary culture. It has also been at the center of understanding who hackers are and what they do. Two recent cases have served to illustrate the merger of secrecy, criminality, and the displacement of anxiety onto the figure of the hacker: first, the case of Kevin Mitnick, discussed in chapter 6; and, second, the case of Chris Lamprecht, a hacker who was convicted of theft but sentenced for being a hacker.¹

    These two cases provide insight into the...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 239-250)
  10. Index
    (pp. 251-266)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 267-267)