A genealogy of hacking

Jordan, Tim (2017) A genealogy of hacking. Convergence, 23 (5). pp. 528-544. ISSN 1354-8565

[img] PDF - Accepted Version
Download (223kB)


Hacking is now a widely discussed and known phenomenon, but remains difficult to define and empirically identify because it has come to refer to many different, sometimes incompatible, material practices. This paper proposes genealogy as a framework for understanding hacking by briefly revisiting Foucault’s concept of genealogy and interpreting its perspectival stance through the feminist materialist concept of the situated observer. Using genealogy as a theoretical frame a history of hacking will be proposed in four phases. The first phase is the ‘pre-history’ of hacking in which four core practices were developed. The second phase is the ‘golden age of cracking’ in which hacking becomes a self-conscious identity and community and is for many identified with breaking into computers, even while non-cracking practices such as free software mature. The third phase sees hacking divide into a number of new practices even while old practices continue, including the rise of serious cybercrime, hacktivism, the division of Open Source and Free Software and hacking as an ethic of business and work. The final phase sees broad consciousness of state-sponsored hacking, the re-rise of hardware hacking in maker labs and hack spaces and the diffusion of hacking into a broad ‘clever’ practice. In conclusion it will be argued that hacking consists across all the practices surveyed of an interrogation of the rationality of information techno-cultures enacted by each hacker practice situating itself within a particular techno-culture and then using that techno-culture to change itself, both in changing potential actions that can be taken and changing the nature of the techno-culture itself.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Article accepted 8th January 2016
Keywords: hacking, hacktivism, cybercrime, open source, free software
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
Depositing User: Timothy Jordan
Date Deposited: 29 Feb 2016 09:19
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2019 15:15
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/59776

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update