Hacking

Authored by: Finn Brunton

Routledge Handbook of Digital Media and Communication

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138672093
eBook ISBN: 9781315616551
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315616551-8

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Abstract

Hack. The word is a noun, a verb, an adjective. It is a professional title and a criminal indictment and a celebration and a pejorative. It is applied to developing software, exploiting software, collecting data, manipulating social networks, working for and against companies, for and against governments, making nice things and being the reason we can’t have nice things. Obama dismissively referred to Edward Snowden as ‘some hacker’ – an outsider exfiltrating data by exploiting technology, without the moral role of the whistleblower – while his administration hosted ‘civic hackathons’ and promoted a ‘culture of hacking.’ Facebook fought the threat of ‘hacking Facebook’ (manipulating metrics or collecting information on their users) while hiring ‘hackers’ (virtuosic, inventive coders) and celebrating ‘the Hacker Way’: ‘an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration’ (Zuckerberg, 2012). A hack can colloquially mean a brilliant, elegant, lateral solution to a programming challenge, or a crude, good-enough fix in the context of constant development – ‘move fast and break things,’ to take another Facebook credo. Hacking has been closely connected with the creation of the culture, technology, and philosophy of free and open-source software, and with the secretive manipulation of national elections. How can these many meanings be reconciled?

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