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Communications of the ACM

ACM Opinion

The Anthropology of Hackers


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A "hacker" is a technologist with a love for computing and a "hack" is a clever technical solution arrived through a non-obvious means. It doesn't mean to compromise the Pentagon, change your grades, or take down the global financial system, although it can, but that is a very narrow reality of the term.

Hackers tend to value a set of liberal principles: freedom, privacy, and access; they tend to adore computers; some gain unauthorized access to technologies, though the degree of illegality greatly varies (and much, even most of hacking, by the definition I set above, is actually legal).

But once one confronts hacking empirically, some similarities melt into a sea of differences; some are subtle, while others are profound enough to warrant thinking about hacking in terms of genres or genealogies of hacking—and we compare and contrast various of these genealogies in the class, such as free and open source software hacking and the hacker underground.

From The Atlantic
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