The Anthropology of Hackers

The Anthropology of Hackers” is an article in The Atlantic by Gabriella Coleman (anthropologist in media, culture, and communication at NYU), where she essentially takes us through the content and thinking behind her course on hackers, week by week. It is perhaps the only time I have seen a course syllabus turned into an interesting article.

Coleman provides some notes on her treatment of the concept, “hackers”:

A “hacker” is a technologist with a love for computing and a “hack” is a clever technical solution arrived through a non-obvious means….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 of these distinctions 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…such as free and open source software hacking and the hacker underground.


About Maximilian C. Forte

I am a professor of anthropology at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. My areas of research and teaching interest are centered in Political Anthropology, with a focus on imperialism, neoliberalism and globalization, nationalism, democracy, and the international political economy of knowledge production.
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1 Response to The Anthropology of Hackers

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