Hackers are one elusive group. There is a wide held belief that hackers are destructive and dangerous individuals that act without borders and without a sense of ethics. But this understanding of hackers is shortsighted. As Gabriella Coleman says in her talk “Free Speech: Anonymous vs. Scientology,” there exists a certain genealogy in the world of hackers. The general “species” is not exclusive of anomalies. There are various forms of hackers that act with different interests and goals, some of which are not nihilistic in nature or execution. In our travelogue, we want to explore what we believe to be two genealogies of hackers in the form of the Wikileaks organization and the “Anonymous” group. In our definition of hacktivism (as a form of social activism that is mediated by technologies on a digital interface,) there needs to be a cohesive structure to the organization with a clearly stated common goal. As Marco states in his essay, a network is held together by a leader or by “common narratives or stories that people tell.” While both Wikileaks and the “Anonymous” group can be understood as hacktivist groups, in that they use methods of computer hacking to call for social and political activist action, they differ in their structure. Where Wikileaks has a distinguishable leader figure (Julian Assange), “Anonymous” is a decentralized community of hackers. And whereas Wikileaks is produced with the common goal of information transparency within political and economic structures, Anonymous seems to act without a single, uniform purpose. We will look further into these differing structures and their influences on the effectiveness of their activist goals. We will also attempt to determine whether or not the existence of a public figure head plays into the public perception of the legitimacy of the respective actions. We will consistently revert back to one of our main discussions on the relationship between activist efforts that are virtual versus those that are carried out in real life.
We are going to draw from secondary resources as provided by the class syllabus, focusing on the sections regarding Wikileaks and Hacktivism. These readings will provide a qualitative foundation for our primary research which will most likely be a survey distributed to our friends and public forums that will question the public perception of the hacktivist groups. Our questions will deal with two main issues; the first questions whether or not the general public believes that hacktivism is a form of cyberterrorism (does the public believe hactivist efforts are a legitimate for of activism, or do people agree that these actions are destructive and harmful). The second aska whether or not people believe that activist activities able to be carried out on an abstract digital interface.