Before beginning to analyze Wikileaks and Anonymous group and question whether or not their respective activities qualify as hacktivism, it is important to have a clear understanding of what a hacker is. Nathan Freitas, a mobile technology enthusiast and expert in social activism using technology defines hacking as “a standalone apolitical activity focused on attaining knowledge and developing skill. The act of hacking is no different than tinkering, exploring, practicing karate or even playing in a jam session.” Held together by commonly held ambitions towards freedom, privacy and access, there is nothing inherently illegal about hacker activities. Marco Deseriis’ analysis of the network narrative does important work when applied to hacker culture. When a network lacks the hierarchical structure of the traditional organization, it must be held together by a set of narratives. We must understand that the inherent nature of the internet blurs the boundaries between traditionally static concepts of authorship, readership, narration, etc. Thus, the narrative allows for the redistribution of authority in a networked environment. While the narrative can be understood as a landscape with predefined sets of ethics, rules, and codes of conduct, the very identity of the network allows for a “second orality” in which the reader can assume control of the narrative. Applied to hacker culture, hackers functioning within a network narrative get authority through their redefinement of software. Deseriis writes, “When a reader discovers unforeseen and creative ways of reading a story, she begins to cross over to an authorial position.” Read the rest of this entry »

Betty Wang and Lara Wesnofske

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. Read the rest of this entry »

By: Chelsea Christensen, Yuna Park, Xuan Feng

No Secrets: Julian Assange’s Mission for Total Transparency by Raffi Khatchadourian. The New Yorker, June 2010.

This reading gives some background on Julian Assange, the ideology and methodology behind Wikileaks, and a closer look at one particular Wikileaks project, called Project B.

Julian Assange’s entire life has been marked by secrecy, an inherent distrust of government and institutions, and a desire to make those things that are secret more widely available. In the article, it says that Assange had “come to understand the defining human struggle not as left versus right, or faith versus reason, but as individual versus institution. As a student of Kafka, Koestler, and Solzhenitsyn, he believed that truth, creativity, love and compassion are corrupted by institutional hierarchies, and by “patronage networks” (one of this favorite expressions) that contort the human spirit” (15). Read the rest of this entry »