Hacker Reading Lists: Introduction to Hacker Culture

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Hacker Culture Reading Lists: Introduction to Hacker Culture

Hopefully this will be the first in a series of reading lists I’m compiling in March 2020 with the intention of documenting and expanding the bibliography of works included as part of hacker studies.

As a PhD candidate who struggles to think about the literature contemporaneously, and as someone with lots of training as a historian I am also stuck thinking about studies of hackers and their culture historiographically: in that case I am very interested in how writings and understandings of hackers has changed over time. Literature on hackers streches from the 1980s to present day, but along the way there are waves of hacker-interested academic work that is often unknown, excluded or hard to find because it doesn’t fit popular or contemporary ontological considerations of hackers. For example, present-day theorizing of hackers tends to focus on their role as technology/political activists (F/OSS, Hacktivism) and their potential for inciting social change, but in the 90s through the early 2000s an overwhelming amount of the literature is fixated on hackers as cybercriminals. Comparatively, early lit from the 80s like Turkle and Levy are very interested in theorizing about the relationship between humans and computers as understood through the virtuosity of hackers. In many cases there are essays, books and articles that didn’t quite fit the dominant narrative of the day and I’ve rarely seen cited.

In other cases, I’m hoping to document some papers are just hard or difficult to find. Older papers often use weird keywords or outmoded, apochryphal language to describe hackers (e.g. “hacker underground,” “crackers,” “virus writers”). Other papers and writings I’ve collected might just be included because they are curiosities or neat historical artifacts (See Dorothy Denning’s paper in this list for a very forward thinking paper about early hackers in the security community). If nothing else, I’m hoping that these lists will prevent someone from getting a rude comment from reviewer #2 to effect of: “Egads ye plebian, have you not heard of XXXX (20xx)???” or “how DARE you say (TOPIC X) is understudied! Are you not familiar with …?”

This first list is purely for my own sake: I wanted to compile a short list of readings which I would consider to be useful for students studying hacker culture for the first time, or even just to share with another academic interested in how hackers are theorized.

Reading List:

Coleman, G., & Golub, A. (2008). Hacker practice: Moral genres and the cultural articulation of liberalism. Anthropological Theory, 8(3), 255–277.

Denning, D. E. (1990). Concerning Hackers Who Break into Computer Systems. 653–664. https://faculty.nps.edu/dedennin/publications/ConcerningHackers-NCSC.txt

Jordan, T., & Taylor, P. (1998). A Sociology of Hackers. The Sociological Review, 46(4), 757–780.

Kelty, C. (2008). Two Bits: The Cultural Significane of Free Software. Duke University Press.

Levy, S. (2010). Hackers (1st ed). O’Reilly Media.

Peterson, T. F. (2011). Nightwork: A history of hacks and pranks at MIT. MIT Press.

Thomas, D. (2002). Hacker culture. University of Minnesota Press.

Turkle, S. (1984). The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (Twentieth Anniversary Edition). MIT Press.