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<nettime> forging a new world out of the ruins of the present one
McKenzie Wark on Sun, 5 Dec 2004 23:47:30 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> forging a new world out of the ruins of the present one

The digital age throws up questions of equity

Author: Reviewed by John Conomos, who
teaches film and media studies at Sydney
College of the Arts, University of Sydney.

Date: 27/11/2004 Publication: Sydney
Morning Herald Section: Spectrum Page: 11

A Hacker Manifesto By McKenzie Wark
Harvard UP, 208pp, $Aust48.95  (hb)

McKenzie Wark's aptly named and timely A
Hacker Manifesto is a remarkably original and
passionate clarion call to question the
increasing commodification of information in
our digital age. The book is elegantly designed
and written in a highly aphoristic style that
evokes the grand essay tradition of Theodor
Adorno, Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin and
Friedrich Nietzsche.

A Hacker Manifesto comprises short,
numbered paragraphs or theses with quotes
from past and present thinkers central to
Wark's uncompromising and profound vision
of a better, shared world of creativity,
knowledge and social equality.

It asks us to systematically examine "the
property question" in our public and private
lives as consumers and hackers of digital

This means, Wark argues, that we need to ask
who is benefiting from the exploitation and
expropriation of information. Just as common
land was privatised 500 years ago in Europe,
Wark believes that information is rapidly being
privatised by multinational drug, media and
technology corporations.

These corporations - particularly since the
introduction of the internet and related new
technologies - trademark well-known
expressions and copyright concepts and texts
that have been in public circulation for years.
This even includes our human genes.

The producers of information, who are
exploited by the multinationals, include the
emerging class of "hackers": artists, musicians,
software developers, scientists, biologists,
researchers. Anyone, in fact, who is innovative
and is producing knowledge. Consequently,
we are witnessing a new class conflict shaping
our world of scarcity around the concept of
"intellectual property". That is to say, a conflict
between the hacker researchers of the new
ideas, perceptions and sensations that emanate
from raw data and the powerful class of
corporations that want to possess this

The expropriators of information form the so-
called "vectoralist class" (named after the many
"vectors" of communication that information
moves along as it is transmitted from one site
to another).

A Hacker Manifesto is indispensable reading
for anyone who wishes to understand the
multiplying complexities of digital culture. It is
itself an example of hacking: forging a new
world out of the ruins of the present one.



                   ... we no longer have roots, we have aerials ...

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