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<nettime> Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium Part Two, sectio
Patrice Riemens on Mon, 23 Jun 2014 11:34:26 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium Part Two, section #5 (continued)

We resume our feuilleton after some intermission due to a stay in
Calafou where I attended Backbone409, a very nice get-together of
'independent servers' (http://backbone409.calafou.org/index.en.html -
report eagerly awaited). There I had a near-hallucinating experience
encountering copies of the Bitcoin Magazine, a very glossy affair
celebrating the irresistible rise and imminent world-domination of the
Blockchain made ... Currency (and then soon everything else, I guess).


Read and convert! (I didn't)
Enjoy anyway!

Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium Part Two

The Hacker Spirit and the disease of Anarcho-Capitalism: long time
buddies? (continued)

/Nerd supremacy/ has ancient roots. In a society that is run by
machines, it is quite logical to assume that those who master the
machines also command society. Though the ins and outs are not
that clearly established, it is at least arguable that a certain
type of relationships definitely have their impact on (the way) a
great deal of the instruments we are making daily use of and which
shape, as intermediaries, the way we interact with each other (are
operated/developed). Here again, it makes no sense to seek (to
establish) the absolute truth, nor to figure out what is a 'real'
hacker. In all probability, after having gone through thousands of
cases and personal stories, and analysed an untold amount of data, we
would be left with such a diversity that we wouldn't be able to come
to a valid interpretation. There is no doubt we could marshall enough
'evidence' in case our aim was to prove that hackers are dangerous
criminals, but then we could just as easily come up with 'proof' that
hackers are actually exemplary citizens, fearlessly out to do battle
against multinationals, banks, and authoritarian governments and work
for a better world.

Therefore, let us rather observe the following: among the most
influential and powerful individuals in the world of to-day, whether
it is in the 'real' economy or in the realm of the imaginary, we find
a lot of hackers, ex-hackers and aspiring-to-be-hackers. So in what
measure are Bill Gates, Microsoft's founder, and Steve Jobs, the
uhr-boss of Apple, hackers? Opinions may differ, but nobody would
cast doubt on the fact that they both moved around in the cultural
hot-house of early information technology enthusiasts that was the
hallmark of Silicon Valley in the 1970s. Larry Page and Sergey Brin
started Google at Stanford University, and moved then - true to
classic /geek/ tradition - into a garage to house the machines running
their fledgling search engine. They might be hackers with outspoken
commercial ambitions, unlike Steve Wozniak - Apple's other Steve -
but it can not be denied that they possess solid IT competences. As
can be seen in the feature film /The Social Network/, Mark Zuckerberg
is very much at ease with machines, so much so that he had devised
a computer-assisted chick-dating [#***] system - a contrivance we
now know as FaceBook. Julian Assange, Wikileak's somewhat petulant
founder, has a past as Australian /security hacker/ before he upset
half the planet's governments by publishing secret diplomatic cables.
Linus Torvalds, Linux operating System's creator, is typical of
those many hackers who spend the best part of their time trying to
write better code than everybody else's. Possibly less well-known
to the public at large, Richard Stallman, the founder of the /Free
Software Federation/ (FSF) [34] is may be the truest example of the
hardcore hacker following his (her) own ideals of freedom brooking no
compromise - on nothing and with no-one.

Hence, it is very important to understand which values underlie what
has been called 'the hacker spirit' or even 'the hacker ethic'.
This because these values tend to have a deep influence on the
collective, technological imaginary, and on on-line sociality, and
from there, on the society in which we live as a whole. We must look
beyond hagiographic reconstructions of a mythical past peopled by
weird, thin and bespectacled geniuses ruling over machines and the
Internet, true heroes of a nascent digital revolution, and also gifted
with a convoluted and absurdistic sense of humor, driven by love
for knowledge in its purest form and a very peculiar and personal
interpretation of what 'fun' means [35]. Human actions are never pure,
nor can they be second-guessed in advance, following some automated
pattern. Or at least: not yet. Simplistic trivialisation of assumed
differences, as between good and bad, /'white hats'/ vs. /'black
hats'/ hackers, or between hackers who have sold out to governments
or multinationals vs. those who remain 'independent' are not helpful
either and only serve to foster opposite extremism. The irreducible
differences between individual histories are, as always, a starting
point for observations; but the question is - do these differences
also betray similarities? Is there something like a 'hacker style'?

The Ippolita Collective harbours, naturally, a positive predisposition
regarding those individuals who genuinely commit themselves (to something/
an ideal) and attempt to lead an autonomous life. Hackers have a saying
that express well their attitude and their way of learning through
experience: the /'hands-on imperative'/ - get your hands dirty as it were
(and stop merely talking - transl). They also repeatedly state that
/'information wants to be free'/: information wants and shall accept no
barriers. Too reach that goal, hackers share information and the fruits of
their labour, hacking, which also functions as a merit-o-meter amongst
them. From a political viewpoint, when hackers and /geeks/ talk within
their community, the use of the word freedom is frequent, as in freedom of
expression, of thought, in one's private life, as an individual, etc., and
so is the concept of meritocracy. In the United States this sentiment more
or less overlaps with the liberal world-view. But there are so many shades
in the spectrum that the original color tends to fade away [36]. And yet,
if Zuckerberg and Stallman appear to stand completely at the other end of
each other, it may well be that unexpected similarities are revealed
precisely by this opposition. The former spends his time harvesting
internauts' personal contents by way of an almost entirely proprietary
software (you can't download nor modify Facebook's code) in order to reap
profits from individually targeted advertisements. And the latter appears
to be more than ever committed to protect the software's basic freedoms:
execute, modify, distribute and share - all with the same freedoms.
Nonetheless, both are, in a way or another, hackers.

(to be continued)
Next time: more on 'Mark & Richard are Brothers-in-Arms!' ...


[#***] In PC-lingo: a system to date women ;-)
[34] Stallman's Free Software inspired the /Open Source/ movement and was
very influential within the digital culture right from the beginning.
(this was shifted  from the main text to a note by transl.)
[35] See the most famous, yet all the same solidly documented hagiography,
Steven Levy's 'Hackers, Heroes of the Computer Revolution', Penguin, New
York, 1984
(The organizers of the 1989 Galactic Hackers Party - that includes yours
truly - were indeed seen strutting through the venue with Steven Levy's
book in hand, the way backpackers clutch their copy of Lonely Planet's
India while trying to 'secure a reservation' on the next Down Malabar Mail
to Chennai Central ... -transl)
[36] Among the few researchers who have truly tried to go beyond the usual
commonplaces, we would like to cite Gabriella Coleman, cf. 'Hacker
Politics and Publics', /Public Culture/, New York, Institute of Public
Knowledge, 2011:
(if you have access to academic publications under pay-wall you might
prefer to retrieve it in a more readable format from:
 - transl)

Translated by Patrice Riemens
This translation project is supported and facilitated by:
The Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences
The Antenna Foundation, Nijmegen
(http://www.antenna.nl - Dutch site)
(http://www.antenna.nl/indexeng.html - english site under construction)
Casa Nostra, Vogogna-Ossola, Italy

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