a p p r o a c h e s

The literature on hacking is actually quite broad and filled with more than its share of what might be described as indigenous writing – written by self-styled hackers themselves – and popular writing as well. Here are a of approaches to the hacker, approaches which could be seen as representative, and which are certainly current.

One can suppose that any word is slippery, it’s meaning fluid, nudged in one direction or another over time by the practice of society and day-to-day culture. One should be uncomfortable stating that the term "hacking" is any more a Proteus than any other word, but perhaps I will say it anyway; after all, "hack" is one of those verbs which the dictionaries have not caught up with yet, a plastic term which can mean anything from writing to "cutting with rough blows." So we go beyond the dictionaries and enter the movie theatre, where we find hacking bursting from the seams of such films as Sneakers, Johnny Neumonic, The Net, and, best of all, Hackers. Yet this doesn’t seem right either; "hacking" here seems little more than a plot device, perhaps a representation of how "hacking" is preceived, a dramatic tool that might well be a motor boat or a magic wand or something else. A prop.

There has also been significant journalistic and popular writing on hacker culture, the most notable of which has been Bruce Sterling’s The Hacker Crackdown and Hafner and Markoff’s Cyberpunks; these writers tend to employ a journalistic technique of interviewing principles after the events themselves take place. Beyond this, there is a dearth of scholarly work on computer hacking in general, and nothing which I have yet been able to find in the hacking culture.