methods of research

Studying the creation of hacking resents certain challenges. By their very nature, hacking activities involve a level of subterfuge and deception which might seem uncommon even among criminal subcultures. Most hackers are virtually anonymous, perched behind techno-poetic pseudonyms, shifting from falsified account to falsified account. Online identity, which at the best of times can allow a slipperiness which is nearly impossible to achieve in other contexts, become doubly problematic within the context of hacker culture. The study of any particular hacker culture becomes a rather odd ethnography; it is not so much an attempt to discover some truth in the substance of identity or individual action, but to look beyond it to the resulting construction of the hacker community.

Co-operation from any hacked institution or individual will be, at best, minimal; like most computer systems which have experienced a significant security breach, there is always a reluctance to detail security problems or the steps taken to address them.

On the other extreme, hackers themselves are often willing to disclose a great deal of information on certain topics, but the reliability of this information is difficult to determine. As Sterling has accurately pointed out, one of the most important aspects of hacker culture is the desire to boast about one’s supposed exploits, but it is often difficult to determine to what extent any boasts are truthful.