Hacking has been on our minds for months now, namely due to the American (and now French) presidential election. But hacking has been of interest to scholars for decades, and in many iterations. Hacking has been analyzed as a craft, an aesthetic, a historical practice, a subculture, a form of activism, a mode of resistance, and more. Scholars such as Gabriella Coleman have made it their life’s work to study hacking. Hacking has inspired powerful works of fiction and art. But here we are: hacking in public discourse is largely distilled down into its relationship to the 2016 presidential election (perhaps aside from the large-scale Wannacry hack this month). But there is so much more to hacking, broadly and at this moment in time. Hacking is polysemic, as evidenced by what follows here this month.
What do you think of when you think of a hacker? Probably not one Liverpool billboard that was changed by hackers this week to say, “we suggest you improve your security.” Hackers, in some regard, are a helping profession. Over at The Conversation, you can read about how ethical hacking may help point out otherwise unknown system vulnerabilities. Maybe, as Motherboard suggests, young women who hack will shape the world. Hacking can also by legitimized by those in power. Noted in a piece about piracy and the pirate at The American Interest, hackers can have both criminal and political motives. This isn’t new: hackers have been political for as long as there’s been hacking. But it continues to be worth asking: Are they still hackers if they are supported and deployed by the state?