Posts Tagged ‘Journalism

The History of Hacking: Stories from the outlaws of network culture

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phone hackThe History of Hacking is an interesting documentary by Discovery Channel which shows interviews and stories of some of the early hackers. It features the must-see story of John Draper, aka Captain Crunch after a whistle found in the cereal box to hack into telephone networks, who is one of the pioneers of hacking.

As Michel Foucault mentioned: “We are subjected to the production of truth through power and we cannot exercise power except through the production of truth.” (See: Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings) The counter-discourse of hacking provides the ability to use the existing networks in ways they were not supposed to by the reigning power. Nowadays phone tapping, a way of hacking someones phone line, is legal for the only institution that also has the monopoly of violence, namely the government. Besides the monopoly of violence, there is thus also the monopoly of surveillance through networks.

androidsThe cyberpunk movement of the 80s shows a glorification of the hacker as an outlaw: A modern day cowboy who challenges the system and is always one step ahead of it. Swift and uncatchable, almost like a liquid substance seeping through the cracks of the networks. The stories of Philip K. Dick often feature characters that have abilities to unravel mysteries of computer networks. Rick Deckard in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is one such outlaw. A grim person who has an extraordinary ability to recognize humanoid cyborgs.

A real-life outlaw story was experienced by Kevin Mitnick, who was wanted by the FBI from 1992-1995, however shows the criminalization of the art of hacking into networks. He was sent to prison in 1995 for five years and was released in January 2000. The story told in this documentary shows the duality of hacking. It is a kind of voyeurism, but it is also a heroic way to challenge networks and lay bare their vulnerabilities. No wonder many hackers also work as security advisers, Kevin Mitnick is no exception.

Hacking remains popular nowadays, but is no longer restricted to the outlaws. Simple tools to hack Hotmail or Myspace are provided by organized hacking troupes. This poses the question if hacking has lost its romance and has been degraded to a horrible nuisance, or even a nightmare for the everyday user of a network.

The documentary provides a really good basis for everyone interested in the early days of hacking. To see the whole documentary, which also includes an interesting interview with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak on hacking and the early Apple days, check out the embedded video below.


On Dan Gillmor’s We The Media

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wethemediaWe The Media (2004) is the book that launched Dan Gillmor’s career as an authority on journalism and blogging. In his first book Gillmor, once a former professional musician, lets us take a peek at the past, present and future of the two.

Starting off Gillmor sets the tone by reminding us of the roots of blogging. He traces it back to the days of Usenet, forums and Compuserve. But he doesn’t leave it at the companies and the media, he also traces back the audience who are now actually using the blogs. Radio talkshows, where listeners could phone in to let themselves be heard and participate in show, also stand at the roots of blogging.

What follows is the read/write web. A web that resembles the vision of HTML godfather Tim Berners-Lee. The audience doesn’t just read the static websites, but can now also write their own material: Blogs, Wiki’s, SMS, p2p, RSS and Internet broadcasting are some of the new possibilities of the audience to actually write the web. We should embrace and not fight this new reality The opportunities are big, and Gillmor also sees options for Public Relations departments and says they should not see blogging as a threat but as an opportunity.

With this new situation, Gillmor elaborates what the various groups can do and maybe should not do, and he pinpoints some political examples such as the Dean campaign which he sees as a learning ground for the future. But the biggest example of the power of blogs concentrates on September 11th.

A term that is used in We The Media is ‘Big Media’. The dinosaurs of journalism who are having trouble adjusting to the new ways in which information flows. And according to Gillmor it won’t “die off quietly. It will, with government’s help, try to control new media rather than see its business models eroded by it.” Besides that Gillmor also has critique on the cable and phone companies. The chapter The Empire Strikes Back is especially critical of the ways of distribution of cables and wires. It questions who gets the biggest share, and that we should not let this go by unnoticed.

Near the end of the book Gillmor is straightforward about the goal of his book:

“My goal in this book has been to persuade you that the collision of journalism and technology is having major consequences for three constituencies: journalists, newsmakers, and the audience. The evidence seems persuasive that something big is happening.”

He is the most critical about the newsmakers: “Newsmakers are not much further along in understanding what’s happening to them in this new world of communications.” But one point of critique might be that the Big Media and the newsmakers are the ones who have to adept the most to the newly risen situation.

Does this bias ruin the importance of the book? Not really. To make a solid point, a call for action, the best way is to radically state it to let the people hear you. And that is what Gillmor is doing, and that is what we should consider. Make our own news, take things in our own hands. No more top-down structures, but news from the grassroots.

Did I mention that you can also read this book entirely online at this webadress:
Why should you buy the book actually, if Gillmor published it online via a Creative Commons license and you can read it for free? Dan Gillmor is willing to take the chance. Besides that he also wonders in the last chapter of the book what people would do with this book. That part is now history, which leads us to my recommendation on what you should do with this book: Read it, and after that think for yoruself where the discussion is at now. It doesn’t matter if you’re left or right. We can be, or at least be a part of, the media. I’m convinced now.

For an audio presentation by Dan Gillmor from 2004 about We The Media at Accelerating Change 2004, check out this link:

Written by newmw

October 4, 2006 at 11:10 pm