Hacker Culture by Douglas Thomas

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Synopsis

Demonized by governments and the media as criminals, glorified within their own subculture as outlaws, hackers have played a major role in the short history of computers and digital culture-and have continually defied our assumptions about technology and secrecy through both legal and illicit means. In Hacker Culture, Douglas Thomas provides an in-depth history of this important and fascinating subculture, contrasting mainstream images of hackers with a detailed firsthand account of the computer underground.

Programmers in the 1950s and '60s-"old school" hackers-challenged existing paradigms of computer science. In the 1960s and '70s, hacker subcultures flourished at computer labs on university campuses, making possible the technological revolution of the next decade. Meanwhile, on the streets, computer enthusiasts devised ingenious ways to penetrate AT&T, the Department of Defense, and other corporate entities in order to play pranks (and make free long-distance telephone calls). In the 1980s and '90s, some hackers organized to fight for such causes as open source coding while others wreaked havoc with corporate Web sites.

Even as novels and films (Neuromancer, WarGames, Hackers, and The Matrix) mythologized these "new school" hackers, destructive computer viruses like "Melissa" prompted the passage of stringent antihacking laws around the world. Addressing such issues as the commodification of the hacker ethos by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, the high-profile arrests of prominent hackers, and conflicting self-images among hackers themselves, Thomas finds that popular hacker stereotypes reflect the public's anxieties about the information age far more than they do the reality of hacking.

Douglas Thomas is associate professor in the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. He is coeditor (with Brian D. Loader) of Cybercrime: Law Enforcement, Security, and Surveillance in the Information Age (2000).

 

About Douglas Thomas

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Douglas Thomas, PhD, is Assistant Professor in the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, where he teaches courses in Contemporary Critical Theory and Cultural Studies of Technology. His work has appeared in such journals as "Philosophy & Rhetoric," "Communication Theory," "The Quarterly Journal of Speech," and "The Journal of Nietzsche Studies,"
 
Published March 1, 2002 by University of Minnesota Press. 266 pages
Genres: Computers & Technology, Science & Math. Non-fiction

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With a real affinity for his subject, Thomas uses hacker publications like 2600 and Phrack for most of his research, instead of the all-too-common procession of online security experts doing their best Chicken Little impersonations.

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Project MUSE

In 1984, the year after War Games was released, two notable books about hacking were published: Steven Levy's Hackers, which is a historical account about first-generation hackers, and Sherry Turkle's The Second Self, an ethnographic study of hacker culture at MIT.

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