Pit Schultz on Sat, 16 Mar 2002 17:49:52 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> digital hooliganism

hacking as a cultural metaphor for a new kind of critique can become a
misleading abstraction when you've just been hacked. hacker tools
developed by high skilled security system experts are available to everyone 
who can use search engines and are as easy to install and use as virus

last autumn a number of cultural net projects with a strong dedication to open
access and free speech got hacked and their content erased using such tools.
(ssh exploits and linux root kits) among them was a well known open audio
archive where thousands of audio files got lost. it is rather difficult to 
find a cultural net project which didn't have problems with hackers over
the last few months. for most, the damage wasn't more than what can be
fixed by installing a new system, others lost unique digital art projects.

the spiral of technification in the security sector goes further. the result
is that small providers or self-run co-locations, public access sites of
universities and libraries, move over from a policy of the free digital 
commons to a strategy of paranoid enclosure, while the security experts
and service industry prospers. in their midst former hackers who still
perform their sport like innocent boy-scouts praised by the net culture
discourse as role models.

transmediale 2.0 in Berlin featured a workshop on 'hacking techniques'. it's
software art competition was 'hacked' by a guy using a 'fork bomb' script as
object-trouvee. Mckenzie Wark's hacker manifesto makes the hacker a hero
positioned to inherit an outdated model of traditional criticism. since years
hollywood movies, and tv documentaries, books and club tracks have featured
the hacker as the subject of full souvereignity of our times.

the dream of a vivid hacker culture, an elite with its own ethics and social
orders, is over when everyone can download the skills of generations of 
hackers in a piece of ordinary code. once started on a script-kiddie's pc
all social and cultural knowledge is stripped from the software, and its
pure subversive potential can unfold. call it digital hooliganism, or
cyber black block, once a software is released only another piece of code
can make it stop. while the skills embedded in the code get more and more
complex, the skills to run the code zero out. in the end it doesn't matter
if the wizard wears a black or white hat.

but hacking becomes more than just 'cool' in exactly the moment when operation
homeland security, the law inforcements agencies of international 
copyright, and new national infowarrior divisions in almost every country
criminalize and militarize the act of hacking while at the same time
thousands of out-of-the-box hackers popularize the practise in countless
vandalizations and destruction of websites and open file archives.

hacking is more than a metaphor, whereever there's a hack, a virtual border 
has been crossed illegally. the erosion of security leads to new models of
distribution and storage which make the 'copy-me' an axiom of sustainability.
the strongest tools of the web at the moment, p2p filesharing networks are 
built on the principle of open system architectures with minimal access 
insecurity in terms of openness is a basic feature of the net. maybe one 
has to embrace it to get hacked and celebrate?

how detached does the "media culture" discourse have to get from the phenomena
of everyday digital life to finally become a full part of the reactionary 
logic which it seems to try to critique?

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