holds that technical power and specialized knowledge, of any kind obtainable, belong by right in the hands of those individuals brave and bold enough to discover them--by whatever means necessary.
(Goldman qtd. in Sterling)
The economy of the developed world is moving from focussing on producing goods (Ex. cars, houses, food, and computers) to being based on the exchange of information. This shift may be compared to the transition from feudalism to capitalism where the power shifted away from the landed aristocracy to the newly enriched bourgeoisie. In this case, the power will shift from the owners of productive capital (a.k.a. factories) to those of informational capital. Already we have seen a strong shift away from productive capital, as speculative investments are able to wreck havoc on national economies (such as Mexico’s 1994 crisis and the recent Southeast Asian financial crisis). Each day over 1.5 trillion dollars is traded in international currency markets (UNDP: 1999). Thus capital is overwhelming the power of the state. For example, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is attempting to liberalize trade and permits corporations to challenge and change national laws by appealing to the WTO to rule that they are barriers to free trade. Despite the WTO’s recent failure at the protest-marred Seattle meeting, corporate sponsored globalization will march on.
Now if the economy is entering a new stage, then a new class will gain power. The new class could be called an "info-bourgeoisie." Sterling argues that hackers and their critics are fighting over "technopower." While access to computers has been growing, there is still great inequality. According to the 1998 study, "Falling Through the Net," families with incomes over $75,000 were five times more likely than those under $15,000 to have a computer and seven times more likely to use the Internet. Inequality is even worse if you include race. Only 1.9% of black families with income under $15,000 used the Internet, compared to 3.8% of Hispanic families and 8.9% of white ones.
Globally Internet usage was only 140 million people in mid-1998 (Human Development Report Office ctd. in UNDP), though expected to reach 700 million by 2001. There are many people who are not going to use the Internet for a very long time. The bottom 20% of nations only had 0.2% of Internet users, compared to 6.5% for the middle 60%, and a whopping 93.3% for the top 20%. So the difference between rich and poor is a ratio of 450.
Also even as more people gain access to the Internet there will still be vast inequality between users. For instance if you are a corporation and know how to market and design an effective website you will get thousands or more hits per day. By comparison, for two years my personal website was only visited once every several days. The World Wide Web was a medium where I could and did publish my opinions and research, however it did not matter as no one was reading. As more and more websites are created, search engines have started to rank sites by how many time other sites link to them. So if your website starts with a high-ranking on the search engine, more people will link to it, which will increase your search engine rank and so on (and vice-versly if no-one knows about your site, nobody will link to it, and it will never appear in the top hits for a search engine). This Internet-specific examples shows that an information or technopower based economy permits, and possibly promotes, inequality due to differences in technical knowledge, education, language, race, class, gender, and other factors.
In the software or "information management" market, Microsoft’s monopoly of the operating systems market and near-monopoly of the word processing and spreadsheet markets shows the danger of not questioning who owns the infrastructure of the developing information economy. The nostalgic discourse has a good argument when it says that the people collaborating to create one of Microsoft’s primary rival in operating systems, Linux, are hackers, if hackers are to be understood as individuals resisting monopolization of technopower. Though recently so-called "hackers" have been cashing-in big time by listing their Linux-related corporation on the stock market. On its first day of trading, stock in VA Linux Systems set a new record by soaring from its initial public offer price of $30 to $239 Ľ.
What impact will the corporatization of the Internet (its growing use for e-commerce and the advertisements all over) have upon deciding whether it is used for resistance or to further domination? Will "free" mean "free because it comes with advertisements?" That is how it is for the free webpages, free email, free hard drive space, free phone calls (a couple companies offer free long distance which is interrupted for an ad every several minutes), free listservs, and free pirated software – all of which are being promoted for someone’s profit. Or will "free" be the start of a gift-giving, possibly post-capitalist and socialistic, economy? This is how it is with freeware like Linux and other programs, USENET, and discussion lists and webpages on nonprofit servers. Unfortunately, now Linux is also under threat of commercialization too. Is the Internet going to intensify capitalism by reducing transaction costs so that everyone can be an entrepreneur or will it help lead to socialism?
What is Hacking?
Juvenile Discourse, Black Hats, and White Hats
Juvenility and Carding
Problems with the White Hat Hacking Discourse
Problems with the Nostalgic Discourse
Law Enforcement and Computer Security Discourse
The Legal Discourse
Problems with the Law Enforcement Discourse
Hackers as Resistance (illegal and legal)
Limitations to Resistance