Theoretical Framework

Words have power. You can see it in the Internet that for most of its life was words and numbers. Words are combined to form sentences and languages. Different groups use distinct forms of language (or discourses), so that they can espouse and emphasize different values, creating and reproducing a subculture. Since one cannot look directly into an individual’s mind to see the power in words and language, a good alternative is to look at their actions. A subculture’s history frames its discourse, and its living history (a.k.a. actions) is a reflection of the meaning it finds in the discourse: its interpretation.

It is neither discourse alone, or action alone that best explains what computer hacking is. Discourse fails by its inability to base itself and its acceptance of a multiplicity of "truths." Simply put, it is easy to say one thing and mean or do another. For instance, hackers may claim that they are following the "hacker ethic," while they use their skills to get, and possibly sell, credit card numbers. Action by itself will also fail, as without a related discourse one cannot know its meaning. For example if you saw a defaced webpage where the original was replaced with hacker lingo, it would seem like a senseless act of vandalism. Likewise, would you be able to guess why people are spending hundreds of hours pouring over computer manuals, searching directories, running files, and writing programs to gain access to computers (much of which would appear to be very boring work for non-enthusiasts)? So this paper will look at both discourse and action (past and present) to create a fuller picture of the conflictingly defined hacker subcultures.

The last part of this paper is based on several political assumptions that I do not have the space to address here. I assume that popular resistance to the rule of the elite is good and necessary for reducing inequality, achieving a just global society, and ultimately ensuring the survival of the planet. Thus the importance in my arguments is not just to understand computer hacking, but to understand it through the perspective of its potential use for popular resistance.

Theoretical Framework
Hacking History
Phone Hacking
What is Hacking?
Juvenile Discourse, Black Hats, and White Hats
Hacker Language
Juvenility and Carding
Problems with the White Hat Hacking Discourse
Nostalgic Discourse
Problems with the Nostalgic Discourse
Law Enforcement and Computer Security Discourse
The Legal Discourse
Problems with the Law Enforcement Discourse
Media Discourse
Hackers as Resistance (illegal and legal)
Limitations to Resistance
Works Cited