April 16, 2008

My Special Topics Course on Hacking

Category: Academic,Hackers,Teaching,Tech — Biella @ 4:52 am

So I am nearly done with teaching this year, which is a relief, not because I don’t like it but because after a full year of teaching, one naturally wants a break. But before it is even over, you have to start thinking about your fall courses, mostly so you can order books in time and because developing a syllabus also requires more than a few days or weeks of work. Next fall, I am re-teaching a first year course Introduction to Human Communication and Culture as well as a new course on computer hacking. While I have an old version of the syllabus, I am going to spend the next few weeks revising, reshuffling, and updating. If there is anything you think should be included in this type of course drop me a line.

Below is the new description of the course.

The Culture and Politics of Computer Hacking.

This course takes as its object computer hackers to interrogate not only the ethics and practices of hacking, but to examine more broadly how hackers and hacking have transformed the politics of computing and the Internet more generally. We will examine how hacker values are realized and constituted by different legal, technical, and ethical activities of computer hacking—for example, free software production, cyberactivism and hactivism, cryptography, and the pranksih games of hacker underground. We will pay close attention to how ethical principles are variably represented and thought of by hackers, journalists, and academics and will use the example of hacking to address various topics on law, order, and politics on the Internet such as: free speech and censorship, computer gaming, privacy and security, and intellectual property. This will allow us to critically 1) problematize thinking on computer hackers as a socio-cultural group guided by a singular ethic and set of practices 2) examine the multiple ways hackers draw on and reconfigure dominant ideas of property, freedom, and privacy through their diverse moral codes and technical activities 3) broaden our understanding of politics of the Internet by evaluating the various political effects and ramifications of hacking.


  1. I’d love to take or audit this! (I think I can take an NYU class as a CUNY PhD student.) How soon will you know what time it will be offered?

    And again: I dropped the ball on getting together with you last fall, but I’d still really like to!

    Comment by Rose White — April 16, 2008 @ 5:33 am

  2. one interesting aspect might be if and how hacker culture influences/changes society at large (but I’ve no idea if there’s any literature on that subject).

    oh, and I’d really like to attend a “preview lecture” or something along that lines during DebianConference!

    Comment by gregor herrmann — April 16, 2008 @ 12:11 pm

  3. heh… when I saw the headline to this post in my rss reader, I first through you meant “ian hacking”… which says far more about me and where I am these days than anything.

    sounds like a hell of a class, though.

    Comment by andrew — April 17, 2008 @ 7:01 am

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