When the inevitable announcement came that the EASST/4S conference would be online due to the Covid19 pandemic, my heart sank. Of course, it was absolutely the right decision but having spent many weeks in online meetings with colleagues and students, I could not imagine that I would voluntarily spend four days zooming into virtual Prague. Spoiler alert – I did not manage four days. I tried, but was easily distracted by other work, and frustrated by seeing names and faces of dear friends and colleagues in little rectangles on my screen. Plus there was the perennial EASST/4S problem of too much choice, and not being able to visit those particularly fascinating sessions scheduled at the same time.
Thus I am very glad that the organisers of the panel Hacker Cultures: Understanding the actors behind our software decided to go a different route. The panel was organized by Paula Bialski (University of St. Gallen) and Mace Ojala (IT University of Copenhagen). With funding and technical support from the University of St. Gallen and Height Beats, Bialski and Ojala produced a series of podcasts. Instead of simply asking the panelists to prepare 15-20 minute audio presentations, the organisers conducted interviews with each of them. This resulted in a series of podcasts, providing a rich collection of insights into hacking, its history and future, its technologies, standards and practices, the implications for work and learning, and more.
Episode 1: Morgan G. Ames (Berkeley) – Throwback Culture: The Role of Nostalgia in Hacker Worlds
Episode 2: Minna Saariketo & Mareike Glöss (both Stockholm) – In the Grey Zone of Hacking? Two cases in the Political Economy of Software and the Right to Repair
Episode 3: Annika Richterich (Sussex and Maastricht) – Forget about the Learning: On (Digital) Creativity and Expertise in Hacker-/Makerspaces
Episode 4: Alex Dean Cybulski (Toronto) – Hacker Culture Is Everything You Don’t Get Paid For In the Information Security Industry
Episode 5: Jérémy Grosman (Namur) – Algorithmic Objects, Algorithmic Practices
Episode 6: Stéphane Couture (Montréal) – Hacker Culture and Practices in the Development of Internet Protocols
Episode 7: Ola Michalec (Bristol) – Hacking Infrastructures: Understanding Capabilities of Operational Technology (OT) Security Workers
Episode 8: Sylvain Besençon (Fribourg) – Securing by Hacking: Maintenance Regimes around an End-to-End Encryption Standard
Episode 9: R. Stuart Geiger & Dorothy Howard (both San Diego) – “I didn’t sign up for this”: The Invisible Work of Maintaining Free/Open-Source Software Communities
In keeping with hacker ethics (and yes hackers have ethics, they are not all criminals), the podcasts will remain open to anyone who is interested. The organisers and panelists are happy for the podcasts to be shared with students and colleagues. A short description of each episode is provided in the podcast description. This is a great resource for teaching, not only while we are all trying to offer education online. The podcasts individually or in combination could be incorporated into syllabi and resources for students long into the post-covid future. I’ve already recommended these to colleagues who are planning to incorporate it in their courses, aimed at computer scientists as well as those studying STS-informed courses in the humanities and social sciences. It is also an inspiration for how we could think differently about the form that online events take.
The Hacker Cultures podcasts can be found here: http://www.buzzsprout.com/1323889