One to read or watch: “Programming is Forgetting: Toward a New Hacker Ethic”

Here is a transcript of a talk by Allison Parrish at the Open Hardware Summit in Portland, OR. The talk “Programming is Forgetting: Toward a New Hacker Ethic” is a discussion about the failings of the book “Hackers” by Steven Levy. Essentially, that book proposed (in the 80’s) a set of ethics for Hackers (which is to say, creative programmers or engineers, not malicious operators). Allison suggests that many of the parables in the book do not truly reflect the “Hacker Ethic”, and revises them for today’s world.

Her new questions (not statements) are as follows:

  • Who gets to use what I make? Who am I leaving out? How does what I make facilitate or hinder access?
  • What data am I using? Whose labor produced it and what biases and assumptions are built into it? Why choose this particular phenomenon for digitization or transcription? And what do the data leave out?
  • What systems of authority am I enacting through what I make? What systems of support do I rely on? How does what I make support other people?
  • What kind of community am I assuming? What community do I invite through what I make? How are my own personal values reflected in what I make?

This is a significant re-work of the original “Hacker Ethic“, and you should really either watch or read the talk to see how she got to these from the original, especially as it’s not as punchy as the original.

I’d like to think I was thinking of things like these questions when I wrote CampFireManager and CCHits.

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