Hacking hacked: The struggle over recuperation as a source of innovation

Affiliation: University of Gothenburg

Abstract: The hacker community sits at a strategic juncture in the high-tech economy, being both a source of critique of capitalist forms of accumulation, and a potential source of innovation. This plays out in endless attempts by firms and governments to recuperate hacker projects. Product innovation is the result of the community’s failure to resist such attempts. The community is then subsumed under someone else’s business plan. The capacity of the hacker community to resist recuperation attempts hinges on the degree of autonomy it exercises over its own collective conditions of existence, out of which the most important is to have public access to the source code. The many struggles over leadership, naming (open versus free, etc.), technological design choices, within the hacker community, can be made sense of with this optic. By adopting this perspective on what is going on in the computer underground, hackers can also become better at detecting new recuperation attempts and asserting their collective autonomy.

Bio:Johan Söderberg is a reader in Theory of Science, at the Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science, Göteborg University, Sweden. Notably he is the author of Hacking Capitalism, where he developed a Marxist interpretation of the hacker movement. More generally, his research interests is about how political subjects emerge from conflicts surrounding new technologies, and how those conflicts in turn become a motor for technological change and innovations.