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Visceral hacking or packet wanking? The ethics of digital code

Best, K. (2006) Visceral hacking or packet wanking? The ethics of digital code. Culture, Theory and Critique, 47 (2). pp. 213-235.

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Although hacking is painted as destructive and anti‐social in the eyes of the mainstream media, many hackers seek to reclaim it and its meaning as a harmless if not socially beneficial activity. One strategy is to construct a boundary between legitimate hacking and the activities of the much maligned script kiddies, inspired by a ‘hacker ethic’. This hacker ethic springs directly from hacker practice and thus emerges from the visceral register, particularly that associated with pleasure. It is also engaged in a politics of becoming which attempts to extend ethical principles of equality and freedom to information environments and applications. This paper argues that the presence of the ‘other’ of hacking continues to contaminate hacking because of the ambiguous and contradictory nature of this ethic. It argues that the ambiguities inherent in the visceral source of hacking’s ethical orientation will continue to destabilise its legitimacy. Further, hacking cannot justify itself based on appeals to the virtues of hacking skill without contradicting its own moorings in the politics of becoming. To illustrate this argument, the paper looks at a case study of script kiddies and their involvement in distributed denial of service attacks against seven corporate websites in February 2000.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Media, Communication and Culture
Publisher: Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group
Copyright: 2006 Taylor & Francis
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