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TUCoPS :: Cyber Culture :: counterc.hac

Hacking Away at the Counterculture by Andrew Ross




 
 
                HACKING AWAY AT THE COUNTERCULTURE
 
                                by
 
                           ANDREW ROSS
 
                       Princeton University
     Copyright (c) 1990 by Andrew Ross, all rights reserved.
         _Postmodern Culture_ vol. 1, no. 1 (Sep. 1990).
 
 
 
[1]       Ever since the viral attack engineered in November
 
     of 1988 by Cornell University hacker Robert Morris on
 
     the national network system Internet, which includes
 
     the Pentagon's ARPAnet data exchange network, the
 
     nation's high-tech ideologues and spin doctors have
 
     been locked in debate, trying to make ethical and
 
     economic sense of the event.  The virus rapidly
 
     infected an estimated six thousand computers around the
 
     country, creating a scare that crowned an open season
 
     of viral hysteria in the media, in the course of which,
 
     according to the Computer Virus Industry Association in
 
     Santa Clara, the number of known viruses jumped from
 
     seven to thirty during 1988, and from three thousand
 
     infections in the first two months of that year to
 
     thirty thousand in the last two months.  While it
 
     caused little in the way of data damage (some richly
 
     inflated initial estimates reckoned up to $100m in
 
     down time), the ramifications of the Internet virus
 
     have helped to generate a moral panic that has all but
 
     transformed everyday "computer culture."
 
[2]       Following the lead of DARPA's (Defence Advance
 
     Research Projects Agency) Computer Emergency Response
 
     Team at Carnegie-Mellon University, anti-virus response
 
     centers were hastily put in place by government and
 
     defence agencies at the National Science Foundation,
 
     the Energy Department, NASA, and other sites.  Plans
 
     were made to introduce a bill in Congress (the
 
     Computer Virus Eradication Act, to replace the 1986
 
     Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which pertained solely to
 
     government information), that would call for prison
 
     sentences of up to ten years for the "crime" of
 
     sophisticated hacking, and numerous government agencies
 
     have been involved in a proprietary fight over the
 
     creation of a proposed Center for Virus Control,
 
     modelled, of course, on Atlanta's Centers for Disease
 
     Control, notorious for its failures to respond
 
     adequately to the AIDS crisis.
 
[3]       In fact, media commentary on the virus scare has
 
     run not so much tongue-in-cheek as hand-in-glove with
 
     the rhetoric of AIDS hysteria--the common use of terms
 
     like killer virus and epidemic; the focus on hi-risk
 
     personal contact (virus infection, for the most part,
 
     is spread on personal computers, not mainframes); the
 
     obsession with defense, security, and immunity; and the
 
     climate of suspicion generated around communitarian
 
     acts of sharing.  The underlying moral imperative being
 
     this: You can't trust your best friend's software any
 
     more than you can trust his or her bodily fluids--safe
 
     software or no software at all!  Or, as Dennis Miller
 
     put it on _Saturday Night Live_, "Remember, when you
 
     connect with another computer, you're connecting to
 
     every computer that computer has ever connected to."
 
     This playful conceit struck a chord in the popular
 
     consciousness, even as it was perpetuated in such sober
 
     quarters as the Association for Computing Machinery,
 
     the president of which, in a controversial editorial
 
     titled "A Hygiene Lesson," drew comparisons not only
 
     with sexually transmitted diseases, but also with a
 
     cholera epidemic, and urged attention to "personal
 
     systems hygiene."^1^  In fact, some computer scientists
 
     who studied the symptomatic path of Morris's virus
 
     across Internet have pointed to its uneven effects upon
 
     different computer types and operating systems, and
 
     concluded that "there is a direct analogy with
 
     biological genetic diversity to be made."^2^  The
 
     epidemiology of biological virus, and especially AIDS,
 
     research is being closely studied to help implement
 
     computer security plans, and, in these circles, the new
 
     witty discourse is laced with references to antigens,
 
     white blood cells, vaccinations, metabolic free
 
     radicals, and the like.
 
[4]       The form and content of more lurid articles like
 
     _Time_'s infamous (September 1988) story, "Invasion of
 
     the Data Snatchers," fully displayed the continuity of
 
     the media scare with those historical fears about
 
     bodily invasion, individual and national, that are
 
     often considered endemic to the paranoid style of
 
     American political culture.^3^  Indeed, the rhetoric of
 
     computer culture, in common with the medical discourse
 
     of AIDS research, has fallen in line with the paranoid,
 
     strategic style of Defence Department rhetoric.  Each
 
     language-repertoire is obsessed with hostile threats to
 
     bodily and technological immune systems; every event is
 
     a ballistic manoeuver in the game of microbiological
 
     war, where the governing metaphors are indiscriminately
 
     drawn from cellular genetics and cybernetics alike.  As
 
     a counterpoint to the tongue-in-cheek AI tradition of
 
     seeing humans as "information-exchanging environments,"
 
     the imagined life of computers has taken on an
 
     organicist shape, now that they too are subject to
 
     cybernetic "sickness" or disease.  So, too, the
 
     development of interrelated systems, such as Internet
 
     itself, has further added to the structural picture of
 
     an interdependent organism, whose component members,
 
     however autonomous, are all nonetheless affected by the
 
     "health" of each individual constituent.  The growing
 
     interest among scientists in developing computer
 
     programs that will simulate the genetic behavior of
 
     living organisms (in which binary numbers act like
 
     genes) points to a future where the border between
 
     organic and artificial life is less and less distinct.
 
[5]       In keeping with the increasing use of biologically
 
     derived language to describe mutations in systems
 
     theory, conscious attempts to link the AIDS crisis with
 
     the information security crisis have pointed out that
 
     both kinds of virus, biological and electronic, take
 
     over the host cell/program and clone their carrier
 
     genetic codes by instructing the hosts to make replicas
 
     of the viruses.  Neither kind of virus, however, can
 
     replicate themselves independently; they are pieces of
 
     code that attach themselves to other cells/programs--
 
     just as biological viruses need a host cell, computer
 
     viruses require a host program to activate them.  The
 
     Internet virus was not, in fact, a virus, but a worm, a
 
     program that can run independently and therefore
 
     _appears_ to have a life of its own.  The worm
 
     replicates a full version of itself in programs and
 
     systems as it moves from one to another, masquerading
 
     as a legitimate user by guessing the user passwords of
 
     locked accounts. Because of this autonomous existence,
 
     the worm can be seen to behave as if it were an
 
     organism with some kind of purpose or teleology, and
 
     yet it has none.  Its only "purpose" is to reproduce
 
     and infect.  If the worm has no inbuilt antireplication
 
     code, or if the code is faulty, as was the case with
 
     the Internet worm, it will make already-infected
 
     computers repeatedly accept further replicas of itself,
 
     until their memories are clogged.  A much quieter worm
 
     than that engineered by Morris would have moved more
 
     slowly, as one supposes a "worm" should, protecting
 
     itself from detection by ever more subtle camouflage,
 
     and propagating its cumulative effect of operative
 
     systems inertia over a much longer period of time.
 
[6]       In offering such descriptions, however, we must be
 
     wary of attributing a teleology/intentionality to worms
 
     and viruses which can be ascribed only, and, in most
 
     instances, speculatively, to their authors.  There is
 
     no reason why a cybernetic "worm" might be expected to
 
     behave in any fundamental way like a biological worm.
 
     So, too, the assumed intentionality of its author
 
     distinguishes the human-made cybernetic virus from the
 
     case of the biological virus, the effects of which are
 
     fated to be received and discussed in a language
 
     saturated with human-made structures and narratives of
 
     meaning and teleological purpose.  Writing about the
 
     folkloric theologies of significance and explanatory
 
     justice (usually involving retribution) that have
 
     sprung up around the AIDS crisis, Judith Williamson has
 
     pointed to the radical implications of this collision
 
     between an intentionless virus and a meaning-filled
 
     culture:
 
          Nothing could be more meaningless than a
 
          virus.  It has no point, no purpose, no plan;
 
          it is part of no scheme, carries no inherent
 
          significance.  And yet nothing is harder for
 
          us to confront than the complete absence of
 
          meaning.  By its very definition,
 
          meaninglessness cannot be articulated within
 
          our social language, which is a system _of_
 
          meaning: impossible to include, as an
 
          absence, it is also impossible to exclude--
 
          for meaninglessness isn't just the opposite
 
          of meaning, it is the end of meaning, and
 
          threatens the fragile structures by which we
 
          make sense of the world.^4^
 
[7]       No such judgment about meaninglessness applies to
 
     the computer security crisis.  In contrast to HIV's
 
     lack of meaning or intentionality, the meaning of
 
     cybernetic viruses is always already replete with
 
     social significance.  This meaning is related, first of
 
     all, to the author's local intention or motivation,
 
     whether psychic or fully social, whether wrought out
 
     of a mood of vengeance, a show of bravado or technical
 
     expertise, a commitment to a political act, or in
 
     anticipation of the profits that often accrue from the
 
     victims' need to buy an antidote from the author.
 
     Beyond these local intentions, however, which are
 
     usually obscure or, as in the Morris case, quite
 
     inscrutable, there is an entire set of social and
 
     historical narratives that surround and are part of the
 
     "meaning" of the virus: the coded anarchist history of
 
     the youth hacker subculture; the militaristic
 
     environments of search-and-destroy warfare (a virus has
 
     two components--a carrier and a "warhead"), which,
 
     because of the historical development of computer
 
     technology, constitute the family values of information
 
     techno-culture; the experimental research environments
 
     in which creative designers are encouraged to work; and
 
     the conflictual history of pure and applied ethics in
 
     the science and technology communities, to name just a
 
     few.  A similar list could be drawn up to explain the
 
     widespread and varied _response_ to computer viruses,
 
     from the amused concern of the cognoscenti to the
 
     hysteria of the casual user, and from the research
 
     community and the manufacturing industry to the morally
 
     aroused legislature and the mediated culture at large.
 
     Every one of these explanations and narratives is the
 
     result of social and cultural processes and values;
 
     consequently, there is very little about the virus
 
     itself that is "meaningless."  Viruses can no more be
 
     seen as an objective, or necessary, result of the
 
     "objective" development of technological systems than
 
     technology in general can be seen as an objective,
 
     determining agent of social change.
 
[8]       For the sake of polemical economy, I would note
 
     that the cumulative effect of all the viral hysteria
 
     has been twofold.  Firstly, it has resulted in a
 
     windfall for software producers, now that users' blithe
 
     disregard for makers' copyright privileges has eroded
 
     in the face of the security panic.  Used to fighting
 
     halfhearted rearguard actions against widespread piracy
 
     practices, or reluctantly acceding to buyers' desire
 
     for software unencumbered by top-heavy security
 
     features, software vendors are now profiting from the
 
     new public distrust of program copies.  So, too, the
 
     explosion in security consciousness has hyperstimulated
 
     the already fast-growing sectors of the security system
 
     industry and the data encryption industry.  In line
 
     with the new imperative for everything from
 
     "vaccinated" workstations to "sterilized" networks, it
 
     has created a brand new market of viral vaccine vendors
 
     who will sell you the virus (a one-time only
 
     immunization shot) along with its antidote--with names
 
     like Flu Shot +, ViruSafe, Vaccinate, Disk Defender,
 
     Certus, Viral Alarm, Antidote, Virus Buster,
 
     Gatekeeper, Ongard, and Interferon.  Few of the
 
     antidotes are very reliable, however, especially since
 
     they pose an irresistible intellectual challenge to
 
     hackers who can easily rewrite them in the form of ever
 
     more powerful viruses.  Moreover, most corporate
 
     managers of computer systems and networks know that by
 
     far the great majority of their intentional security
 
     losses are a result of insider sabotage and
 
     monkeywrenching.
 
[9]       In short, the effects of the viruses have been to
 
     profitably clamp down on copyright delinquency, and to
 
     generate the need for entirely new industrial
 
     production of viral suppressors to contain the fallout.
 
     In this respect, it is easy to see that the appearance
 
     of viruses could hardly, in the long run, have
 
     benefited industry producers more.  In the same vein,
 
     the networks that have been hardest hit by the security
 
     squeeze are not restricted-access military or corporate
 
     systems but networks like Internet, set up on trust to
 
     facilitate the open academic exchange of data,
 
     information and research, and watched over by its
 
     sponsor, DARPA.  It has not escaped the notice of
 
     conspiracy theorists that the military intelligence
 
     community, obsessed with "electronic warfare," actually
 
     stood to learn a lot from the Internet virus; the virus
 
     effectively "pulsed the system," exposing the
 
     sociological behaviour of the system in a crisis
 
     situation.^5^
 
          The second effect of the virus crisis has been
 
     more overtly ideological.  Virus-conscious fear and
 
     loathing have clearly fed into the paranoid climate of
 
     privatization that increasingly defines social
 
     identities in the new post-Fordist order.  The result--
 
     a psycho-social closing of the ranks around fortified
 
     private spheres--runs directly counter to the ethic
 
     that we might think of as residing at the architectural
 
     heart of information technology.  In its basic assembly
 
     structure, information technology is a technology of
 
     processing, copying, replication, and simulation,  and
 
     therefore does not recognize the concept of private
 
     information property.  What is now under threat is the
 
     rationality of a shareware culture, ushered in as the
 
     achievement of the hacker counterculture that pioneered
 
     the personal computer revolution in the early seventies
 
     against the grain of corporate planning.
 
[10]      There is another story to tell, however, about the
 
     emergence of the virus scare as a profitable
 
     ideological moment, and it is the story of how teenage
 
     hacking has come to be increasingly defined as a
 
     potential threat to normative educational ethics and
 
     national security alike.  The story of the creation of
 
     this "social menace" is central to the ongoing attempts
 
     to rewrite property law in order to contain the effects
 
     of the new information technologies that, because of
 
     their blindness to the copyrighting of intellectual
 
     property, have transformed the way in which modern
 
     power is exercised and maintained.  Consequently, a
 
     deviant social class or group has been defined and
 
     categorised as "enemies of the state" in order to help
 
     rationalize a general law-and-order clampdown on free
 
     and open information exchange.  Teenage hackers' homes
 
     are now habitually raided by sheriffs and FBI agents
 
     using strong-arm tactics, and jail sentences are
 
     becoming a common punishment.  Operation Sundevil, a
 
     nationwide Secret Service operation in the spring of
 
     1990, involving hundreds of agents in fourteen cities,
 
     is the most recently publicized of the hacker raids
 
     that have produced several arrests and seizures of
 
     thousands of disks and address lists in the last two
 
     years.^6^
 
[11]      In one of the many harshly punitive prosecutions
 
     against hackers in recent years, a judge went so far as
 
     to describe "bulletin boards" as "hi-tech street
 
     gangs."  The editors of _2600_, the magazine that
 
     publishes information about system entry and
 
     exploration that is indispensable to the hacking
 
     community, have pointed out that any single invasive
 
     act, such as that of trespass, that involves the use of
 
     computers is considered today to be infinitely more
 
     criminal than a similar act undertaken without
 
     computers.^7^  To use computers to execute pranks,
 
     raids, frauds or thefts is to incur automatically the
 
     full repressive wrath of judges urged on by the moral
 
     panic created around hacking feats over the last two
 
     decades.  Indeed, there is a strong body of pressure
 
     groups pushing for new criminal legislation that will
 
     define "crimes with computers" as a special category of
 
     crime, deserving "extraordinary" sentences and punitive
 
     measures.  Over that same space of time, the term
 
     _hacker_ has lost its semantic link with the
 
     journalistic _hack,_ suggesting a professional toiler
 
     who uses unorthodox methods.  So, too, its increasingly
 
     criminal connotation today has displaced the more
 
     innocuous, amateur mischief-maker-cum-media-star role
 
     reserved for hackers until a few years ago.
 
[12]      In response to the gathering vigor of this "war on
 
     hackers," the most common defences of hacking can be
 
     presented on a spectrum that runs from the appeasement
 
     or accommodation of corporate interests to drawing up
 
     blueprints for cultural revolution.  (a) Hacking
 
     performs a benign industrial service of uncovering
 
     security deficiencies and design flaws.  (b) Hacking,
 
     as an experimental, free-form research activity, has
 
     been responsible for many of the most progressive
 
     developments in software development.  (c) Hacking,
 
     when not purely recreational, is an elite educational
 
     practice that reflects the ways in which the
 
     development of high technology has outpaced orthodox
 
     forms of institutional education.  (d) Hacking is an
 
     important form of watchdog counterresponse to the use
 
     of surveillance technology and data gathering by the
 
     state, and to the increasingly monolithic
 
     communications power of giant corporations.  (e)
 
     Hacking, as guerrilla know-how, is essential to the
 
     task of maintaining fronts of cultural resistance and
 
     stocks of oppositional knowledge as a hedge against a
 
     technofascist future.  With all of these and other
 
     arguments in mind, it is easy to see how the social and
 
     cultural _management_ of hacker activities has become a
 
     complex process that involves state policy and
 
     legislation at the highest levels.  In this respect,
 
     the virus scare has become an especially convenient
 
     vehicle for obtaining public and popular consent for
 
     new legislative measures and new powers of
 
     investigation for the FBI.^8^
 
[13]      Consequently, certain celebrity hackers have been
 
     quick to play down the zeal with which they pursued
 
     their earlier hacking feats, while reinforcing the
 
     _deviant_ category of "technological hooliganism"
 
     reserved by moralizing pundits for "dark-side" hacking.
 
     Hugo Cornwall, British author of the bestselling
 
     _Hacker's Handbook_, presents a Little England view of
 
     the hacker as a harmless fresh-air enthusiast who
 
     "visits advanced computers as a polite country rambler
 
     might walk across picturesque fields."  The owners of
 
     these properties are like "farmers who don't mind
 
     careful ramblers."  Cornwall notes that "lovers of
 
     fresh-air walks obey the Country Code, involving such
 
     items as closing gates behind one and avoiding damage
 
     to crops and livestock" and suggests that a similar
 
     code ought to "guide your rambles into other people's
 
     computers; the safest thing to do is simply browse,
 
     enjoy and learn."  By contrast, any rambler who
 
     "ventured across a field guarded by barbed wire and
 
     dotted with notices warning about the Official Secrets
 
     Act would deserve most that happened thereafter."^9^
 
     Cornwall's quaint perspective on hacking has a certain
 
     "native charm," but some might think that this
 
     beguiling picture of patchwork-quilt fields and benign
 
     gentleman farmers glosses over the long bloody history
 
     of power exercised through feudal and postfeudal land
 
     economy in England, while it is barely suggestive of
 
     the new fiefdoms, transnational estates, dependencies,
 
     and principalities carved out of today's global
 
     information order by vast corporations capable of
 
     bypassing the laws and territorial borders of sovereign
 
     nation-states.  In general, this analogy with
 
     "trespass" laws, which compares hacking to breaking and
 
     entering other people's homes restricts the debate to
 
     questions about privacy, property, possessive
 
     individualism, and, at best, the excesses of state
 
     surveillance, while it closes off any examination of
 
     the activities of the corporate owners and
 
     institutional sponsors of information technology (the
 
     almost exclusive "target" of most hackers).^10^
 
[14]      Cornwall himself has joined the lucrative ranks of
 
     ex-hackers who either work for computer security firms
 
     or write books about security for the eyes of worried
 
     corporate managers.^11^  A different, though related,
 
     genre is that of the penitent hacker's "confession,"
 
     produced for an audience thrilled by tales of high-
 
     stakes adventure at the keyboard, but written in the
 
     form of a computer security handbook.  The best example
 
     of the "I Was a Teenage Hacker" genre is Bill (aka "The
 
     Cracker") Landreth's _Out of the Inner Circle_: The
 
     True Story of a Computer Intruder Capable of Cracking
 
     the Nation's Most Secure Computer Systems_, a book
 
     about "people who can't `just say no' to computers."
 
     In full complicity with the deviant picture of the
 
     hacker as "public enemy," Landreth recirculates every
 
     official and media cliche about subversive
 
     conspiratorial elites by recounting the putative
 
     exploits of a high-level hackers' guild called the
 
     Inner Circle.  The author himself is presented in the
 
     book as a former keyboard junkie who now praises the
 
     law for having made a good moral example of him:
 
          If you are wondering what I am like, I can
 
          tell you the same things I told the judge in
 
          federal court: Although it may not seem like
 
          it, I am pretty much a normal American
 
          teenager.  I don't drink, smoke or take
 
          drugs.  I don't steal, assault people, or
 
          vandalize property.  The only way in which I
 
          am really different from most people is in my
 
          fascination with the ways and means of
 
          learning about computers that don't belong to
 
          me.^12^
 
     Sentenced in 1984 to three years probation, during
 
     which time he was obliged to finish his high school
 
     education and go to college, Landreth concludes:  "I
 
     think the sentence is very fair, and I already know
 
     what my major will be...."  As an aberrant sequel to
 
     the book's contrite conclusion, however, Landreth
 
     vanished in 1986, violating his probation, only to face
 
     later a stiff five-year jail sentence--a sorry victim,
 
     no doubt, of the recent crackdown.
 
 
 
     _Cyber-Counterculture_?
 
[15]      At the core of Steven Levy's bestseller _Hackers_
 
     (1984) is the argument that the hacker ethic, first
 
     articulated in the 1950s among the famous MIT students
 
     who developed multiple-access user systems, is
 
     libertarian and crypto-anarchist in its right-to know
 
     principles and its advocacy of decentralized
 
     technology.  This hacker ethic, which has remained the
 
     preserve of a youth culture for the most part, asserts
 
     the basic right of users to free access to all
 
     information.  It is a principled attempt, in other
 
     words, to challenge the tendency to use technology to
 
     form information elites.  Consequently, hacker
 
     activities were presented in the eighties as a romantic
 
     countercultural tendency, celebrated by critical
 
     journalists like John Markoff of the _New York Times_,
 
     by Stewart Brand of _Whole Earth Catalog_ fame, and by
 
     New Age gurus like Timothy Leary in the flamboyant
 
     _Reality Hackers_.  Fuelled by sensational stories
 
     about phone phreaks like Joe Egressia (the blind eight-
 
     year old who discovered the tone signal of phone
 
     company by whistling) and Cap'n Crunch, groups like the
 
     Milwaukee 414s, the Los Angeles ARPAnet hackers, the
 
     SPAN Data Travellers, the Chaos Computer Club of
 
     Hamburg, the British Prestel hackers, _2600_'s BBS,
 
     "The Private Sector," and others, the dominant media
 
     representation of the hacker came to be that of the
 
     "rebel with a modem," to use Markoff's term, at least
 
     until the more recent "war on hackers" began to shape
 
     media coverage.
 
[16]       On the one hand, this popular folk hero persona
 
     offered the romantic high profile of a maverick though
 
     nerdy cowboy whose fearless raids upon an impersonal
 
     "system" were perceived as a welcome tonic in the gray
 
     age of technocratic routine.  On the other hand, he was
 
     something of a juvenile technodelinquent who hadn't yet
 
     learned the difference between right and wrong---a
 
     wayward figure whose technical brilliance and
 
     proficiency differentiated him nonetheless from, say,
 
     the maladjusted working-class J.D. street-corner boy of
 
     the 1950s (hacker mythology, for the most part, has
 
     been almost exclusively white, masculine, and middle-
 
     class).  One result of this media profile was a
 
     persistent infantilization of the hacker ethic--a way
 
     of trivializing its embryonic politics, however finally
 
     complicit with dominant technocratic imperatives or
 
     with entrepreneurial-libertarian ideology one perceives
 
     these politics to be.  The second result was to
 
     reinforce, in the initial absence of coercive jail
 
     sentences, the high educational stakes of training the
 
     new technocratic elites to be responsible in their use
 
     of technology.  Never, the given wisdom goes, has a
 
     creative elite of the future been so in need of the
 
     virtues of a liberal education steeped in Western
 
     ethics!
 
[17]      The full force of this lesson in computer ethics
 
     can be found laid out in the official Cornell
 
     University report on the Robert Morris affair.  Members
 
     of the university commission set up to investigate the
 
     affair make it quite clear in their report that they
 
     recognize the student's academic brilliance.  His
 
     hacking, moreover, is described, as a "juvenile act"
 
     that had no "malicious intent" but that amounted, like
 
     plagiarism, the traditional academic heresy, to a
 
     dishonest transgression of other users' rights.  (In
 
     recent years, the privacy movement within the
 
     information community--a movement mounted by liberals
 
     to protect civil rights against state gathering of
 
     information--has actually been taken up and used as a
 
     means of criminalizing hacker activities.)  As for the
 
     consequences of this juvenile act, the report proposes
 
     an analogy that, in comparison with Cornwall's _mature_
 
     English country rambler, is thoroughly American,
 
     suburban, middle-class and _juvenile_.  Unleashing the
 
     Internet worm was like "the driving of a golf-cart on a
 
     rainy day through most houses in the neighborhood.  The
 
     driver may have navigated carefully and broken no
 
     china, but it should have been obvious to the driver
 
     that the mud on the tires would soil the carpets and
 
     that the owners would later have to clean up the
 
     mess."^13^
 
[18]      In what stands out as a stiff reprimand for his
 
     alma mater, the report regrets that Morris was educated
 
     in an "ambivalent atmosphere" where he "received no
 
     clear guidance" about ethics from "his peers or
 
     mentors" (he went to Harvard!).  But it reserves its
 
     loftiest academic contempt for the press, whose
 
     heroization of hackers has been so irresponsible, in
 
     the commission's opinion, as to cause even further
 
     damage to the standards of the computing profession;
 
     media exaggerations of the courage and technical
 
     sophistication of hackers "obscures the far more
 
     accomplished work of students who complete their
 
     graduate studies without public fanfare," and "who
 
     subject their work to the close scrutiny and evaluation
 
     of their peers, and not to the interpretations of the
 
     popular press."^14^  In other words, this was an inside
 
     affair, to be assessed and judged by fellow
 
     professionals within an institution that reinforces its
 
     authority by means of internally self-regulating codes
 
     of professionalist ethics, but rarely addresses its
 
     ethical relationship to society as a whole (acceptance
 
     of defence grants, and the like).  Generally speaking,
 
     the report affirms the genteel liberal ideal that
 
     professionals should not need laws, rules, procedural
 
     guidelines, or fixed guarantees of safe and responsible
 
     conduct.  Apprentice professionals ought to have
 
     acquired a good conscience by osmosis from a liberal
 
     education rather than from some specially prescribed
 
     course in ethics and technology.
 
[19]      The widespread attention commanded by the Cornell
 
     report (attention from the Association of Computing
 
     Machinery, among others) demonstrates the industry's
 
     interest in how the academy invokes liberal ethics in
 
     order to assist in the managing of the organization of
 
     the new specialized knowledge about information
 
     technology.  Despite or, perhaps, because of the
 
     report's steadfast pledge to the virtues and ideals of
 
     a liberal education, it bears all the marks of a
 
     legitimation crisis inside (and outside) the academy
 
     surrounding the new and all-important category of
 
     computer professionalism.  The increasingly specialized
 
     design knowledge demanded of computer professionals
 
     means that codes that go beyond the old professionalist
 
     separation of mental and practical skills are needed to
 
     manage the division that a hacker's functional talents
 
     call into question, between a purely mental pursuit and
 
     the pragmatic sphere of implementing knowledge in the
 
     real world.  "Hacking" must then be designated as a
 
     strictly _amateur_ practice; the tension, in hacking,
 
     between _interestedness_ and _disinterestedness_ is
 
     different from, and deficient in relation to, the
 
     proper balance demanded by professionalism.
 
     Alternately, hacking can be seen as the amateur flip
 
     side of the professional ideal--a disinterested love in
 
     the service of interested parties and institutions.  In
 
     either case, it serves as an example of professionalism
 
     gone wrong, but not very wrong.
 
[20]      In common with the two responses to the virus
 
     scare described earlier--the profitable reaction of the
 
     computer industry and the self-empowering response of
 
     the legislature-- the Cornell report shows how the
 
     academy uses a case like the Morris affair to
 
     strengthen its own sense of moral and cultural
 
     authority in the sphere of professionalism,
 
     particularly through its scornful indifference to and
 
     aloofness from the codes and judgements exercised by
 
     the media--its diabolic competitor in the field of
 
     knowledge.  Indeed, for all the trumpeting about
 
     excesses of power and disrespect for the law of the
 
     land, the revival of ethics, in the business and
 
     science disciplines in the Ivy League and on Capitol
 
     Hill (both awash with ethical fervor in the post-Boesky
 
     and post-Reagan years), is little more than a weak
 
     liberal response to working flaws or adaptational
 
     lapses in the social logic of technocracy.
 
[21]      To complete the scenario of morality play example-
 
     making, however, we must also consider that Morris's
 
     father was chief scientist of the National Computer
 
     Security Center, the National Security Agency's public
 
     effort at safeguarding computer security.  A brilliant
 
     programmer and codebreaker in his own right, he had
 
     testified in Washington in 1983 about the need to
 
     deglamorise teenage hacking, comparing it to "stealing
 
     a car for the purpose of joyriding."  In a further
 
     Oedipal irony, Morris Sr. may have been one of the
 
     inventors, while at Bell Labs in the 1950s, of a
 
     computer game involving self-perpetuating programs that
 
     were a prototype of today's worms and viruses.  Called
 
     Darwin, its principles were incorporated, in the
 
     eighties, into a popular hacker game called Core War,
 
     in which autonomous "killer" programs fought each other
 
     to the death.^15^
 
[22]      With the appearance, in the Morris affair, of a
 
     patricidal object who is also the Pentagon's guardian
 
     angel, we now have many of the classic components of
 
     countercultural cross-generational conflict.  What I
 
     want to consider, however, is how and where this
 
     scenario differs from the definitive contours of such
 
     conflicts that we recognize as having been established
 
     in the sixties; how the Cornell hacker Morris's
 
     relation to, say, campus "occupations" today is
 
     different from that evoked by the famous image of armed
 
     black students emerging from a sit-in on the Cornell
 
     campus; how the relation to technological ethics
 
     differs from Andrew Kopkind's famous statement
 
     "Morality begins at the end of a gun barrel" which
 
     accompanied the publication of the do-it-yourself
 
     Molotov cocktail design on the cover of a 1968 issue of
 
     the _New York Review of Books_; or how hackers' prized
 
     potential access to the networks of military systems
 
     warfare differs from the prodigious Yippie feat of
 
     levitating the Pentagon building.  It may be that, like
 
     the J.D. rebel without a cause of the fifties, the
 
     disaffiliated student dropout of the sixties, and the
 
     negationist punk of the seventies, the hacker of the
 
     eighties has come to serve as a visible public example
 
     of moral maladjustment, a hegemonic test case for
 
     redefining the dominant ethics in an advanced
 
     technocratic society.  (Hence the need for each of
 
     these deviant figures to come in different versions--
 
     lumpen, radical chic, and Hollywood-style.)
 
[23]      What concerns me here, however, are the different
 
     conditions that exist today for recognizing
 
     countercultural expression and activism.  Twenty years
 
     later, the technology of hacking and viral guerrilla
 
     warfare occupies a similar place in countercultural
 
     fantasy as the Molotov Cocktail design once did.  While
 
     I don't, for one minute, mean to insist on such
 
     comparisons, which aren't particularly sound anyway, I
 
     think they conveniently mark a shift in the relation of
 
     countercultural activity to technology, a shift in
 
     which a software-based technoculture, organized around
 
     outlawed libertarian principles about free access to
 
     information and communication, has come to replace a
 
     dissenting culture organized around the demonizing of
 
     abject hardware structures.  Much, though not all, of
 
     the sixties counterculture was formed around what I
 
     have elsewhere called the _technology of folklore_--an
 
     expressive congeries of preindustrialist, agrarianist,
 
     Orientalist, antitechnological ideas, values, and
 
     social structures.  By contrast, the cybernetic
 
     countercultures of the nineties are already being
 
     formed around the _folklore of technology_--mythical
 
     feats of survivalism and resistance in a data-rich
 
     world of virtual environments and posthuman bodies--
 
     which is where many of the SF-and technology-conscious
 
     youth cultures have been assembling in recent
 
     years.^16^
 
[24]      There is no doubt that this scenario makes
 
     countercultural activity more difficult to recognize
 
     and therefore to define as politically significant.  It
 
     was much easier, in the sixties, to _identify_ the
 
     salient features and symbolic power of a romantic
 
     preindustrialist cultural politics in an advanced
 
     technological society, especially when the destructive
 
     evidence of America's supertechnological invasion of
 
     Vietnam was being daily paraded in front of the public
 
     eye.  However, in a society whose technopolitical
 
     infrastructure depends increasingly upon greater
 
     surveillance, cybernetic activism necessarily relies on
 
     a much more covert politics of identity, since access
 
     to closed systems requires discretion and
 
     dissimulation.  Access to digital systems still
 
     requires only the authentication of a signature or
 
     pseudonym, not the identification of a real
 
     surveillable person, so there exists a crucial
 
     operative gap between authentication and
 
     identification.  (As security systems move toward
 
     authenticating access through biological signatures--
 
     the biometric recording and measurement of physical
 
     characteristics such as palm or retinal prints, or vein
 
     patterns on the backs of hands--the hacker's staple
 
     method of systems entry through purloined passwords
 
     will be further challenged.)  By the same token,
 
     cybernetic identity is never used up, it can be
 
     recreated, reassigned, and reconstructed with any
 
     number of different names and under different user
 
     accounts.  Most hacks, or technocrimes, go unnoticed or
 
     unreported for fear of publicising the vulnerability of
 
     corporate security systems, especially when the hacks
 
     are performed by disgruntled employees taking their
 
     vengeance on management.  So, too, authoritative
 
     identification of any individual hacker, whenever it
 
     occurs, is often the result of accidental leads rather
 
     than systematic detection.  For example, Captain
 
     Midnight, the video pirate who commandeered a satellite
 
     a few years ago to interrupt broadcast TV viewing, was
 
     traced only because a member of the public reported a
 
     suspicious conversation heard over a crossed telephone
 
     line.
 
[25]      Eschewing its core constituency among white males
 
     of the pre-professional-managerial class, the hacker
 
     community may be expanding its parameters outward.
 
     Hacking, for example, has become a feature of the young
 
     adult mystery-and-suspense novel genre for girls.^17^
 
     The elitist class profile of the hacker prodigy as that
 
     of an undersocialized college nerd has become
 
     democratized and customized in recent years; it is no
 
     longer exclusively associated with institutionally
 
     acquired college expertise, and increasingly it dresses
 
     streetwise.  In a recent article which documents the
 
     spread of the computer underground from college whiz
 
     kids to a broader youth subculture termed "cyberpunks,"
 
     after the movement among SF novelists, the original
 
     hacker phone phreak Cap'n Crunch is described as
 
     lamenting the fact that the cyberculture is no longer
 
     an "elite" one, and that hacker-valid information is
 
     much easier to obtain these days.^18^
 
[26]      For the most part, however, the self-defined
 
     hacker underground, like many other
 
     protocountercultural tendencies, has been restricted to
 
     a privileged social milieu, further magnetised by the
 
     self-understanding of its members that they are the
 
     apprentice architects of a future dominated by
 
     knowledge, expertise, and "smartness," whether human or
 
     digital.  Consequently, it is clear that the hacker
 
     cyberculture is not a dropout culture; its
 
     disaffiliation from a domestic parent culture is often
 
     manifest in activities that answer, directly or
 
     indirectly, to the legitimate needs of industrial R&D.
 
     For example, this hacker culture celebrates high
 
     productivity, maverick forms of creative work energy,
 
     and an obsessive identification with on-line endurance
 
     (and endorphin highs)--all qualities that are valorised
 
     by the entrepreneurial codes of silicon futurism.  In a
 
     critique of the myth of the hacker-as-rebel, Dennis
 
     Hayes debunks the political romance woven around the
 
     teenage hacker:
 
          They are typically white, upper-middle-class
 
          adolescents who have taken over the home
 
          computer (bought, subsidized, or tolerated
 
          by parents in the hope of cultivating
 
          computer literacy).  Few are politically
 
          motivated although many express contempt for
 
          the "bureaucracies" that hamper their
 
          electronic journeys.  Nearly all demand
 
          unfettered access to intricate and intriguing
 
          computer networks.  In this, teenage hackers
 
          resemble an alienated shopping culture
 
          deprived of purchasing opportunities more
 
          than a terrorist network.^19^
 
[27]      While welcoming the sobriety of Hayes's critique,
 
     I am less willing to accept its assumptions about the
 
     political implications of hacker activities.  Studies
 
     of youth subcultures (including those of a privileged
 
     middle-class formation) have taught us that the
 
     political meaning of certain forms of cultural
 
     "resistance" is notoriously difficult to read.  These
 
     meanings are either highly coded or expressed
 
     indirectly through media--private peer languages,
 
     customized consumer styles, unorthodox leisure
 
     patterns, categories of insider knowledge and
 
     behavior--that have no fixed or inherent political
 
     significance.  If cultural studies of this sort have
 
     proved anything, it is that the often symbolic, not
 
     wholly articulate, expressivity of a youth culture can
 
     seldom be translated directly into an articulate
 
     political philosophy.  The significance of these
 
     cultures lies in their embryonic or _protopolitical_
 
     languages and technologies of opposition to dominant or
 
     parent systems of rules.  If hackers lack a "cause,"
 
     then they are certainly not the first youth culture to
 
     be characterized in this dismissive way.  In
 
     particular, the left has suffered from the lack of a
 
     cultural politics capable of recognizing the power of
 
     cultural expressions that do not wear a mature
 
     political commitment on their sleeves.
 
          So, too, the escalation of activism-in-the-
 
     professions in the last two decades has shown that it
 
     is a mistake to condemn the hacker impulse on account
 
     of its class constituency alone.  To cede the "ability
 
     to know" on the grounds that elite groups will enjoy
 
     unjustly privileged access to technocratic knowledge is
 
     to cede too much of the future.  Is it of no political
 
     significance at all that hackers' primary fantasies
 
     often involve the official computer systems of the
 
     police, armed forces, and defence and intelligence
 
     agencies?  And that the rationale for their fantasies
 
     is unfailingly presented in the form of a defence of
 
     civil liberties against the threat of centralized
 
     intelligence and military activities?  Or is all of
 
     this merely a symptom of an apprentice elite's
 
     fledgling will to masculine power?  The activities of
 
     the Chinese student elite in the pro-democracy movement
 
     have shown that unforeseen shifts in the political
 
     climate can produce startling new configurations of
 
     power and resistance.  After Tiananmen Square, Party
 
     leaders found it imprudent to purge those high-tech
 
     engineer and computer cadres who alone could guarantee
 
     the future of any planned modernization program.  On
 
     the other hand, the authorities rested uneasy knowing
 
     that each cadre (among the most activist groups in the
 
     student movement) is a potential hacker who can have
 
     the run of the communications house if and when he or
 
     she wants.
 
[28]      On the other hand, I do agree with Hayes's
 
     perception that the media have pursued their romance
 
     with the hacker at the cost of underreporting the much
 
     greater challenge posed to corporate employers by their
 
     employees.  It is in the arena of conflicts between
 
     workers and management that most high-tech "sabotage"
 
     takes place.  In the mainstream everyday life of office
 
     workers, mostly female, there is a widespread culture
 
     of unorganized sabotage that accounts for infinitely
 
     more computer downtime and information loss every year
 
     than is caused by destructive, "dark-side" hacking by
 
     celebrity cybernetic intruders.  The sabotage, time
 
     theft, and strategic monkeywrenching deployed by office
 
     workers in their engineered electromagnetic attacks on
 
     data storage and operating systems might range from the
 
     planting of time or logic bombs to the discrete use of
 
     electromagnetic Tesla coils or simple bodily friction:
 
     "Good old static electricity discharged from the
 
     fingertips probably accounts for close to half the
 
     disks and computers wiped out or down every year."^20^
 
     More skilled operators, intent on evening a score with
 
     management, often utilize sophisticated hacking
 
     techniques.  In many cases, a coherent networking
 
     culture exists among female console operators, where,
 
     among other things, tips about strategies for slowing
 
     down the temporality of the work regime are circulated.
 
     While these threats from below are fully recognized in
 
     their boardrooms, corporations dependent upon digital
 
     business machines are obviously unwilling to advertize
 
     how acutely vulnerable they actually are to this kind
 
     of sabotage.  It is easy to imagine how organised
 
     computer activism could hold such companies for ransom.
 
     As Hayes points out, however, it is more difficult to
 
     mobilize any kind of labor movement organized upon such
 
     premises:
 
          Many are prepared to publicly oppose the
 
          countless dark legacies of the computer age:
 
          "electronic sweatshops," Military technology,
 
          employee surveillance, genotoxic water, and
 
          ozone depletion.  Among those currently
 
          leading the opposition, however, it is
 
          apparently deemed "irresponsible" to recommend
 
          an active computerized resistance as a source
 
          of worker's power because it is perceived as
 
          a medium of employee crime and "terrorism."
 
          ^21^
 
     _Processed World_, the "magazine with a bad attitude"
 
     with which Hayes has been associated, is at the
 
     forefront of debating and circulating these questions
 
     among office workers, regularly tapping into the
 
     resentments borne out in on-the-job resistance.
 
[29]      While only a small number of computer users would
 
     recognize and include themselves under the label of
 
     "hacker," there are good reasons for extending the
 
     restricted definition of _hacking_ down and across the
 
     caste system of systems analysts, designers,
 
     programmers, and operators to include all high-tech
 
     workers, no matter how inexpert, who can interrupt,
 
     upset, and redirect the smooth flow of structured
 
     communications that dictates their positions in the
 
     social networks of exchange and determines the
 
     temporality of their work schedules.  To put it in
 
     these terms, however, is not to offer any universal
 
     definition of hacker agency.  There are many social
 
     agents, for example, in job locations that are
 
     dependent upon the hope of technological _reskilling_,
 
     for whom sabotage or disruption of communicative
 
     rationality is of little use; for such people,
 
     definitions of hacking that are reconstructive, rather
 
     than deconstructive, are more appropriate.  A good
 
     example is the crucial role of worker technoliteracy in
 
     the struggle of labor against automation and
 
     deskilling.  When worker education classes in computer
 
     programming were discontinued by management at the Ford
 
     Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan, union (UAW) members
 
     began to publish a newsletter called the _Amateur
 
     Computerist_ to fill the gap.^22^  Among the columnists
 
     and correspondents in the magazine have been veterans
 
     of the Flint sit-down strikes who see a clear
 
     historical continuity between the problem of labor
 
     organization in the thirties and the problem of
 
     automation and deskilling today.  Workers' computer
 
     literacy is seen as essential not only to the
 
     demystification of the computer and the reskilling of
 
     workers, but also to labor's capacity to intervene in
 
     decisions about new technologies that might result in
 
     shorter hours and thus in "work efficiency" rather than
 
     worker efficiency.
 
[30]      The three social locations I have mentioned above
 
     all express different class relations to technology:
 
     the location of an apprentice technical elite,
 
     conventionally associated with the term "hacking"; the
 
     location of the female high-tech office worker,
 
     involved in "sabotage"; and the location of the shop-
 
     floor worker, whose future depends on technological
 
     reskilling.  All therefore exhibit different ways of
 
     _claiming back_ time dictated and appropriated by
 
     technological processes, and of establishing some form
 
     of independent control over the work relation so
 
     determined by the new technologies.  All, then, fall
 
     under a broad understanding of the politics involved in
 
     any extended description of hacker activities.
 
 
     [This file is continued in ROSS-2 990]
 
     [Andrew Ross, "Hacking Away at the Counter-culture,"
     part 2, continued from ROSS-1 990.  Distributed by
     _Postmodern Culture_ in vol. 1, no. 1 (Sep. 1990);
     copyright (c) 1990 by Andrew Ross, all rights reserved]
 
     _The Culture and Technology Question_
 
[31]      Faced with these proliferating practices in the
 
     workplace, on the teenage cult fringe, and increasingly
 
     in mainstream entertainment, where, over the last five
 
     years, the cyberpunk sensibility in popular fiction,
 
     film, and television has caught the romance of the
 
     popular taste for the outlaw technology of
 
     human/machine interfaces, we are obliged, I think, to
 
     ask old kinds of questions about the new silicon order
 
     which the evangelists of information technology have
 
     been deliriously proclaiming for more than twenty
 
     years.  The postindustrialists' picture of a world of
 
     freedom and abundance projects a sunny millenarian
 
     future devoid of work drudgery and ecological
 
     degradation.  This sunny social order, cybernetically
 
     wired up, is presented as an advanced evolutionary
 
     phase of society in accord with Enlightenment ideals of
 
     progress and rationality.  By contrast, critics of this
 
     idealism see only a frightening advance in the
 
     technologies of social control, whose owners and
 
     sponsors are efficiently shaping a society, as Kevin
 
     Robins and Frank Webster put it, of "slaves without
 
     Athens" that is actually the inverse of the "Athens
 
     without slaves" promised by the silicon
 
     positivists.^23^
 
[32]      It is clear that one of the political features of
 
     the new post-Fordist order--economically marked by
 
     short-run production, diverse taste markets, flexible
 
     specialization, and product differentiation--is that
 
     the New Right has managed to appropriate not only the
 
     utopian language and values of the alternative
 
     technology movements but also the marxist discourse of
 
     the "withering away of the state" and the more
 
     compassionate vision of local, decentralized
 
     communications first espoused by the libertarian left.
 
     It must be recognized that these are very popular
 
     themes and visions, (advanced most famously by Alvin
 
     Toffler and the neoliberal Atari Democrats, though also
 
     by leftist thinkers such as Andre Gortz, Rudolf Bahro,
 
     and Alain Touraine)--much more popular, for example,
 
     than the tradition of centralized technocratic planning
 
     espoused by the left under the Fordist model of mass
 
     production and consumption.^24^  Against the
 
     postindustrialists' millenarian picture of a
 
     postscarcity harmony, in which citizens enjoy
 
     decentralized, access to free-flowing information, it
 
     is necessary, however, to emphasise how and where
 
     actually existing cybernetic capitalism presents a
 
     gross caricature of such a postscarcity society.
 
[33]      One of the stories told by the critical left about
 
     new cultural technologies is that of monolithic,
 
     panoptical social control, effortlessly achieved
 
     through a smooth, endlessly interlocking system of
 
     networks of surveillance.  In this narrative,
 
     information technology is seen as the most despotic
 
     mode of domination yet, generating not just a
 
     revolution in capitalist production but also a
 
     revolution in living--"social Taylorism"--that touches
 
     all cultural and social spheres in the home and in the
 
     workplace.^25^  Through routine gathering of
 
     information about transactions, consumer preferences,
 
     and creditworthiness, a harvest of information about
 
     any individual's whereabouts and movements, tastes,
 
     desires, contacts, friends, associates, and patterns of
 
     work and recreation becomes available in the form of
 
     dossiers sold on the tradable information market, or is
 
     endlessly convertible into other forms of intelligence
 
     through computer matching.  Advanced pattern
 
     recognition technologies facilitate the process of
 
     surveillance, while data encryption protects it from
 
     public accountability.^26^
 
[34]       While the debate about privacy has triggered
 
     public consciousness about these excesses, the liberal
 
     discourse about ethics and damage control in which that
 
     debate has been conducted falls short of the more
 
     comprehensive analysis of social control and social
 
     management offered by left political economists.
 
     According to one marxist analysis, information is seen
 
     as a new kind of commodity resource which marks a break
 
     with past modes of production and that is becoming the
 
     essential site of capital accumulation in the world
 
     economy.  What happens, then, in the process by which
 
     information, gathered up by data scavenging in the
 
     transactional sphere, is systematically converted into
 
     intelligence?  A surplus value is created for use
 
     elsewhere.  This surplus information value is more than
 
     is needed for public surveillance; it is often
 
     information, or intelligence, culled from consumer
 
     polling or statistical analysis of transactional
 
     behavior, that has no immediate use in the process of
 
     routine public surveillance.  Indeed, it is this
 
     surplus, bureaucratic capital that is used for the
 
     purpose of forecasting social futures, and consequently
 
     applied to the task of managing the behavior of mass or
 
     aggregate units within those social futures.  This
 
     surplus intelligence becomes the basis of a whole new
 
     industry of futures research which relies upon computer
 
     technology to simulate and forecast the shape,
 
     activity, and behavior of complex social systems.  The
 
     result is a possible system of social management that
 
     far transcends the questions about surveillance that
 
     have been at the discursive center of the privacy
 
     debate.^27^
 
[35]      To further challenge the idealists' vision of
 
     postindustrial light and magic, we need only look
 
     inside the semiconductor workplace itself, which is
 
     home to the most toxic chemicals known to man (and
 
     woman, especially since women of color often make up
 
     the majority of the microelectronics labor force), and
 
     where worker illness is measured not in quantities of
 
     blood spilled on the shop floor but in the less visible
 
     forms of chromosome damage, shrunken testicles,
 
     miscarriages, premature deliveries, and severe birth
 
     defects.  In addition to the extraordinarily high
 
     stress patterns of VDT operators, semiconductor workers
 
     exhibit an occupational illness rate that even by the
 
     late seventies was three times higher than that of
 
     manufacturing workers, at least until the federal rules
 
     for recognizing and defining levels of injury were
 
     changed under the Reagan administration.  Protection
 
     gear is designed to protect the product and the clean
 
     room from the workers, and not vice versa.  Recently,
 
     immunological health problems have begun to appear that
 
     can be described only as a kind of chemically induced
 
     AIDS, rendering the T-cells dysfunctional rather than
 
     depleting them like virally induced AIDS.^28^  In
 
     corporate offices, the use of keystroke software to
 
     monitor and pace office workers has become a routine
 
     part of job performance evaluation programs.  Some 70
 
     percent of corporations use electronic surveillance or
 
     other forms of quantitative monitoring on their
 
     workers.  Every bodily movement can be checked and
 
     measured, especially trips to the toilet.  Federal
 
     deregulation has meant that the limits of employee work
 
     space have shrunk, in some government offices, below
 
     that required by law for a two-hundred pound laboratory
 
     pig.^29^  Critics of the labor process seem to have
 
     sound reasons to believe that rationalization and
 
     quantification are at last entering their most
 
     primitive phase.
 
[36]      These, then, are some of the features of the
 
     critical left position--or what is sometimes referred
 
     to as the "paranoid" position--on information
 
     technology, which imagines or constructs a totalizing,
 
     monolithic picture of systematic domination.  While
 
     this story is often characterized as conspiracy theory,
 
     its targets--technorationality, bureaucratic
 
     capitalism--are usually too abstract to fit the picture
 
     of a social order planned and shaped by a small,
 
     conspiring group of centralized power elites.
 
     Although I believe that this story, when told inside
 
     and outside the classroom, for example, is an
 
     indispensable form of "consciousness-raising," it is
 
     not always the best story to tell.
 
[37]      While I am not comfortable with the "paranoid"
 
     labelling, I would argue that such narratives do little
 
     to discourage paranoia.  The critical habit of finding
 
     unrelieved domination everywhere has certain
 
     consequences, one of which is to create a siege
 
     mentality, reinforcing the inertia, helplessness, and
 
     despair that such critiques set out to oppose in the
 
     first place.  What follows is a politics that can speak
 
     only from a victim's position.  And when knowledge
 
     about surveillance is presented as systematic and
 
     infallible, self-censoring is sure to follow.  In the
 
     psychosocial climate of fear and phobia aroused by the
 
     virus scare, there is a responsibility not to be
 
     alarmist or to be scared, especially when, as I have
 
     argued, such moments are profitably seized upon by the
 
     sponsors of control technology.  In short, the picture
 
     of a seamlessly panoptical network of surveillance may
 
     be the result of a rather undemocratic, not to mention
 
     unsocialistic, way of thinking, predicated upon the
 
     recognition of people solely as victims.  It is
 
     redolent of the old sociological models of mass society
 
     and mass culture, which cast the majority of society as
 
     passive and lobotomized in the face of the cultural
 
     patterns of modernization.  To emphasize, as Robins and
 
     Webster and others have done, the power of the new
 
     technologies to despotically transform the "rhythm,
 
     texture, and experience" of everyday life, and meet
 
     with no resistance in doing so, is not only to cleave,
 
     finally, to an epistemology of technological
 
     determinism, but also to dismiss the capacity of people
 
     to make their own uses of new technologies.^30^
 
[38]      The seamless "interlocking" of public and private
 
     networks of information and intelligence is not as
 
     smooth and even as the critical school of hard
 
     domination would suggest.  In any case, compulsive
 
     gathering of information is no _guarantee_ that any
 
     interpretive sense will be made of the files or
 
     dossiers, while some would argue that the increasingly
 
     covert nature of surveillance is a sign that the
 
     "campaign" for social control is not going well.  One
 
     of the most pervasive popular arguments against the
 
     panoptical intentions of the masters of technology is
 
     that their systems do not work.  Every successful hack
 
     or computer crime in some way reinforces the popular
 
     perception that information systems are not infallible.
 
     And the announcements of military-industrial
 
     spokespersons that the fully automated battlefield is
 
     on its way run up against an accumulated stock of
 
     popular skepticism about the operative capacity of
 
     weapons systems.  These misgivings are born of decades
 
     of distrust for the plans and intentions of the
 
     military-industrial complex, and were quite evident in
 
     the widespread cynicism about the Strategic Defense
 
     Initiative.  Just to take one empirical example of
 
     unreliability, the military communications system
 
     worked so poorly and so farcically during the U.S.
 
     invasion of Grenada that commanders had to call each
 
     other on pay phones: ever since then, the command-and-
 
     control code of Arpanet technocrats has been C5--
 
     Command, Control, Communication, Computers, and
 
     Confusion.^31^  It could be said, of course, that the
 
     invasion of Grenada did, after all, succeed, but the
 
     more complex and inefficiency-prone such high-tech
 
     invasions become (Vietnam is still the best example),
 
     the less likely they are to be undertaken with any
 
     guarantee of success.
 
[39]      I am not suggesting that alternatives can be
 
     forged simply by encouraging disbelief in the
 
     infallibility of existing technologies (pointing to
 
     examples of the appropriation of technologies for
 
     radical uses, of course, always provides more visibly
 
     satisfying evidence of empowerment), but
 
     technoskepticism, while not a _sufficient_ condition of
 
     social change, is a _necessary_ condition.  Stocks of
 
     popular technoskepticism are crucial to the task of
 
     eroding the legitimacy of those cultural values that
 
     prepare the way for new technological developments:
 
     values and principles such as the inevitability of
 
     material progress, the "emancipatory" domination of
 
     nature, the innovative autonomy of machines, the
 
     efficiency codes of pragmatism, and the linear
 
     juggernaut of liberal Enlightenment rationality--all
 
     increasingly under close critical scrutiny as a wave of
 
     environmental consciousness sweeps through the
 
     electorates of the West.  Technologies do not shape or
 
     determine such values.  These values already exist
 
     before the technologies, and the fact that they have
 
     become deeply embodied in the structure of popular
 
     needs and desires then provides the green light for the
 
     acceptance of certain kinds of technology.  The
 
     principal rationale for introducing new technologies is
 
     that they answer to already existing intentions and
 
     demands that may be perceived as "subjective" but that
 
     are never actually within the control of any single set
 
     of conspiring individuals.  As Marike Finlay has
 
     argued, just as technology is only possible in given
 
     discursive situations, one of which being the desire of
 
     people to have it for reasons of empowerment, so
 
     capitalism is merely the site, and not the source, of
 
     the power that is often autonomously attributed to the
 
     owners and sponsors of technology.^32^
 
[40]      In fact, there is no frame of technological
 
     inevitability that has not already interacted with
 
     popular needs and desires, no introduction of new
 
     machineries of control that has not already been
 
     negotiated to some degree in the arena of popular
 
     consent.  Thus the power to design architecture that
 
     incorporates different values must arise from the
 
     popular perception that existing technologies are not
 
     the only ones, nor are they the best when it comes to
 
     individual and collective empowerment.  It was this
 
     kind of perception--formed around the distrust of big,
 
     impersonal, "closed" hardware systems, and the desire
 
     for small, decentralized, interactive machines to
 
     facilitate interpersonal communication--that "built"
 
     the PC out of hacking expertise in the early seventies.
 
     These were as much the partial "intentions" behind the
 
     development of microcomputing technology as deskilling,
 
     monitoring, and information gathering are the
 
     intentions behind the corporate use of that technology
 
     today.  The growth of public data networks, bulletin
 
     board systems, alternative information and media links,
 
     and the increasing cheapness of desktop publishing,
 
     satellite equipment, and international data bases are
 
     as much the result of local political "intentions" as
 
     the fortified net of globally linked, restricted-access
 
     information systems is the intentional fantasy of those
 
     who seek to profit from centralised control.  The
 
     picture that emerges from this mapping of intentions is
 
     not an inevitably technofascist one, but rather the
 
     uneven result of cultural struggles over values and
 
     meanings.
 
[41]      It is in this respect--in the struggle over values
 
     and meanings--that the work of cultural criticism takes
 
     on its special significance as a full participant in
 
     the debate about technology.  In fact, cultural
 
     criticism is already fully implicated in that debate,
 
     if only because the culture and education industries
 
     are rapidly becoming integrated within the vast
 
     information service conglomerates.  The media we study,
 
     the media we publish in, and the media we teach within
 
     are increasingly part of the same tradable information
 
     sector.  So, too, our common intellectual discourse has
 
     been significantly affected by the recent debates about
 
     postmodernism (or culture in a postindustrial world) in
 
     which the euphoric, addictive thrill of the
 
     technological sublime has figured quite prominently.
 
     The high-speed technological fascination that is
 
     characteristic of the postmodern condition can be read,
 
     on the one hand, as a celebratory capitulation on the
 
     part of intellectuals to the new information
 
     technocultures.  On the other hand, this celebratory
 
     strain attests to the persuasive affect associated with
 
     the new cultural technologies, to their capacity (more
 
     powerful than that of their sponsors and promoters) to
 
     generate pleasure and gratification and to win the
 
     struggle for intellectual as well as popular consent.
 
[42]      Another reason for the involvement of cultural
 
     critics in the technology debates has to do with our
 
     special critical knowledge of the way in which cultural
 
     meanings are produced--our knowledge about the politics
 
     of consumption and what is often called the politics of
 
     representation.  This is the knowledge which
 
     demonstrates that there are limits to the capacity of
 
     productive forces to shape and determine consciousness.
 
     It is a knowledge that insists on the ideological or
 
     interpretive dimension of technology as a culture which
 
     can and must be used and consumed in a variety of ways
 
     that are not reducible to the intentions of any single
 
     source or producer, and whose meanings cannot simply be
 
     read off as evidence of faultless social reproduction.
 
     It is a knowledge, in short, which refuses to add to
 
     the "hard domination" picture of disenfranchised
 
     individuals watched over by some by some scheming
 
     panoptical intelligence.  Far from being understood
 
     solely as the concrete hardware of electronically
 
     sophisticated objects, technology must be seen as a
 
     lived, interpretive practice for people in their
 
     everyday lives.  To redefine the shape and form of that
 
     practice is to help create the need for new kinds of
 
     hardware and software.
 
[43]      One of the latter aims of this essay has been to
 
     describe and suggest a wider set of activities and
 
     social locations than is normally associated with the
 
     practice of hacking.  If there is a challenge here for
 
     cultural critics, then it might be presented as the
 
     challenge to make our knowledge about technoculture
 
     into something like a hacker's knowledge, capable of
 
     penetrating existing systems of rationality that might
 
     otherwise be seen as infallible; a hacker's knowledge,
 
     capable of reskilling, and therefore of rewriting the
 
     cultural programs and reprogramming the social values
 
     that make room for new technologies; a hacker's
 
     knowledge, capable also of generating new popular
 
     romances around the alternative uses of human
 
     ingenuity.  If we are to take up that challenge, we
 
     cannot afford to give up what technoliteracy we have
 
     acquired in deference to the vulgar faith that tells us
 
     it is always acquired in complicity, and is thus
 
     contaminated by the poison of instrumental rationality,
 
     or because we hear, often from the same quarters, that
 
     acquired technological competence simply glorifies the
 
     inhuman work ethic.  Technoliteracy, for us, is the
 
     challenge to make a historical opportunity out of a
 
     historical necessity.
 
     _______________________________________________________
 
                             NOTES
 
 
          1. Bryan Kocher, "A Hygiene Lesson,"
     _Communications of the ACM_, 32.1 (January 1989): 3.
 
          2.  Jon A. Rochlis and Mark W. Eichen, "With
     Microscope and Tweezers: The Worm from MIT's
     Perspective," _Communications of the ACM_, 32.6 (June
     1989): 697.
 
          3. Philip Elmer-DeWitt, "Invasion of the Body
     Snatchers," _Time_ (26 September 1988); 62-67.
 
          4. Judith Williamson, "Every Virus Tells a Story:
     The Meaning of HIV and AIDS," _Taking Liberties: AIDS
     and Cultural Politics_, ed. Erica Carter and Simon
     Watney (London: Serpent's Tail/ICA, 1989): 69.
 
          5. "Pulsing the system" is a well-known
     intelligence process in which, for example, planes
     deliberately fly over enemy radar installations in
     order to determine what frequencies they use and how
     they are arranged.  It has been suggested that Morris
     Sr. and Morris Jr. worked in collusion as part of an
     NSA operation to pulse the Internet system, and to
     generate public support for a legal clampdown on
     hacking.  See Allan Lundell, _Virus! The Secret World
     of Computer Invaders That Breed and Destroy_ (Chicago:
     Contemporary Books, 1989), 12-18.  As is the case with
     all such conspiracy theories, no actual conspiracy need
     have existed for the consequences--in this case, the
     benefits for the intelligence community--to have been
     more or less the same.
 
          6. For details of these raids, see _2600: The
     Hacker's Quarterly_, 7.1 (Spring 1990): 7.
 
          7. "Hackers in Jail," _2600: The Hacker's
     Quarterly_, 6.1 (Spring 1989); 22-23.  The recent
     Secret Service action that shut down _Phrack_, an
     electronic newsletter operating out of St. Louis,
     confirms _2600_'s thesis: a nonelectronic publication
     would not be censored in the same way.
 
          8.  This is not to say that the new laws cannot
     themselves be used to protect hacker institutions,
     however.  _2600_ has advised operators of bulletin
     boards to declare them private property, thereby
     guaranteeing protection under the Electronic Privacy
     Act against unauthorized entry by the FBI.
 
          9. Hugo Cornwall, _The Hacker's Handbook_ 3rd ed.
     (London: Century, 1988) 181, 2-6.  In Britain, for the
     most part, hacking is still looked upon as a matter for
     the civil, rather than the criminal, courts.
 
          10. Discussions about civil liberties and property
     rights, for example, tend to preoccupy most of the
     participants in the electronic forum published as "Is
     Computer Hacking a Crime?" in _Harper's_, 280.1678
     (March 1990): 45-57.
 
          11. See Hugo Cornwall, _Data Theft_ (London:
     Heinemann, 1987).
 
          12. Bill Landreth, _Out of the Inner Circle: The
     True Story of a Computer Intruder Capable of Cracking
     the Nation's Most Secure Computer Systems_ (Redmond,
     Wash.: Tempus, Microsoft, 1989), 10.
 
          13. _The Computer Worm: A Report to the Provost of
     Cornell University on an Investigation Conducted by the
     Commission of Preliminary Enquiry_ (Ithaca, N.Y.:
     Cornell University, 1989).
 
          14. _The Computer Worm: A Report to the Provost_,
     8.
 
          15. A. K. Dewdney, the "computer recreations"
     columnist at _Scientific American_, was the first to
     publicize the details of this game of battle programs
     in an article in the May 1984 issue of the magazine.
     In a follow-up article in March 1985, "A Core War
     Bestiary of Viruses, Worms, and Other Threats to
     Computer Memories," Dewdney described the wide range of
     "software creatures" which readers' responses had
     brought to light.  A third column, in March 1989, was
     written, in an exculpatory mode, to refute any
     connection between his original advertisement of the
     Core War program and the spate of recent viruses.
 
          16. Andrew Ross, _No Respect: Intellectuals and
     Popular Culture_ (New York: Routledge, 1989), 212.
     Some would argue, however, that the ideas and values of
     the sixties counterculture were only fully culminated
     in groups like the People's Computer Company, which ran
     Community Memory in Berkeley, or the Homebrew Computer
     Club, which pioneered personal microcomputing.  So,
     too, the Yippies had seen the need to form YIPL, the
     Youth International Party Line, devoted to "anarcho-
     technological" projects, which put out a newsletter
     called TAP (alternately the Technological American
     Party and the Technological Assistance Program).  In
     its depoliticised form, which eschewed the kind of
     destructive "dark-side" hacking advocated in its
     earlier incarnation, _TAP_ was eventually the
     progenitor of _2600_.  A significant turning point, for
     example, was _TAP_'s decision not to publish plans for
     the hydrogen bomb (which the _Progressive_ did)--bombs
     would destroy the phone system, which the _TAP_ phone
     phreaks had an enthusiastic interest in maintaining.
 
          17. See Alice Bach's _Phreakers_ series, in which
     two teenage girls enjoy adventures through the use of
     computer technology.  _The Bully of Library Place_,
     _Parrot Woman_, _Double Bucky Shanghai_, and _Ragwars_
     (all published by Dell, 1987-88).
 
          18. John Markoff, "Cyberpunks Seek Thrills in
     Computerized Mischief," _New York Times_, November 26,
     1988.
 
          19. Dennis Hayes, _Behind the Silicon Curtain: The
     Seductions of Work in a Lonely Era_ (Boston, South End
     Press, 1989), 93.
          One striking historical precedent for the hacking
     subculture, suggested to me by Carolyn Marvin, was the
     widespread activity of amateur or "ham" wireless
     operators in the first two decades of the century.
     Initially lionized in the press as boy-inventor heroes
     for their technical ingenuity and daring adventures
     with the ether, this white middle-class subculture was
     increasingly demonized by the U.S. Navy (whose signals
     the amateurs prankishly interfered with), which was
     crusading for complete military control of the airwaves
     in the name of national security.  The amateurs lobbied
     with democratic rhetoric for the public's right to
     access the airwaves, and although partially successful
     in their case against the Navy, lost out ultimately to
     big commercial interests when Congress approved the
     creation of a broadcasting monopoly after World War I
     in the form of RCA.  See Susan J. Douglas, _Inventing
     American Broadcasting 1899-1922_ (Baltimore: Johns
     Hopkins University Press, 1987), 187-291.
 
          20. "Sabotage," _Processed World_, 11 (Summer
     1984), 37-38.
 
          21. Hayes, _Behind the Silicon Curtain_, 99.
 
          22. _The Amateur Computerist_, available from R.
     Hauben, PO Box, 4344, Dearborn, MI 48126.
 
          23. Kevin Robins and Frank Webster, "Athens
     Without Slaves...Or Slaves Without Athens?  The
     Neurosis of Technology," _Science as Culture_, 3
     (1988): 7-53.
 
          24. See Boris Frankel, _The Post-Industrial
     Utopians_ (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987).
 
          25. See, for example, the collection of essays
     edited by Vincent Mosco and Janet Wasko, _The Political
     Economy of Information_ (Madison: University of
     Wisconsin Press, 1988), and Dan Schiller, _The
     Information Commodity_ (Oxford UP, forthcoming).
 
          26. Tom Athanasiou and Staff, "Encryption and the
     Dossier Society," _Processed World_, 16 (1986): 12-17.
 
          27.  Kevin Wilson, _Technologies of Control: The
     New Interactive Media for the Home_ (Madison:
     University of Wisconsin Press, 1988), 121-25.
 
          28. Hayes, _Behind the Silicon Curtain_, 63-80.
 
          29. "Our Friend the VDT," _Processed World_, 22
     (Summer 1988): 24-25.
 
          30. See Kevin Robins and Frank Webster,
     "Cybernetic Capitalism," in Mosco and Wasko, 44-75.
 
          31. Barbara Garson, _The Electronic Sweatshop_
     (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988), 244-45.
 
          32. See Marike Finlay's Foucauldian analysis,
     _Powermatics: A Discursive Critique of New Technology_
     (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987).  A more
     conventional culturalist argument can be found in
     Stephen Hill, _The Tragedy of Technology_ (London:
     Pluto Press, 1988).
 


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