[Hpr] The "Hacker Label"

epicanis+hpr at dogphilosophy.net epicanis+hpr at dogphilosophy.net
Wed Mar 20 12:14:11 PDT 2013

> pokey wrote:
> > I'd like to see epicanus and lostnbronx collaborate and do a podcast
> > episode on the topic of "what is a hacker?"

Okay, NOW you're just doing it on PURPOSE, aren't you Pokey? :-) ( Eh-pee-CAY-niss, NOT "Eh-pic-AY-nuss"!)
At this rate, I'm either going to have to blow the dust off my previous pseudonym from two decades ago
(still active on Slashdot!) or start using the infamous goatse.cx image as my avatar...

Either that or start using my Ingress codename as my pseudonym.

But to get back on topic...

> Personally, I don't care how a person self-identifies.  I have no idea
> what a "real" hacker is, and I don't care to define it.  The act of
> labeling is, by its very nature, destructive, because it MUST exclude
> all those things not perceived as being part of the group.  Amazing
> stuff gets lost this way, no matter how inclusive a group wishes to
> be.
> There are almost certainly listeners of HPR (likely a lot of them) who
> never contribute because they do not think they have anything
> interesting to say.  Certainly, the people on this list will
> understand how tragic that is, but some listeners simply don't see
> themselves as "hackers", and therefore think their own experiences and
> interests don't count as potential HPR content.  Never mind the fact
> that they are fans of the show, which means THEY have an interest in
> this stuff -- somehow they're still on the outside, looking in.  Is
> this a function of the labels we use?  Is it the nature of content
> consumption?  Is it simply human nature?

This is actually a major part of the reason that I'm proposing the definition that I am - without 
some sort of definition, people tend to self-categorize and I think will frequently end up 
declaring themselves "not-hacker" because, for example, they don't know much about
computer programming. Having a single, simple definition (even being made of very "flexible" 
terms) that describes the fundamental characterics of a hacker should help potential contributors
see where their own knowledge and interests actually do fit at Hacker Public Radio.

I also think it would be good to see the words "hacking" and "hacker" showing up much
more frequently in general discourse (in proper, appropriate contexts beyond the media's
use of it to usually mean "criminal computer programmer") - I think that would be much 
better advocacy than the attempts to make people say "cracker" instead. Of course for
this to happen we need a definition of "hacking" to be able to determine when the
word should be used.

> Qualifying what a "hacker" is...well, that's a VERY "hacky" thing to
> do, actually, and, on the one hand, I really applaud the effort.  On
> the other, all labels come at a cost.  The cost of exclusion --
> unintentional and undesired though it is -- will always be IMPOSSIBLE
> to assess, since we will never know who we lost, and who we could have
> heard from, save for their fear of rejection or the self-censoring
> aspect of labeled expression.

I think we're getting that NOW, though, because we're leaving it up to random
passers-by to decide what a "hacker" is, and all too often those people will
assume either "expert computer programmer" or "criminal" and walk away not
knowing any better. I think the "popular definition" is too exclusive already.

I'd also suggest that there ARE probably some categories of people we'd WANT to
exclude, though as a community that so highly values creativity I'm having trouble
thinking of any that I can't imagine at least one or two of us wouldn't say "ah, let 'em in, 
we can probably come up with something fun to do with the nonsense they're
promoting" to just about any of them...

More information about the Hpr mailing list