Week 2

In Turner’s Chapter 4 of Counterculture to Cyberculture, the author compares the invention and popularization of the personal computer to that of the goals of the 1960s and 70s counterculture. These new devices that “one could use to tear down bureaucracies and achieve individual intellectual freedom,” allowed for every person to provide themselves a space not unlike the communalist spaces created by the hippies in the Bay area. Further comparisons were made to the hippies such as “out of their body” experiences during computer games (specifically Spacewar) in comparison to the Merry Prankster Acid Tests in which people tried psychedelic drugs to “drop out” of society. This “space” would become known as “cyberspace.”

Turner goes on to explain two types of computer programmers and engineers at PARC and Resource Once: “hackers” and “planners.” “Hackers…were those who figured things out as they went and invented for pleasure…they were a mobile newfound elite, with its own apparatus, language and character, its own legends and humor.” “Planners,” on the other hand, were “those who pursued problems according to a set and less flexible strategy.” Turner states that planners were the bureaucrats, while hackers were cultural revolutionaries.

In Turner’s brief description of what the counterculture’s goals and intentions were, I assert that while the planners may have contributed to building the personal computer and Internet, the hackers were the true counterculture-ists. The definitions of the two groups alone are enough to show that the true “hippies” of computers were those that “invent for pleasure” and contribute to cultural revolution. Even more so, the “Hacker Ethic” portrays the counterculture’s values of decentralization, the mistrust of authority, freedom of access to information, and personal beauty. So while Turner may be correct in comparing the counterculture’s goals to that of the personal computer’s and Internet’s, I think that he could have gone one step further in classifying the “hacker” group of people as the true counterculture influences.

With these classifications, what might each group have been trying to accomplish? Where did their true intentions lie, and what was the ultimate separation between them? Finally, what legal regulation should now be in place, if any at all, for those that attempt to hack illegally, even in the pursuit of knowledge and information?

About Andrew Kaplan

Communication Studies major at the University of Michigan, taking Communications 488- Social Media & Politics
This entry was posted in Week 2, Winter 2012 and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Week 2

  1. janesugi says:

    The questions that you raise about the ethical and legal implications regarding hackers is valid. With the evolution of the internet today, people often look at hackers with negative connotations. However, most people don’t realize that hackers are responsible for the programming and connectivity, ie. social media outlets, that we depend so heavily on today. I think that the role of the hackers is to constantly improve upon the different problems facing programmers and it is because of this that the internet is constantly evolving. That being said, it is hard to predict what limitations one can place on a facet of the media that is both very prominent and transforming quickly.

  2. tommyotoole says:

    To answer your last question, a lot of information on the internet is treated as real space property by the court system. Many courts have fought to protect ‘cyber property’ through trespass to chattel claims. The development of legislation such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act place civil and/or criminal penalties on different forms of illegal hacking. These legislations could probably be traced to the desires of businesspeople in maximizing potential profits from copyrighted material and protecting them from all outside/non-paying users.

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