Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking

  • "Here I take liberalism to embrace historical as well as present-day moral and political commitments and sensibilities that should be familiar to most readers: protecting property and civil liberties, promoting individual autonomy and tolerance, securing a free press, ruling through limited government and universal law, and preserving a commitment to equal opportunity and meritocracy." (2)
  • "This ethnography is centrally concerned with how hackers have built a dense ethical and technical practice that sustains their productive freedom" (3)
  • "I argue that F/OSS draws from and also rearticulates elements of the liberal tradition." (3)
  • "most of this ethnography illustrates how free software hacking critiques neoliberal trends" (4)
  • "a group of mostly men" (6)
  • "Later in my fieldwork, I came to see the significance of another issue: the close relationship between the ethics of free software and the normative, much broader regime of liberalism." (7)
  • Hackers "offer a targeted, if not wholesale, critique of neoliberalism in challenging intellectual property law" (11)
  • "what I quickly learned is that hacking is characterized by a confluence of constant occupational disappointments and personal/collective joys"(11)
  • "I routinely observed, hacking, whether in the form of programming, debugging (squashing errors), or running and maintaining systems (such as servers), is consistently frustrating" (11)
  • "In the aftermath of a particularly pleasurable moment of hacking, there is no autonomous liberal self to be found." (13)
  • "To be sure, these forms of pleasure and engagement were impossible for me, the ethnographer, to touch and feel." (13)
  • Hackers "are also fiercely poetic and repeatedly affirm the artistic elements of their work" (13)
  • "I increasingly grew wary of how I would convey to others the dynamic vitality and diversity that marks hackers and hacking, but also the points of contention among them." (15)
    • Why not encourage others to participate?
  • Hackers "tend to value a set of liberal principles: freedom, privacy, and access." (17)
  • "Yet almost all academic and journalistic work on hackers commonly whitewashes these differences, and defines all hackers as sharing a singular 'hacker ethic.'" (17)
  • "Therefore, once we confront hacking in anthropological and historical terms, some similarities melt into a sea of differences." (18)
  • "I hope this book will make it more difficult to group free software in with other digital formations such as YouTube, as the media, pundits, and some academics regularly do under the banner of Web 2.0." (20)
  • "A hacker may say he (and I use 'he,' because most hackers are male) first hacked as an unsuspecting toddler when he took apart every electric appliance in the kitchen (much to his mother's horror)." (25)
  • "Unix is not a thing, it is an adventure." --annonymous programmer (37)
  • "Most often when I am done with corporate software, it’s dead, and when I am done with free software, it is alive." (41)
  • "The Silicon Valley geek entrepreneur, who I am not addressing in this book, aligns quite closely with neoliberal aspirations." (212, note 9)
  • Linux kernel development (75)
    • Production was not affiliated solely with a single institution
    • Production occurred largely independent of market pressures and conditions
    • Contributions, from previously unknown third parties, were encouraged
  • "Unlike academics -- who at times religiously guard their data or findings until published, or only circulate them among a small group of trusted peers -- hackers freely share their findings, insights, and solutions." (107)
  • F/OSS is "part of a larger liberal critique of neoliberal capitalism" (187)
  • "Gender also receives only cursory attention. The reasons for this omission are multiple, but foremost, I believe far more substantial research on the topic is needed before qualied and fair judgments as to the complicated dynamics at play can be posed, especially since analyses must interrogate wider social dynamics such as education and childhood socialization that have little to do with free software projects. In the last two years, a series of vibrant initiatives around diversity and gender have proliferated in the context of free software, with tremendous support from the wider developer community— something I have not been able to research adequately." (212)