Resistance to the Current
The Dialectics of Hacking
How hacking cultures drive contemporary capitalism and the future of innovation.
In Resistance to the Current, Johan Söderberg and Maxigas examine four historical case studies of hacker movements and their roles in shaping the twenty-first-century's network society. Based on decades of field work and analysis, this intervention into current debates situates an exploding variety of hacking practices within the contradictions of capitalism. Depoliticized accounts of computing cultures and collaborative production miss their core driver, write Söderberg and Maxigas: the articulation of critique and its recuperation into innovations.
Drawing on accounts of building, developing, and running community wireless networks, 3D printers, hackerspaces, and chat protocols, the authors develop a theoretical framework of critique and recuperation to examine how hackers—who have long held a reputation for being underground rebels—transform their outputs from communal, underground experiments to commercial products that benefit the state and capital. This framework allows a dialectical understanding of contemporary social conflicts around technology and innovation. Hackers' critiques of contemporary norms spur innovation, while recuperation turns these innovations into commodified products and services. Recuperation threatens the autonomy of hacker collectives, harnessing their outputs for the benefit of a capitalist system.
With significant practical implications, this sophisticated multidisciplinary account of technology-oriented movements that seek to challenge capitalism will appeal to science and technology readers interested in innovation studies, user studies, cultural studies, and media and communications.
“Two highly attuned observers of the computing underground think longitudinally about dynamics of control and resistance, deftly illuminating how capitalism converts hacking into work. The result is an ambitious, novel, and fruitful book. Essential reading for anyone thinking critically about hacking, scholar or practitioner.”
Christina Dunbar-Hester, author of Hacking Diversity and Low Power to the People
“In this theoretically sophisticated but empirically grounded series of case studies, Soderberg and Maxigas explore the contradictory potentialities of hacker ideology. From self-replicating 3D printers to archaic IRC protocols, the utopian visions of hackers are alternatively realized and subverted in the symbiotic tension between the computer underground and the logic of informational capitalism.”
Nathan Ensmenger, Associate Professor, School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering, Indiana University, Bloomington