Looking for the Social Hackers


Work data:

Type of work: Working Paper




Motivated in part by the rising interest on social innovation, and also by the emergence of the networked social movements such as the Spanish ‘indignados’ and the ‘Occupy Wall St’, the focus of this essay are the ‘social hackers’: innovators (or groups of innovators) which combine the technical skills of hackers with the civic or political orientation of social innovators.

Hackers, working at the boundaries or even outside established institutions, created the code of many of the key elements of today’s Internet, including the WWW. The meaning of hacking has since then evolved in diverging ways. On one side, there are the ‘bad’ hackers, willing to exploit the (occult) weakness of the new IT connected infrastructures to commit crimes sanctioned by law. On the other side, ‘good’ hackers are praised, nurtured and financed by investors competing to come on top of the next wave of ‘disruptive innovations’. But as these innovations frequently seek to disrupt pieces of the accepted social fabric, they end up entering in conflict with established laws and regulations, which they propose to change in the name of progress. As progress is in fact an ideological concept, many of these ‘good hackers’ end up ‘de facto’ aligning themselves with the ultra-individualistic, capitalist, ‘winner deserves it all’, ideology of their investors,

We thus argue that this type of hacking is indirectly (and maybe unwillingly) behind the growth in inequality that has been taking place during the last decades. Even more, this ‘perverted’ brand of hacking is even seen as a menace to the preservation of the ‘internet as we know it’. A combination of social and technical skills incarnated in what we would call ‘social hackers’ is needed for social values to grow together with the Internet society. But it won’t happen spontaneously.