This site runs best with JavaScript enabled.

Coding Freedom

The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking

by Gabriella Coleman

Last tended to November 18, 2020

There is an undeniable and occasionally fraught relationship between hacking and liberalism

There is a distinction been free software and open source software - free puts the emphasis on freedom of anyone to use the software. While open source emphasises the benefits to developers and the quality of the software thanks to the collective contributions of a community.

The term hacker doesn't have a singular meaning but can be generally agreed is a collective commitment to "productive freedom"

"This ethnography is centrally concerned with how hackers have built a dense ethical and technical practice that sustains their productive freedom, and in so doing, how they extend as well as reformulate key liberal ideals such as access, free speech, transparency, equal opportunity, publicity, and meritocracy."

"F/OSS focuses on the importance of knowledge, self-cultivation, and self-expression as the vital locus of freedom"

Coleman looks at how OSS practices productive freedom in a way that both critiques and reinvents neoliberal ideals. How their commitment to liberal values often feel more sincere than the modern liberalism of the mainstream economy.

"hackers experience the joy that follows from the self-directed realization of skills, goals, and talents. At times, hacking provides experiences so completely overpowering, they hold the capacity to shred self-awareness, thus cutting into a particular conception of the liberal self-autonomous, authentic"

Want to share?

Join the newsletter

For weekly notes on visual thinking, ethical technology, and cultural anthropology.

Maggie Appleton © 2021