Hacking Together Globally

Jeremy Hunsinger


This paper examines events that occur synchronously around the globe at hackerspaces: during Global Synchronous Hackathons, participants use video streams to share experiences, work and interact in real time. This paper analyses synchronous hackathons through video repositories of these events. It aims at discerning what norms are enacted in presented hacking experiences and how those norms are communicated across the video streams. Hacking in these cases should be thought of as the creative activity of using technology to build something that solves a problem or challenge. Hackerspaces are social workshops and communities renting a physical space and usually interacting in digital spaces. In these environments, individuals are involved in hacking as combined social as well as solitary activities which, to some extent, embody certain norms. Individuals also create the “technological drama”; that is they create the discourse around the objects that inform their use and embed them in cultures. These cultures and their discourses possess norms which flow through them and exist around the objects. Members of hackerspaces commonly participate in the aforementioned “Synchronous Hackathons.” By comparing videos of these hackathons, I stress the relevance of norms which are not usually listed in reflections on hacker ethics such as those of Steven Levy or Pekka Himmanen: the awareness of the global other or the awareness of what might be termed “the cosmopolitical.” These norms seek to care for and attend to the people who exist at a distance. This transformation of local to global “hacker ethics” demonstrates the growth of the recognition, at least internally, that hackerspaces embody more than their local concerns: they are part of global movements with global interests and globalising norms. The video analysis is used to demonstrate the globalising norms of these communities as the norms surrounding cosmopolitics become more prevalent in their discourses.

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