Describe the Five Social Norms of Hacker Subculture and Provide an Example of Each
It is human nature to seek outside sources for personal fulfillment. In this case, hackers can find an escape from their unfulfilling social lives within cyberspace. The more an individual feels separated from mainstream society, the more likely that person will be to participate in software anarchy. Although dominant culture assigns a great deal of undeserved stigma to the hacker identity, some empirical truth does underlie the socially-isolated hacker stereotype. Part of the reason hacker subculture is so widely misunderstood is that there does not exist a consistent, widely agreed upon definition of the hacker. Researchers have not recorded as many direct observations of hacker activity in academic literature compared to other prominent subcultures. This lack of empirical evidence has allowed for biased interpretations of complex activity, some that may appear criminal to uneducated individuals. Sociologist Kall Loper has developed a typology of hackers based on subculture theory. He uses historical data, media sources, self-identification techniques, and foundational materials to empirically define hacker subcultural and deviance. Labeling theory suggests that the dominant culture defines the social norms and has the power to assign deviant labels to groups that violate these unspoken customs and values. While many individuals place blame on hackers’ extreme stance on privacy and anonymity for the subculture’s deviant label, they neglect to acknowledge that the driving force behind this anonymity resides in the label itself, which often forces the subculture participants underground. Hackers’ deviant labels, assigned to them by outsiders who hold social power, indirectly cause the suspect behavior that people blame for increased rates of cybercrime.
While such an expansive definition may seem unnecessary, the hacker population represents individuals with a broad spectrum of personal motivations, skills, and activities. For example, one of the more inclusive definitions from outside the hacking world is from the Jargon File. This text document, which defines and translates hacker slang, provides eight different definitions for a hacker, ranging from the 1960s concept of a skilled computer user, to contemporary applications of someone who maliciously attempts to ìdiscover sensitive information by poking aroundî (Thomas, D., and Loader, B. D. 2000). The emphasis on gaining unauthorized access to computer systems is key to the notion of hackers that has been promulgated in the popular media over the last decade (Wall, D.S. 1999).
Implications for hacking research and subcultural theory are discussed throughout.
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Voiskonsky, A.E., Babaeva, J.D., and Smyslova, O.G. 2000. Attitudes towards computer hacking in Russia. Pp. 56-84 in Thomas, D. and Loader, B.D. (Eds.) Cybercrime: Law enforcement, security and surveillance in the information age. New York: Routledge.
Wall, D.S. 1999. Cybercrimes: New wine, no bottles? In Davies, P., Jupp, V., and Francis, P. (Eds.) Invisible Crimes. London: Macmillan.