Friday, July 23, 2004

August is for hacking

Getting ready for our Design for Hackability panel at DIS 2004, I was excited to hear from Jofish Kaye, who pointed at his upcoming panel at the 4S-EASST Conference in Paris:

Hackers and Tinkerers: Amateur Ways of Doing Technology
From computer hackers to ham radio operators, from audio and videophiles to hot rodders, enthusiast cultures have often proved integral to the lives of technologies. Such cultures tend to exist at the fringes of mainstream technological practices, and their members explicitly define their activities in opposition to traditional understandings of productive work, raising a host of questions. What is at stake for amateurs who claim technological expertise outside the norms of a professional identity, and how does this complicate traditional notions of knowledge and work? What role do these amateurs play in the broader technological landscape? The papers in these sessions address these questions from three different directions. The first panel explores the creation of amateur identity, and communities around that identity. The second panel examines the relationship between these amateurs and the larger institutions with which they interact. The third panel describes the ways that enthusiastic amateurs complicate, question and rework the traditional producer-consumer relationship.

Cool. As part of the Hackers and Tinkerers session, Jofish will be presenting his research on William G. Broughton: One Radio Ham (pdf).

This paper presents an account of one radio ham, William G. Broughton. I
present this work in the context of current work on the amateur, and give brief
biographies of both William G. Broughton and his father, Henry P. Broughton. I present the logbook as a historical tool for understanding the life of a ham, and show evidence of use for both technical, ham-related use of the logbook, and use for other aspects of a ham's life. I then track one particular story through the logbook. I look at the role of the entries in the logbook in Broughton's identity creation, and identify "ham identity" as distinct from but related to "technical identity" and "geek identity".

Fascinating stuff for anyone interested in wireless identities and practices. I also recommend taking a look at his paper Hacking: An underrepresented practice in STS (pdf), in which Jofish discusses how computer hackers, early rural automobile users and radio amateurs have opened up technological black boxes to become agents of technological change. He argues that it is precisely their irreverent attitude towards technology that challenges traditional (reverent) relationships between producers, consumers and technologies.

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