Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Global hacking

Matt Jones introduced Nokia researcher Jan Chipchase's new blog a few weeks ago, and I've finally got around to looking through the archives.

He photographs things like Delhi's password stores and comments on mobile phone repair culture in Delhi's Karol Bagh Market and JiLin's Dong Shichang Market

"Many of these guys can strip and rebuild a mobile phone in minutes ... [A] lot of the hyperbole surrounding western hacker culture makes me smile compared to what these guys are doing day in day out."

Ha! Reminds me of some consulting work I did last year where a gentleman from Africa said, matter-of-factly, to a room full of Canadian government technologists discussing whether or not to adopt open-source platforms, "We don't choose to use open-source. It is all we can afford."

It's definitely worth remembering that "western" hacker culture is often a leisure pursuit. This isn't to suggest that hacking out of necessity isn't a joyful or fun practice, but it certainly takes place within different social, cultural, economic and political arrangements - and produces different types of goods. Furthermore, the very concepts of reuse and recycling mean different things in different consumer contexts.

What I'm curious about, though, is how Nokia uses this kind of cross-cultural knowledge to design new products. After all, I'm not sure this is the kind of recycling or reuse that profit-driven companies have in mind.


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