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Anthropologist Spends Three Years Living With Hackers 252

concealment writes "Coleman, an anthropologist who teaches at McGill University, spent three years studying the community that builds the Debian GNU/Linux open source operating system and hackers in the Bay Area. More recently, she's been peeling away the onion that is the Anonymous movement, a group that hacks as a means of protest — and mischief. When she moved to San Francisco, she volunteered with the Electronic Frontier Foundation — she believed, correctly, that having an address would make people more willing to talk to her — and started making the scene. She talked free software over Chinese food at the Bay Area Linux User Group's monthly meetings upstairs at San Francisco's Four Seas Restaurant. She marched with geeks demanding the release of Adobe eBooks hacker Dmitry Sklyarov. She learned the culture inside-out."
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Anthropologist Spends Three Years Living With Hackers

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  • Re:TLDR version (Score:5, Informative)

    by deek ( 22697 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @10:27PM (#42125895) Homepage Journal

    According to the general comments with the article, the book has a creative commons license. The author commented that she will release a copy soon, when she fixes the website to go with it.

  • Re:TLDR version (Score:5, Informative)

    by Will.Woodhull ( 1038600 ) <> on Thursday November 29, 2012 @01:11AM (#42126765) Homepage Journal

    I really wonder why people are so xenophobic.

    It is not everyone on slashdot. It is just the fourteen year olds among us.

    Some of them have been practicing at being fourteen for a decade or more. They are particularly obnoxious.

    I look forward to Coleman's book. She may offer some insight into this failure to mature syndrome. I have a suspicion that it has something to do with over exposure to FPS games, but I'm just guessing.

  • Re:TLDR version (Score:5, Informative)

    by Omnifarious ( 11933 ) * <> on Thursday November 29, 2012 @01:27AM (#42126813) Homepage Journal

    I think in this case, people are resistant to the notion that they can be so neatly studied and classified.

    Perhaps you're right. Though really, no group of humans is and anthropologists are well aware of this fact. :-)

  • by Aryeh Goretsky ( 129230 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @01:36AM (#42126843) Homepage

    This seems similar in nature to the work Dr. Sarah Gordon [] did while speaking with and investigating computer virus writers back in the 1990s. Unlike Coleman, though, Gordon seems to have focused more on criminal hackers. Very interesting reading.


    Aryeh Goretsky
  • by snap2grid ( 630315 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @04:14AM (#42127469) Homepage
    I've read the first chapter of the book (as of last night) and she specifically makes the point that there are divisions and differences within hacker culture. Also that there are geographical differences and how it's changed over time. The book rings true so far. Sounds to me like she knows what she's doing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 29, 2012 @04:27AM (#42127533)

    a marine biologist specializes in oceans, a limnologist in lakes. more or less.

  • by gwolf ( 26339 ) <> on Thursday November 29, 2012 @09:00AM (#42128631) Homepage

    Well, I happen to have been studied by her to some degree — As a Debian Developer who met her several times over the years. I don't know (and I did read the article — Sorry for breaking Slashdot customary ways!) why the article says she spent three years studying hackers... No! She has spent at least eight, probably more. And from knowing her personally, I know that she is also more deeply involved with the "hacker scene" (or hacker ethos, or hacker ways, or whatever) than myself. Which is not a little feat.

    Clearly by the time I met her (eight years ago, in DebConf 4 in Brazil) she was by far not a novice, she clearly knew her work and had a very good model of our group. I have written some academic work on the hacker culture, and she is an inevitable quote. Other colleagues, more social scientists than hackers, also recognize the importance, truthfulness and insight of her work.

    So, right, I have to fully, completely disagree with your assessment on a person who only spent 3 fricking years (as she put it "researching") comes out with her "immense knowledge" of the hacker subculture.

  • Re:What puts me off (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sipper ( 462582 ) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:41PM (#42131003)

    She uses 'I was like', 'they were like' an awful lot. That, to me, is not the sign of an intelligent person.

    She speaks informally, but I don't think that denotes anything about her intelligence.

    I've met her in person; she's previously spoken about Debian at NYLUG and spoke during DebConf10. During her speeches at DebConf10 she used a bunch of 'lolcats' pictures in the slides; it wasn't just to be cute, it was for effect and to hold everybody's attention, and it worked. I believe this is a matter of choosing her presentation and her words to fit her audience.

Matter cannot be created or destroyed, nor can it be returned without a receipt.