Craft, leisure, and end-user innovation

How hacking is conceived in social science research

Susann Wagenknecht

Hacking receives growing attention among social scientists during the last five years. Researchers particularly in the fields of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Computer-Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW) but also in the social sciences generally have begun to study hacking empirically—investigating hacking as a practice and as cultural phenomenon. The talk offers a glimpse of the spectrum of research about hacking in HCI, CSCW, and adjacent fields. Researchers in these fields portray hacking very differently. The spectrum ranges from “transgressive craft” to “innovative leisure practice,” from skilled craftsmanship to ad hoc kludging, from an individualist pursuit to a community mission, from an expression of liberalism to an exclusive practice of cultural distinction. Some researchers see hacking as an illustration of how to defy technological determinism, i.e., the conviction that the technological determines the social, a position that social scientists typically fight ferociously. Other researchers see it as the future of “end-user innovation.” This talks discusses these notions and describes the value---economic, pedagogical, cultural, conceptual---that different research perspectives perceive in hacking.

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