November 28, 2012

ANTHROPOLOGY: Geek Researcher Spends Three Years Living With Hackers.

Coleman, an anthropologist who teaches at McGill University, spent three years living in the Bay Area, studying the community that builds the Debian Linux open source operating system and other hackers — i.e., people who pride themselves on finding new ways to reinvent software. 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 eff.org 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.

Now, she’s written a book on her experiences: Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking. It’s a scholarly work of anthropology that examines the question: What does it mean to be a hacker?

There’s an interview at the link.