Anthropology of Hackers, a syllabus

Writing in the Atlantic, my friend Biella Coleman, an assistant professor at NYU, describes the syllabus for her wonderful Anthropology of Hackers class. I met Biella when she was doing her fieldwork, part of which involved volunteering at and interviewing the staff and supporters of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Week Eight: The Aesthetics and Politics of Code
Free and Open Source Software is about software, specifically source code, the underlying directions written by programmers and powering software. But what is code? What are its politics? To acquaint ourselves with the material and aesthetic properties of software, we read a handful of chapters from Software Studies by Mathew Fuller. We then move more squarely to the politics of code with Lawrence Lessig's piece "Open Code and Open Societies" as well "Code is Speech: Legal Tinkering, Expertise, and Protest among Free and Open Source Software Developers" based on my fieldwork with Free Software developers.
The Anthropology of Hackers

(Image: Nested Parens! 25 years of HaCkErS, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from ioerror's photostream)

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  1. I remember taking Professor Coleman’s class at the University of Chicago when she was still a graduate student. The class description stood out immediately in the course catalog and I signed up for the course with a friend. For an economics major, it was a fascinating look (especially for an economics major) into the free software and hacking cultures.

    I remember the course ended with the class watching Wargames in the lounge of a small dorm on campus. Great times and a fantastic class!

  2. Thanks, Cory! I’m editing the technology beat at The Atlantic now — and just wanted to add that Biella’s class is the latest in our series of tech syllabi-as-essays. We’ve had Kio Stark on cities and strangers, C.W. Anderson on print literacy, and Christina Dunbar-Hester on media studies beyond McLuhan. Next up is Rob MacDougall on digital history.

    Anyway, professors, feel free to get in touch with me (amadrigal[at]theatlantic.com) if you’d like to be in the series.

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