HMI760. Cultures of programming – hackers, crackers and open source, 5p

Instructor Daniel Pargman,
Semester Fall 2003
Prerequisites None beyond what is specified in below (see “Other”).
Goals This Ph.D. course will give an introduction to different aspects of the hacker culture.
The hacker culture stretches back to the early days of general-purpose computers some 45 years ago and it has in the subsequent decades morphed and changed in different directions.
One of those directions is using computer skills to break into computer systems and/or commit crimes – cracking.
With the emergence of open source software – most notably the Linux operating system – hackers and hacker culture has during the last decade gained a renewed prominence in the eyes of the business world and of the larger public.
A better understanding of the hacker culture – what it is, where it comes from, what motivates people within it and what effects it has had – will help us gain insights not only to the history of computing, but also of what is happening right now and what will happen in computing in the near future.
Content The course will be given in the form of 10 weekly seminars (each three hours long) during the fall of 2003 (October to December) plus a final seminar in January 2004.
Each seminar will treat a specific subject (“hacker origins”, “the hacker ethic”, “hackers versus engineers”, “crackers and the dark side of hacking”, “the hacker mindset”, “open source software” etc.).
The literature for each seminar will generally vary between 75-100 pages.
Each course participant is expected to read the literature before each seminar and actively contribute to the discussion.
Each course participant will take responsibility for presenting one text and leading a discussion around it once during the course.
Each course participant will write an essay in the course (se “examination” below).

The main textbook is:

  • Levy, S. (1984). Hackers: Heroes of the computer revolution. New York: Dell.

Course participants will also read a selection of articles/book chapters (see examples below) as well as some social science texts (mainly from psychology, sociology and anthropology).

  • Bennahum, David (1999). Extra life: Coming of age in cyberspace.
  • Bolter, J. David (1984). Turing’s men: Western culture in the computer age.
  • Brooks, F. (1975/1995). The mythical man-month (anniversary edition).
  • Ceruzzi, Paul (1998). A history of modern computing.
  • Erson, E. (1992). “Det är månen att nå…” En studie i några datorintresserade pojkars språk och föreställningsvärld [”There’s the moon to reach…”. A Study of the Language and World of Ideas of Some Computer Interested Boys]. Ph.D. dissertation.
  • Feller, Joseph and Fitzgerald, Brian (2002). Understanding Open Souce Software Development.
  • Himanen, Pekka (2001). The hacker ethic and the spirit of the information age.
  • Håpnes, T. & Sørensen, K. (1995). ”Competition and collaboration in male shaping of computing: A study of a Norwegian hacker culture”. In K. Grint & R. Gill (eds.), The gender-technology relation: Contemporary theory and research.
  • Moody, Glyn (2001). Rebel Code: Linux and the Open Source Revolution.
  • Nissen, J. (1993). Pojkarna vid datorn. Unga entusiaster i datateknikens värld [Boys in front of computers. Young Enthusiasts in the World of Computer Technology]. Ph.D. dissertation.
  • Pargman, D. (2000). Code begets community: On social and technical aspects of managing a virtual community. Ph.D. dissertation.
  • Rehn, Alf (2001). Electronic Potlatch – a study of new technologies and primitive economic behaviors. Ph.D. dissertation
  • Raymond, E. (1999). The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary.
  • Shaw, Mary (1990). Prospects for an engineering discipline of software. IEEE Software
  • Stallman, Richard (2002). Free software, free society.
  • Torvalds, Linus and Diamond, David (2001). Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary.
  • Turkle, S. (1984). The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit.
  • Walleij, Linus (1999). Copyright finns inte v3.0
  • Williams, Sam (2002). Free as in freedom: Richard Stallman’s crusade for free software.
  • Weizenbaum, J. (1976). Computer power and human reasoning: From judgment to calculation.

Examination will be based on:

  • Active participation in class discussions.
  • Presentation of a text in class.
  • Writing an essay (minimum 10 pages/5000 words). More detailed instructions will be distributed at the beginning of the course.
  • Opposition to another student’s essay at the final seminar (January 2004)

The course is limited to a maximum of 15 students. Also students from beyond KTH/NADA are encouraged to apply to the course and this includes students from other universitites and students from the social sciences. Undergraduate students with relevant expericences are welcome to apply but Ph.D. students have priority to take the course.
You apply to the course by sending one page long “application” (in English or in Swedish) to Daniel Pargman In your text, please specify:

  • Your contact infomation
  • Experience/interest in the subject and why you want to study the course
  • How the course is connected to you research project/your interests
  • How you can contribute to the course

Do note that the applications will be distributed among the course participants so we can get to know each other better as the course starts!