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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Transnationality, Morality, and Politics of Computing Expertise

  • Author(s): Rosado Murillo, Luis Felipe
  • Advisor(s): Kelty, Christopher M.
  • et al.

In this dissertation I examine the alterglobalization of computer expertise with a focus on the creation of political, economic, moral, and technical ties among computer technologists who are identified by peers and self-identify as “computer hackers.” The goal is to investigate how forms of collaborative work are created on a local level alongside global practices and discourses on computer hacking, linking local sites with an emergent transnational domain of technical exchange and political action. In order to advance an understanding of the experience and practice of hacking beyond its main axes of activity in Western Europe and the United States, I describe and analyze projects and career trajectories of programmers, engineers, and hacker activists who are members of an international network of community spaces called “hackerspaces” in the Pacific region. Based on ethnographic research at community spaces, professional meetings, and informal gatherings I pursue the question of the conditions for cultivation of skills, moral sensibilities, and political orientations which allow for active participation in computer expert collectives. Drawing from ethnographic work, I suggest that “hacking” has become a global rubric for disparate cultural practices due to the confluence of Free and Open Source technologies and elite technologists with local community centers to support pedagogical practices for technical experimentation and political formation. In describing global and local level applications of computing expertise, I demonstrate how hackerspaces and computer technologists are, respectively, formed at cross-cultural contact points with the project of rearranging, challenging, and transforming established technical practices, infrastructures, and political imaginaries.

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