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Repurposing the hacker. Three cycles of recuperation in the evolution of hacking and capitalism


The spread of hacker practices to new fields, such as open hardware development and do-it-yourself biology, brings with it a renewed necessity to analyse the significance of hacking in relation to industrial and institutional innovation. We sketch out a framework drawing on the idea of recuperation and use it to situate an emerging body of works on hackers. By adopting the concept of recuperation, we highlight how hacker practices and innovations are adopted, adapted and repurposed by corporate and political institutions. In other words, hacking is being hacked. We suggest three temporalities within which this dynamics can be studied: 1) the life cycle of an individual hacker project-community, 2) the co-evolution of hacker movements and relevant industries or institutions, 3) the place of hacking within the “spirit of the times”, or, differently put, the transformations of capitalism seen through the lens of hacking.

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