“I feel like a criminal and I have to be god at the same time”

Perceptions of hackers and hacktivists on their (in)securitisation

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News reports and political speeches are currently replete with references to hacking and hacktivism, i.e., politically motivated hacking. They often portray hackers and hacktivists negatively and put them onto the same level with, for example, terrorists. This talk is based on a PhD research project examining the perception of self-identified hackers and hacktivists on these (in)securitising developments. It investigates how hackers and hacktivists understand themselves and their activities, explores how they articulate the effects of this (in)securitisation, and outlines the ways they resist these processes.

Within the public discourse, terms such as hacking and hacktivism are controversial. They are frequently equated with malicious activities and associated with the likes of cybercrime or cyberwarfare. Besides, both the activities and the actors standing behind these concepts are increasingly becoming subject to a threat construction. This process is understood as “(in)securitisation” which builds upon the idea that security issues do not necessarily reflect the objective, material circumstances of the world. Instead, what is considered as a “security threat” depends on the design of such a menace by a multitude of actors, e.g., politics, industry, or the media.

The talk uses this understanding to examine the perspective of hackers and hacktivists who have been subjected to this (in)securitisation. It is based on a sub-study which is part of a broader PhD project within the social sciences. It exhibits qualitative findings that are derived from interview data collected over the course of a Research Fellowship at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, Berlin. A sample of N = 35 (female: n = 6; male: n = 29) self-identified hackers and hacktivists were therefore interviewed in German or English. The data was analysed using the method of thematic analysis.

This talk explains the theoretical background of the research project, the method used to analyse the data, and presents as well as discusses some of the research’s findings. It concentrates on the following issues: (a) how participants understand themselves and their activities, (b) how they articulate the effects of the (in)securitisation process, and (c) how they resist the (in)securitisation. Ultimately, the presentation gives an overview of what the (in)securitisation “does” to the hacker and hacktivist community, who - for the purpose of this research - have been studied conjunctively. It highlights how hackers’ and hacktivists’ self-understanding and perception stand in contrast to their current public representation, providing a relevant insight for the current debates about the possibility of re-articulating political rights online.

Talk ID
Hall 1
11:30 a.m.
Type of
Leonie Maria Tanczer
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Last revision: 2 years, 5 months ago