Home | About Me | Writing | Photos | Research | Scratchpad | Projects

Research: HE Dissertation notes

Outline of my proposal:

My dissertation will, broadly speaking, explore the Hacker Ethic in terms of its importance to individuals as a "life ethic" and to society at large. My point of departure will be the need for "broader spaces in which a 'logic of life' can unfold freely" (Andre Gorz) as a response to the most pressing problems of capitalism. The essay will try to argue that the Hacker Ethic is a promising candidate to fill this need for many, being a realistic mediation between contemporary society and the Utopian visions of sustainable fulfilled communities.

I'll begin by explaining what the Hacker Ethic is, briefly, with emphasis on the "nethic" of Free Software and the Internet described by Pekka Himanen in 'The Hacker Ethic'. I'll then develop this understanding to explore the extent to which it can answer the problems of alienation and the lack of meaningful work in capitalism, creating a space for autonomous productive activity that is fulfilling for the hacker. I'm interested in looking at contemporary Marxist and Green writers on this subject, after reading 'Capitalism, Socialism, Ecology' by Andre Gorz. Themes I'll try to write about are the ethic's orientation, techniques, the limits of its space and its logic (taken from Gorz). This section will focus entirely on the benefits to individuals (i.e. individual hackers).

In the second half of the essay, having established the value of the ethic to the individual, I'll develop an argument for reform of the way we think of and legislate for intellectual property. IP is already a highly socialised property system, in comparison to non-intellectual or "real" property, in that its main justification is based on consequences to society. I'll argue for further socialisation as a means of encouraging the flourishing of the Hacker Ethic. I'll refer to Lawrence Lessig's recent work on copyright as well as some Hacker philosophy, and other philosophers who work in the area of property rights. I may also include something about the possibility of people working for fewer hours, and having more time to engage in autonomous productive activities, as a social good as well as an individual good, tieing that into the IP argument by means of a "dual stream" property system (one half more proprietary, the other more communal).

The flux

Here lies a swirling attempt at organising my work.

  1. Introduction
    1. Outlining the objective
    2. Introducing Hackers, Free Software and the Hacker Ethic
  2. On alienation and meaningful work
    For each aspect, a study of the Ethic's orientation, techniques, logic and the limits of its space
    1. On labour value versus exchange value
    2. On control over one's labour versus the employed
      to include a brief mention of three dimensions of power?
    3. On community versus outright, avaricious competition
      not to deny competition, but to emphasise a meritocracy that to an extent actively supports (and should more) and doesn't knock down
    4. Bringing these three themes together to draw a picture of meaningful work as part of a fulfilling life
  3. On the Hacker Ethic as a freely unfolding logic of life
    to include an emphasis on the role of the use of "IP" law, economic circumstance and other factors that make it a viable candidate, rather than one unique to a community out of sync with the mainstream