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Gabriella Coleman on the ethnography of digital politics

Type of publication Not peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Other publication (non peer-review)
Publication date 2015
Author David Bozzini,
Project Revolution Reloaded? Political Culture and Social Tensions Among Eritrean Social Movement Organizations in Exile
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Other publication (non peer-review)

Book Gabriella Coleman on the ethnography of digital politics
Publisher Focaal Blog, Utrecht


Computer hackers have recently had a significant political impact in various continents, and their actions frequently make headlines. Hackers played a crucial role during the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, offering solutions and services to demonstrators. In this, they have drawn public attention to injustices not only by highlighting these inequities but also by finding and making public proof, such as leaked documents, and by supporting whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. While computer experts active as hackers have entered the realm of contentious politics in recent years, many of their political commitments are older and more focused on immediate spheres of work and life: they demand free and open-source software development, alternative decentralized architectures, and improved security and privacy for everyone in the Information Age. So, hackers importantly engage with how our digital lives are shaped and seek to improve our understanding of what is at stake in a networked society, as the powers and potentialities set free by the IT revolution are enormous but their technicalities are difficult to grasp and assess. In a world where the digital becomes increasingly entangled with our daily routines and security, hackers and whistleblowers help citizens and social scientists to understand how our societies are changing and must be defended. This interview is divided in two parts. The first part delves into the hackers’ worlds and the historical process related to their political formations. The second part is devoted to recent political actions of hacker groups and the Anonymous collective in particular. Gabriella Coleman presents and discusses their tactics and tools, their modus operandi, and the limits of the movement.