Rhetoric of Hacking

This website is dedicated to Joshua Bennett's Fall 2013 RHE class.

Annotated Bibliography

Hover over the image to see my summary, and click the image to see the source.

Buchanan, Ben. ":cyberpunk: /the Reality/." 200ok. 200ok, n.d. Web. 2 Oct. 2013. .

Ben presents a list of common tropes found within novels classified as Cyberpunk and compares their predictions of the future to what is actually present today. Ben argues through this list that we indeed have adopted many of these predictions. Ben believes this has more to do with the novelists ability to predict the outcome of technology and less to do with a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Some of the strong examples that Ben uses are the presence of mega-corporations in both, citing Microsoft and General Motors as examples of such today. Another is a lack of privacy, where he correlates our use of phones and even card scanners as sources of tracking our daily lives and broadcasting them.

Ben therefore shows the strong connection between the present and the cyberpunk environment, which gives more credibility to David Wall’s view on cybercrime fear being a direct result of these novels.

The list is not especially well documented, even finding the author was difficult. Ben also does not offer evidence of where we have not adopted the Cyberpunk novels, but it most likely has more to do with the way he’s presenting this information. Being written in his university class, it’s not the most credible source, but does provide good evidence of cyberpunk’s effect on today.

Mizrach, Steve. "Is Cyberpunk the Counterculture of the 1990's?" Cyberpunk as Counterculture. University of Florida, n.d. Web. 1 Oct. 2013. .

Steve Mizrach asks the question whether or not the Cyberpunk movement is useless, or something potentially serious. Earlier in the article, Mizrach describes that computers control a vast majority of our society, and therefore those who control the computers, Cyberpunks, control much of society. He proclaims that the Cyberpunks pose a threat to the “System”, deeming this a positive way to “take away some of [the Man’s] power”, but the inexperience of the movement and lack of organization “may be a greater danger to society as a whole,” Mizrach unfortunately points out. He believes that Cyberpunks have the potential to bring about great change, but it all depends on how effectively they can study culture and target their tools correctly.

On the other hand, due to the nature of technology in society today, it has become a trend that is being exploited. Mizrach fears that Cyberpunks will sell-out before anything can change, essentially making the cyberpunks useless as they integrates with society.

Mizrach’s argument seems to believe that Cyberpunk culture is ultimately good for society, but with many caveats. If they stick to Kirtchev’s manifesto, they will improve society, otherwise they will just become another cash-cop for the media, such as The Matrix, to create only pranks and violence, such as in ABC News’ report.

Mandell, Zack. "Do Movies Glorify Hacking?" Helium. Helium, 29 May 2013. Web. 2 Oct. 2013. .

Mandell explains how the media inaccurately glorifies hackers using the example of Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In this case, the character is a computer hacker who eventually evolves into a dark witch. Mandell exploits the parallel nature of the character noting that “In both roles, she wields her nearly invincible powers in order to tie up tricky plotlines and get her friends out of trouble.” Therefore, hacking is shown as some dark magic in this light.

He continues to paint a history of hacking in Hollywood, pointing out that hackers are always depicted as nerdy geniuses who perform amazing feats within very visual and stylistic means. In reality, the hacker’s life is one of tediousness and boredom. The hacker is always generally attractive and praised for their achievements in the movies, so in this sense they are very much glorified. Mandell believes this portrayal is wrong, but is helpful in removing stigmas from computer enthusiasts.

Mandell’s argument shows cyberpunk media as being inaccurate, but useful in calming negative stereotypes in society. He believes hacking is not something to fear at the extent Hollywood proclaims, which goes against what Mizach and Buchanan think, but agreeing with Davis.

Mandell’s article is published in Helium, which after a little research is not highly regarded, but his argument is one of the most recent in my sources, and with a Political Science degree his knowledge is not unwarranted.

Weiner, Zach. Comic strip. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. N.p., 20 Feb. 2012. Web. 3 Oct. 2013. .

Weiner’s comic is a critique on the perception of hackers in movies versus that in real life. In the first panel there is a nerdy looking guy with glasses in front of a computer talking nonsense about computers. He is mocking the inaccuracy of Hollywood’s use of technical jargon by stringing together programming terms that most would not distinguish, but someone familiar with computers would immediately recognize as meaningless.

In the next panel he illustrates “real hacking”. In this case we have a pretty normal guy employing a rather exaggerated, but not quite farfetched use of social engineering. The point here is not that there is a lack of ingenuity, but a lack of pizzaz to the process of hacking. Rather than these superhero computer geniuses coming up with amazing technical hacks, we have a normal joe-schmoe performing a rather simple technique that most people could do.

Yet again, the perception of hackers is highly influenced by cyberpunk media. In this case, Weiner thinks it is misleading in a humorous way. It’s not clear whether or not he thinks this is positive, but clearly he believes Hollywood’s portrayal to be wrong and silly. Weiner shares a view with Mandell on Hollywood’s glorification of hackers, but seemingly in a more negative light. Being a comic, it unfortunately does not hold as much value as other sources since this is merely the author’s personal opinion with no expertise or evidence on the topic presented.

Davis, Lauren. "Cyberpunk Increases Our Fear of Cybercrime." Web log post. Io9. N.p., 30 Aug. 2008. Web. 29 Sept. 2013. .

Lauren Davis presents a counter-argument to David Wall’s academic paper on the subject of the Cyberpunk movement creating a culture of fear. Lauren summarizes David’s main points which illustrates how society is uneducated about cyber crimes, a term stemming from fictional stories during an influx of cyberpunk culture. David argues that media misconstrues the levity of hacker attacks by exaggerating the skill and effects of them. This deception is then readily absorbed by society because cyberpunk culture has presented a very extreme view of cyber attacks similar to what media portrays. These attacks lead to dystopia and havoc in many of the fiction, hence scaring society of a possible parallel situation in reality.

Lauren refutes this point simply by stating, “It seems the real culprit behind disproportionate public fears about cybercrime is not the invention of a few technologically advanced dystopias, but a lack of technological understanding. And hunger for that sort of technological understanding is exactly what cyberpunk inspires.” It’s not the fiction that has created this problem, but instead a lack of instruction on the subject.

Lauren’s article is featured on i09, a very reputable website publishing articles related to technology. The article itself is somewhat dated, and computers have become much more understood by society. Hackers have definitely become much more skilled, and the threat has become more real. The source she draws from is exceptional, and her argument for cyberpunk holds value despite the article’s age.

The Matrix. Dir. Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski. Perf. Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne. Warner Bros., 1999. DVD

The Matrix is one of many key entries into the cyberpunk world. Based loosely on “Neuromancer”, a novel by William Gibson, The Matrix presents a story about a hacker, Neo, who is recruited by a legendary terrorist hacker, Morpheus, who then hides that Earth is just a program in Neo’s mind. Neo then uses his exceptional skills to battle programs and eventually lead a rebellion to free humans from this deception.

The Matrix was one of the biggest catalysts for the Cyberpunk movement and caused controversy due to it’s action packed nature. Viewers were presented a dystopian future caused by technology, and sentient programs that were evil and violent. Much of the imagery within The Matrix is still prevalent in association with super hackers, this includes the green text, the leather jackets, and emotionless character. The extremely exaggerated hacks performed in The Matrix form a basis that can be easily misunderstood, such as addressed in Lauren Davis’ article on cyber crimes.

While certainly distinguishable as fiction, the Wachowski brothers hollywood film received national attention, and is certainly a by-product and shaper of the cyberpunk movement. It brought forth hacking, whether legitimate or not, to a large audience that wasn’t necessarily informed about it.

"Does 'The Matrix' Inspire the Disturbed?" ABC News. ABC News Network, n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2013. .

ABC News presents evidence for a connection between violent crimes and the film The Matrix. The perpetrators of these attacks often mention the Matrix in their confessions, often relating their own experience similar to one experienced in the Matrix, where they are being controlled by a system beyond their minds. Others are simply obsessed with the Matrix and it is apparent by their attitude and clothing. It can only be inferred that other violent concepts might have been planted within them from The Matrix.

“This movie, I think, has an extra component of the blurring between fantasy and reality," a communications professor hypothesized. It seemed clear that the Matrix’s themes are adopted by the attackers. Most cases ended with the attacks being declared insane. The article makes a strong case for a correlation, but Warner Bros, producer of the Matrix insists that “there is no connection between the movie and the killings.”

ABC News is a well known news station, but as with all news outlets the information is carefully selected to be interesting to the viewer. The data presented is very selective and doesn’t talk about any of the other underlying issues that may be a cause for this violence other than The Matrix.

Kirtchev, Christian. "A Cyberpunk Manifesto." A Cyberpunk Manifesto. N.p., 14 Feb. 1997. Web. 30 Sept. 2013. .

Kirtchev lists a slew of rules for the cyberpunk followers to abide bide. This list includes many of the key motivations, goals, and justifications of the cyberpunk movement. Within it, Kirtchev makes an argument that society and the laws that govern it are stagnate, and that only the technologically empowered cyberpunks can bring the change. Kirtchev strongly believes that, “Our society is sick and need to be healed. The cure is a change in the system…”

In Kirtchev’s view the only way the world can evolve is through change at the hands of the cyberpunks who can utilize the internet to promote the freedom of information. He argues that with knowledge comes power that can only come from an educated population without regulation from the government. According to Kirtchev we need to control this choatic information or else become controlled.

This Manifesto comes straight from one of the strongest periods of the cyberpunk movement and is therefore a valuable insight into the arguments that cyberpunks themselves believed in. The Manifesto itself is riddled with grammatical mistakes, and is incredibly self-aware and self-indulgent. It takes away some of the legitimacy of the author’s arguments, but also provides even more insight into the cyberpunk persona. Even the layout of the website, with its dark tones and programming style is quite interesting. It is obviously appealing to other cyberpunks, making it a very informative piece on cyberpunk culture.

Hacking Summaries

Summary 1

Summary 2

Summary 3

Cyberpunk Stuff

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Japan (NSFW)