Disability in/and hacking

I have two running projects, one on hackers and the other on patient activism with a focus on psychiatric survivors and chronic lyme disease activists. The later project may seem to have more overt ties with questions of the body and disability, but I would say computer hacking, which is the subject of a course I am teaching this fall is fundamentally tied in with issues of ability and disability as well. Three of the most salient issues are 1) Blindness 2) Autisms/Aspergers 3) Repetitive Stress Injuries

For example, the history of phone phreaking (a variant of hacking where experimentation is focused not on computers but phone systems; it predates hacking as well) is fundamentally intertwined with blindness. Some of the most famous phreakers from the past were blind (and found great comfort and freedom, really a social outlet, in exploring the phone lines and hanging out with other phreakers in party lines). And even today, some of the most (in) famous phreakers are blind, the subject of this recent article on a particularly bold and brash blind phreaker.

Some hackers also are known to have aspergers or autism (some identify with being autistic, others do not) and this sort of trait can lend itself toward computer work. I have heard people informally joke about how the Internet is built by the labor of autistic geeks. And while it is an exaggeration to say that all geeks and hackers have autism, there does seem to be a higher than normal prevalence of autistic like behaviors among this crowd.

Finally, there is what we might call the human-made disability of repetitive stress injury. I know many a hacker who lives in pain or now must avoid typing or who type on really odd keyboard, such as the Maltron to avoid RSI. Hackers are often portrayed as disembodied beings who have Large Mind and Just Think Logical Thoughts but these humans like all humans are encased in bodies who engage in repetitive action, which can and has led to enormous degree of disability and pain in this community.

There is so much more I can say about all three of these nodes and one day I will, especially when I turn to writing about this (I would like to write a piece on hacking and disability) but I merely wanted to introduce the landscape in a post and disturb what I think is a common conception of geeks and hackers: fully abled, one might say supra-abled. In fact, what one sees, especially with the the question of autism, is a range of disabilities, some of which are problems (for the lives of hackers) and others which have obviously have helped build our technological world.

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3 thoughts on “Disability in/and hacking

  1. I am amazed with the liberal and rather glib way you have discussed hacking??????? WHY???

    For the past 8-years, my life has been recorded, tracked, my phone illegally tapped, its microphone illegally activated and EVERY ACTIVITY OF MINE RECORDED BY A MALEVOLENT SOCIOPATH who runs numerous blogs in which he uses my life, for the most part as fodder for his fabricated existence.

    HACKING?:??? PHREAKING???? These are all terms I have learned about from YEARS of investigating into HOW MY PRIVATE PHONE CONVERSATIONS COULD BE DISPLAYED BY SOMEONE IN A CHATROOM AND HOW SOME INDIVIDUAL COULD BOLDLY CLAIM MY LIFE AND HIS AND WITHOUT REMORSE ENGAGE IN THE MOST VICIOUS TYPE OF CYBERCRIMINALITY POSSIBLE, DEPENDING ON THE FLUIDITY OF THE LEGAL SYSTEM TO CONTINUE HIS ACTS.

    I think your article is an outrage.

    HACKING AND FREAKING ARE CRIMES..AND THESE CRIMES ARE THE GROWING 21ST CENTURY THREAT TO INNOCENT WOMEN AND THEIR CHILDREN.

    IT CANNOT AND SHOULD NOT BE MINIMIZED BY THE IMPLICATION THAT SOMEHOW THE DISABLED USE IT AND SO IT IS LESS AN ISSUE?????

    HACKING AND PHONE PHREAKING ARE CRIMES… THE HEALTH OR MENTAL CONDITION OF THE PERPETRATORS ARE NOT THE CRUX OF THE MATTER.

    A CRIME IS A CRIME!!!

  2. I am sorry to hear of your harrassment.

    FYI: that is a cybercrime pure and simple. I suggest you read a little bit about hacking before the huge freak out. Hacking did not always have a negative association and thanks to “hacking” we are discussing our views on Word Press, an open source tool. Thanks to “hacking” we have an alternative to copyright, the copyleft.

    Not all hacking may be legal but most of it is so don’t let the media and others fill your mind with such misleading stereotypes.

    Biella
    Biella

  3. Thanks for your response.

    I do not have stereotypes. I have researched enough to know there are ethical hackers– “The white hats”.. But in my case, this man who illegally wire taps me and has even taken over my previous phone number… did lay claim to being a white hat hacker.

    His websites “Black Female Interracial” and “White men who prefer Black Women” are all bold statements. He is a BLACK MAN OF AFRICAN descent and those blogs among so many others are based entirely on the information he has collected on my life as an Interracially married woman!

    So yes, I am very angry about this violation and psychologically rape of me by this man and therefore unconvinced about the difference in the hackers, phreakers and so on.

    When I meet an ethical one that will help me identify, smoke out and prosecute this man, then I will be less inclined to be skeptical about posts like yours.

    No media stereotypes fuel my belief. I live with a cyberstalker, predator who illegally wiretaps my life.

    When he goes to jail for his crimes, I might be persuaded to see things differently but for now. It is what it is.

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