The Cyberflâneur #29: Bruce Schneier
A selection of books, essays, and academic papers chosen by Bruce Schneier for The Syllabus.
This essay expands on the notion that people should “hack” democracy as a vehicle for change. Peering beyond the buzzwords, a healthier approach to political transformation through technological means “would involve refraining from fetishizing the tools while taking their intrinsically political nature into account along with the question of their design.”
II. Coding Democracy
This book offers an exploration of hackers as both societal disrupters and innovators. Admirably, Webb not only lays out a theoretical case for how hackers can invent “new forms of distributed, decentralized democracy” but she provides a close examination of prominent and productive case studies.
III. Hacking Democracy
This paper looks at systemic weaknesses in democracy, and how they are vulnerable to novel cyber- and information attacks. One of the crisp arguments the authors make is that despite the elevation of cybersecurity “to a public profile and significance never seen before in its quarter-century history…almost no serious commentators were ready to see the much-feared electronic Pearl Harbor in Russia’s election interference” – that ultimately the whole cybersecurity debate was simply “littered with broken ideas”.
A fascinating dialog that centers on how movements such as BLM have hacked traditional race power dynamics and are acting as a force for change… “with an unapologetic Black queer feminist politic led by women-identified, queer, trans*, gender-conforming, working-class folks calling for an end to anti-Black state-sanctioned violence.”
A study of civic hackers who use the Internet to bring about societal change. Schrock views them as “utopian realists involved in the crafting of algorithmic power and discussing ethics of technology design”, who “may be misunderstood because…transgress established boundaries of political participation.”
This paper examines the role of big data and personality profiling in the 2016 US presidential election. Darkly, the author concludes that “the case of Cambridge Analytica deserves our attention because it points to the possibility of a future in which totalitarian institutions have the tremendous capacity to mould the ideas, attitudes and behaviours of an audience captured by its own compulsions.”
An examination of hacking as a series of social experiments on society. The analysis is centered on the case study of ‘the City of the Anthropocene’: Jakarta, Indonesia.
VIII. The Hackable City
A research project in applying the hacking methodology to urban design and evolution, examining whether computer hacking can “have positive parallels in the shaping of the built environment”.
This article explores hacking as a parasitical process that co-opts resources for an alternate purposes. It looks at controversy mapping and reverse engineering as “key methodological devices to grapple with opacity and ‘open the black box’ of digital ecosystems.”
This paper explores conflicts in how hacker perspectives differ from traditional institutional ones. The author concludes that “while hacker culture’s focus on authority through participation has had great traction in business and in public interest science, this may come limit the contribution to knowledge in the public interest – especially knowledge commons.”