Hackers: Crime in the Digital Sublime

Hackers: Crime in the Digital Sublime

Hackers: Crime in the Digital Sublime

Hackers: Crime in the Digital Sublime


The practice of computer hacking is increasingly being viewed as a major security dilemma in Western societies, by governments and security experts alike. Using a wealth of material taken from interviews with a wide range of interested parties such as computer scientists, security experts and hackers themselves, Paul Taylor provides a uniquely revealing and richly sourced account of the debates that surround this controversial practice. By doing so, he reveals the dangers inherent in the extremes of conciliation and antagonism with which society reacts to hacking and argues that a new middle way must be found if we are to make the most of society's high-tech meddlers.


Seldom is there an integrated socio-technical approach to the computer crime problem… We need to establish where the social and psychological lines are drawn between normal and deviant, between allowed and disallowed, between expected and unexpected, between wanted and unwanted.

(Sherizen 1992:40)

The English novelist and scientist, C.P. Snow, once famously observed that: ‘The intellectual life of the whole of western society is increasingly being split into two polar groups.—Literary intellectuals at one pole—at the other scientists…. Between the two a gulf of mutual incomprehension.’ I believe a similar gulf of mutual incomprehension exists between the computer underground and its adversaries, an incomprehension that is consistently exacerbated by the sensationalising tendencies of the modern media. This book is written in order to understand better the exact nature of the gulf by closely examining the dynamics of the vociferous disagreements it brings forth.

Background to interview material: hacking culture—the gossamer network

instead of being able to base our theories on adequate knowledge of the phenomenon we are trying to explain. It is as though we tried, as anthropologists once had to do, to construct a description of the initiation rites of some remote African tribe from the scattered and incomplete accounts of a few missionaries.

(Becker 1963:166)

The primary research material for this study is based upon a combination of face-to-face interviews I conducted in the UK and the Netherlands between 1990 and 1993 and email-based interviews carried out from 1989-98 on a world-wide basis. The interviews were undertaken with three main groups: hackers; computer scientists; and computer security practitioners. Within the work as a whole I have endeavoured to obtain a healthy mix of both well-known

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.