Himanen (2001, 75-76) on the ‘Net Academy’:
It is a continuously evolving learning environment created by the learners themselves. The learning model adopted by hackers has many advantages. In the hacker world, the teachers or assemblers of information sources are often those who have just learned something.
… this hacker model resembles Plato’s Academy, where students were not regarded as targets for knowledge transmission but were referred to as companions in learning (synetheis). In the Academy’s view, the central task of teaching was to strengthen the learners’ ability to pose problems, develop lines of thought, and present criticism. As a result, the teacher was metaphorically referred to as a midwife, a matchmaker, and a master of ceremonies at banquets. It was not the teacher’s task to inculcate the students with pre-established knowledge but to help them give birth to things from their own starting points.
It is ironic that
the current academy tends to model its learning structure on the monastic sender-receiver model. The irony is usually only amplified when the academy starts to build a ‘virtual university’: the result is a computerised monastery school.
An article I wrote with Mike Neary for the Guardian was published last week. It relates to my recent note about Hacking as an Academic Practice and is part of a longer journal article that I’m hoping to have finished by the end of the year about the importance of university culture to the history of hacking.
The publication of the article was nicely timed to coincide with DevXS, the national student developer conference we’re hosting next month. Last week there was a surge of registrations and we’re now fully booked. It should be a great event.
Hackers are vital to the university culture of openness and innovation
Have you noticed anything missing from the ongoing phone hacking scandal involving the News of the World? There are no hackers involved. This is the latest example of hacking’s troubled history with the mainstream media, which confuses the “playful cleverness” of expert computer programmers with the malicious meddling of computer crackers and criminal journalists. With this confusion, the rich and fruitful history of the true hackers is diminished and a thriving intellectual culture focused on problem solving, self-directed learning and the free exchange of knowledge is undermined.
Much has been written about hackers and hacking, but rarely is it contextualised as part of the scholarly tradition. Yet careful reading of the history of hacking reveals that it is very much a part of the work and values of universities and that the hacker ethic is shared, in part at least, by most academics working today.