Networks and network protocols are often seen as sites of control, but extreme connectivity eludes control. Diseases, worms, viruses, these all spread beyond our control because of connectivity — networks — that are beyond our control.
When networks cause problems is it because they work too well, not because they are broken.
“Internet protocols are not running the world. In the end, G. W. Bush is. Not Jon Postel.”
— Geert Lovink
Alex Galloway and Eugene Thacker respond to Lovink’s claim by pitting traditional hierarchies of control against decentralized networks and their protocols of control. That is, a debate regarding “the power relationship between sovereignty and networks.”
Thus begins The Exploit: A Theory of Networks (University of Minnesota Press). Employing theory from the usual suspects (e.g., Foucault, Baudrillard, Virillio, Deleuze, et al.) in unusual ways, they explore the philosophical hacking of networks, eventually suggesting code for a “Liberated Computer Language.”
Speaking of, if you’re more interested in the nuts and bolts of computer programming, hacking, exploitation, code, etc., Hacking: The Art of Exploitation (No Starch Press) is your ticket. This huge compendium of code and strategy (now in its second edition) is the most complete manual I’ve ever seen on basic programming, hacking, protocols, and the intricacies of how code works — at the machine level. Yes, from assembly to command line, Hacking has it all. It even comes with a CD of all the code in the book, as well as a stand-alone Linux OS environment, so you can follow along with the text and get your hack on.
Pulling a totally different kind of hack, Daniel Lyons a.k.a Fake Steve Jobs turned his blog into a book. oPtion$: The Secret Life of Steve Jobs (Da Capo Press) is the exploits of FSJ, in a meticulous, day-to-day parody of one of the most important people in the world of computers and all of his rich, important friends. If you think a caricature as such can’t endure a book-length treatment, think again. Daniel Lyons keeps the charade lively, interesting, and hilarious all the way through. Even Steve Jobs himself said it’s, “pretty funny.”
Whether it’s at the level of theory, ones and zeros, or identity politics, we all need to find opportunities to become hackers on some level. These three books hold solid examples of hacking the system(s) at all levels.
Also suggested are A Hacker Manifesto by McKenzie Wark, Jamming the Media by Gareth Branwyn, Dark Fiber by Geert Lovink, Pranks and Pranks 2 edited by V. Vale, and T.A.Z.: Temporary Autonomous Zone by Hakim Bey.
What hacker texts do you suggest?
I marshal the middle between Mathers and McLuhan.
Editor of Boogie Down Predictions (Strange Attractor, 2022), author of Escape Philosophy (punctum, 2022) and Dead Precedents (Repeater, 2019).