Cover image for Hacker culture
Hacker culture
Thomas, Douglas, 1966-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xxvii, 266 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QA76.9.M65 T456 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In a balanced treatment, Thomas (communication, U. of Southern California) traces the evolution of the hacking subculture over the generations and mainstream culture's projection of anxieties over computer technology onto them. He provides a reading of how the computer underground is represented in the electronic Phrack journal; examines non-hacker online youth culture; and discusses laws and cases regarding hacking. Includes photos of hackers and other visuals. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Author Notes

Douglas Thomas is associate professor in the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Silently navigating the virtual corridors of the global telecom networks, peeking into restricted files and generally causing mischief, hackers are the tricksters of the digital age. But although Hollywood and the publishing industry have long been fascinated by these technosneaks, they've nearly always overestimated hackers' malicious intents and technical abilities, argues Thomas, a professor at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication. He attempts to set things right, steering a middle course between the alarmists, who perceive hackers as suburban terrorists of the new century, and the apologists, who want to see them as brave revolutionaries against a corporate/government assault on personal liberties. With a real affinity for his subject, Thomas uses hacker publications like 2600 and Phrack for most of his research, instead of the all-too-common procession of online security experts doing their best Chicken Little impersonations. Thomas avoids another trap of this genre by not letting hackers the publicity-loving, self-aggrandizing ones spout off at length about their skills and achievements. He presents a sober but sympathetic analysis, maintaining that, more often than not, hackers are simply playing around, testing a system's security just to see if it's sound: "[They] see themselves as educators about issues of security, fulfilling the same function as Consumer Reports." Though Thomas may rely too heavily on that old academic touchstone, Foucault, he has produced an intelligent and approachable book on one of the most widely discussed and least understood subcultures in recent decades. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Thomas (Univ. of Southern California; Cybercrime) traces the history and origin of hacker culture within mainstream society, the computer industry, and the media. In the first of the book's three parts, he describes the evolution of the hacker and the emergence of hacker culture, also discussing how films like War Games, Sneakers, The Net, and Hackers helped mythologize the image. Part 2 focuses on how hackers have been represented in the media, both within their own culture and to the outside world. Thomas also discusses publications such as 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, which provides insight into the political and social agendas of hacker culture, as well as the publication Phrack, which he contends has its finger on the pulse of hacker culture. In the last part, Thomas provides a judicial discourse on how hackers are defined legally and concludes by examining the cases of two hackers, Kevin Mitnick and Chris Lamprecht, who were prosecuted for their activities. Thomas effectively argues that the popular image of the hacker reflects more the public's anxieties about technology than the reality of hacking. Addressing general audiences in a readable, engaging style, his book would be of interest to students of communication and journalism. Recommended for public and academic libraries. Joe Accardi, William Rainey Harper Coll. Lib., Palatine, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Thomas (Annenberg School of Communications, Univ. of Southern California) provides an in-depth history of the fascinating computer hacker subculture, explaining, for example, both who hackers are and how mainstream culture sees them. There are three parts to the book; the first traces the history and origins of hacker culture from the old school college-age hackers of the 1960s and 1970s to the younger new school hackers of the 1980s and 1990s. The second examines the relationship of hacker culture to mainstream contemporary culture. Finally, the third explores how hackers are defined both popularly and legally in terms of criminality. This is an interesting and compelling account of the major role hackers have played in the short history of computers and the digital culture. General readers; upper-division undergraduates through professionals. C. Tappert Pace University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introductionp. ix
Part I. The Evolution of the Hackerp. 1
1. Hacking Culturep. 5
2. Hacking as the Performance of Technology: Reading the "Hacker Manifesto"p. 47
3. Hacking in the 1990sp. 81
Part II. Hacking Representationp. 111
4. Representing Hacker Culture: Reading Phrackp. 115
5. (Not) Hackers: Subculture, Style, and Media Incorporationp. 141
Part III. Hacking Lawp. 173
6. Technology and Punishment: The Juridical Construction of the Hackerp. 177
Epilogue: Kevin Mitnick and Chris Lamprechtp. 220
Notesp. 239
Indexp. 251