Federico Mazzini will join us to present:
"Hams, phreaks, hackers: a genealogy of participatory cultures in the XX century"
Hacking and what H. Jenkins called “participatory cultures” are often seen as recent phenomena, born with the diffusion of personal computers in the 1980s and the commercialization of the Internet in the 1990s. This paper will show that many aspects of what is now called “hacker culture” (its hands-on approach, its recruitment and collaboration practices, its sociability, its gender, social and age composition and even its humor and political stance) are to be found in technology enthusiasts’ communities well before the “digital revolution”. In particular the paper will compare what we know today of hacker and maker cultures with two other “technical cultures” (K. Haring): radio enthusiasts (hams) at the beginning of the XX century, as they appear from U.S. popularization magazines, and phone enthusiasts (phreaks) in the 60s and 70s, studied through their fanzines and newsletters. The paper will then suggest a long-period genealogy of hacker and participatory cultures and it will argue that the ideas of free-of-charge, anonymous participation in a collective technological endeavor and grass-root creation of specialized knowledge were not born with the Open Source, Wikipedia or Maker movements, but are a long-standing part of the relationship between end-users and consumer technology in the Anglo-Saxon world.
Federico Mazzini teaches Digital History at the University of Padova and is coordinator of the Digital Laboratory for Mobility Research (MOBILAB) at the same university. He researched the cultural history of World War One through popular writings, with a focus on the peasant experience of the trenches. His research was published as a monograph (“Cose de laltro mondo. Una cultura di guerra attraverso la scrittura popolare trentina”) in 2013. He subsequently wrote about the history of technoscientific mass popularization during World War One (“Una guerra di meraviglie?”, 2018) and technical cultures (phreakers and hackers in particular) in the 20th century. His varied works and interests are linked together by the interest in textual and rhetorical strategies as access points to cultural representations.