So went down to the awesome E Street Cinema with @sassysbgal and The Boy Who Is Not On Twitter to a showing of the classic cyber-film "Hackers" starring a young Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller (dude, that laptop is SCREAMING with a 28.8 BPS modem!!).
It was cool and nostalgic and I love it when Miller and Jolie were tossing out "PCI Bus" and "RISC" like they were deeply meaningful.
@FutureTenseNow was ther organizer and @zephoria was kinda like the special guest star - danah was also nice enough to take some questions afterward and one was from someone who asked if she thouht that the term "hacker" could ever be reclaimed and reconditioned to have some meaning, if not benign then at least a little more nuanced than what we have now. I didn't get a chance to answer that question but here is what I was thinking.....
No. Not happening. Not anytime soon and here is why...the denigration of the term hacker has to be placed along a spectrum that I'd argue, started with Pearl Harbor, was amplified by the atomic bomb, was cooked into our national psyche by Vietnam and which was granted horrific status by 9/11. All these points have been hammer blows to the collective American ideal that no matter how hard you hit us, we'll get back up. (Read: Tom Engelhardt's The End of Victory Culture)
Taken together, Pearl Harbor and the US's two atomic attacks, showed that America could be surprised and that if an opponent had atomic weapons...that surprise might not be something we could recover from. Vietnam showed we could be horribly wrong about how to prosecute a war and that we could actually "lose." 9/11 showed that our enemies didn't even need to have atomic weapons any more to do us serious damage.
These have been hammer blows to the American psyche and I think, have permanently done away with our capability to allow room to consider something like hacking to have any kind of innocent, rebellious youth quality. I don't think our considerations of national security have room for that anymore. Its sad. Its a loss. The consequences have just been shown to be too high to have room for much forgiveness. I think 'hacking' is now permanently equated to criminal or terrorist activity. The RIAA and MPAA also bear blame here for making real-life criminals out of 13-year-old girls who have downloaded some songs or a movie.
So I'll keep thinking well of Defcon and Black Hat and wearing my "Got DeCSS?" t-shirt (thx Jon Lech Johansen)...but I don't see a slew of future heroes emerging from the ranks of the l337 haxx0r. I'll hope though and remember, Hack The Planet! ;-)