The Ethic of the Code: Values, Networks and Narrative Among the Civic Hacking Community

Haywood, Douglas. 2018. The Ethic of the Code: Values, Networks and Narrative Among the Civic Hacking Community. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Computer hacking has come to represent something negative within mainstream society and is typically associated with malicious or criminal acts. However, for those involved in hacking, this practice typically means something quite different and much more positive in nature. Recently, hacking has also gained increasing popular appeal with greater interest in the role of hackers in the history of technology. This portrayal, however, represents hacking in a binary way, portraying the activity as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ rather than as the reality of a complex and heterogeneous set of practices and ethics. It is within this context that the Civic Hacking movement has emerged. Those involved in Civic Hacking apply these ethics on a global and local scale to create projects which aim to solve a range of social problems using technology and borrowing from the approaches and practices of hacking. These ‘problems’ can include crime; violence; humanitarian disasters such as tsunamis, famine or earthquake; improvements needed to local government in terms of the democratic process or infrastructure; providing access to healthcare, education or banking in remote areas; involving local communities in issues and a range of other challenges which require solutions. This research project explores hacking as a non-technologically specific social practice based around a collection of Hacker Ethics. Through research focusing on hacking events, I argue that Civic Hacking is indicative of the influence of the Hacker Ethic in wider areas of society. In particular, I explore how Civic Hacking is situated within the wider history of hacking; to what extent the technological artefacts produced by Civic Hacking are shaped by the ethics of these groups; whether Civic Hacking is indicative of a democratisation of technologies; and the types of communities which form around Civic Hacking.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Hacking, hackers, ethic, sociology, ethnography, network society, social shaping of technology, narrative, social network analysis, science and technology studies, software studies, civic, humanitarian, cybercrime, hacktivism

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



30 April 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

18 May 2018 09:30

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 14:12


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