Hacking Systems, Hacking Values: Interactive Theories For An Interactive World

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Virginia Tech


Langdon Winner's article "Do Artifacts Have Politics?" (1986) has become a classic piece within Science and Technology Studies. While Winner was certainly not the first to consider the inherently political qualities of technology, his article has assumed the role of a touchstone for both supporters and critics of the idea that artifacts embody political and social relationships. In the chapters that follow, I shall try to answer Winner and his critics, by studying a particular technology that I believe to be capable of shedding some much-needed light on the issue. My aim is provide a restatement of Winner's question in the pages that follow, with the hope of getting past such problematic terms as "embodiment" and "encapsulation." My hope is to make the issue itself clearer, so that we can get to the heart of how technology, values, and human beings systematically interact.

I shall utilize in my discussion computer network scanning software. I shall first discuss the background to the question "Do Artifacts Have Politics?" and then describe some of the ethical and political forces alive in the computer security world. Next I shall closely examine two particular pieces of network scanning software and describe their interactions in terms of political and ethical motivations. Finally, I shall use this case study as a basis for a broader discussion of how values may be better conceived in terms of complex interactive systems of human beings and technologies.



philosophy of technology, technological momentum, information security, technology and values