For those of you who weren’t aware, hackers weren’t always the keyboard warriors that you think of today. The first hacker was not Neo. It was a guy who was a fantastic whistler. It started with people experimenting with the first automated telephone switchboards and the way they received data. Gabriella Coleman attributes the birth of this phreaking to Joe Engressia who worked out at a young age whistling at certain frequencies would disconnect the line. He was televised and inspired others to experiment with their own devices (2012).
These people were curious about how their technology worked and the modern hackers started off the same, they were probing the depths of their new toys and enjoy breaking things apart to to piece them together and see how they work.
In class we were discussing this topic and it became apparent from the presentations that hackers have evolved into trolls. Trolls, the unsavory name for those who see themselves as online pranksters, became synonymous with hackers. Hackers use their greater than average access to systems to play pranks and antogonise others. There’s also been people connecting hackers and trolls together with Anonymous, the organisation that fights for the internet and information freedom. But are they really trolls?
Trolls do thing because they are funny. They do things “for the lulz” (Coleman, 2014), just because they are funny and find the results entertaining. Trolls serve their own sense of humour first and as I said above, hackers are more concerned with exploring things and finding how they work and maybe exploiting things for personal benefit.
Now it’s a little blurry who’s doing what. If Anonymous are breaking into government websites and changing them to spread their own political message, which group do they fall under? Are they hackers, looking into the system and fiddling with it or are they trolls, doing it because they think it’s fun and it antagonises their target?
The distinction isn’t clear by an stretch but I think any individual could fall on a spectrum. If we had trolls and one end and hackers at the other, an individual could lean more to one side of the other but it’s nearly impossible to make a clean distinction.