The Cyberflâneur #29: Bruce Schneier

Bruce Schneier is a world-leading cryptographer, security and privacy technologist, and a writer. Bruce is also a fellow at the Berkman Center at Harvard, and a program fellow at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute.

At a time when technology is yet again being touted as the panacea to our problems, Bruce’s superb selections from our stacks offer not only a richer and more nuanced take but also one that shifts the locus of action to the citizens as opposed to the tech titans. You’ll find pieces with punchy titles such as “Citizen Hacker” and the “Hackable City” as well as especially timely contributions such as the paper on how Black Lives Matter has “hacked traditional race power dynamics”.

For Bruce’s Twitter and bio.

~ Evgeny Morozov

A talk given by Bruce at the RSA Conference on “Hacking Society”

Bruce’s Selections

I.

Citizen Hacker

This essay expands on the notion that people should “hack” democracy as a vehicle for change. Peering beyond the buzzwords, a healthier approach to political transformation through technological means “would involve refraining from fetishizing the tools while taking their intrinsically political nature into account along with the question of their design.”


II.

Coding Democracy

This book offers an exploration of hackers as both societal disrupters and innovators. Admirably, Webb not only lays out a theoretical case for how hackers can invent “new forms of distributed, decentralized democracy” but she provides a close examination of prominent and productive case studies.


III.

Hacking Democracy

This paper looks at systemic weaknesses in democracy, and how they are vulnerable to novel cyber- and information attacks. One of the crisp arguments the authors make is that despite the elevation of cybersecurity “to a public profile and significance never seen before in its quarter-century history…almost no serious commentators were ready to see the much-feared electronic Pearl Harbor in Russia’s election interference” – that ultimately the whole cybersecurity debate was simply “littered with broken ideas”.


IV.

Cracking the Codes of Black Power Struggles

A fascinating dialog that centers on how movements such as BLM have hacked traditional race power dynamics and are acting as a force for change… “with an unapologetic Black queer feminist politic led by women-identified, queer, trans*, gender-conforming, working-class folks calling for an end to anti-Black state-sanctioned violence.”


V.

Civic Hacking as Data Activism

A study of civic hackers who use the Internet to bring about societal change. Schrock views them as “utopian realists involved in the crafting of algorithmic power and discussing ethics of technology design”, who “may be misunderstood because…transgress established boundaries of political participation.”


VI.

Hacking the Citizenry

This paper examines the role of big data and personality profiling in the 2016 US presidential election. Darkly, the author concludes that “the case of Cambridge Analytica deserves our attention because it points to the possibility of a future in which totalitarian institutions have the tremendous capacity to mould the ideas, attitudes and behaviours of an audience captured by its own compulsions.”


VII.

Securing the Anthropocene?

An examination of hacking as a series of social experiments on society. The analysis is centered on the case study of ‘the City of the Anthropocene’: Jakarta, Indonesia.


VIII.

The Hackable City

A research project in applying the hacking methodology to urban design and evolution, examining whether computer hacking can “have positive parallels in the shaping of the built environment”.


IX.

Acts of Digital Parasitism

This article explores hacking as a parasitical process that co-opts resources for an alternate purposes. It looks at controversy mapping and reverse engineering as “key methodological devices to grapple with opacity and ‘open the black box’ of digital ecosystems.”

X.

Hacking in the Public Interest

This paper explores conflicts in how hacker perspectives differ from traditional institutional ones. The author concludes that “while hacker culture’s focus on authority through participation has had great traction in business and in public interest science, this may come limit the contribution to knowledge in the public interest – especially knowledge commons.”


More by Bruce Schneier – from our Stacks

Our archive of high-quality content across text, video and audio – our “Living Syllabus” as we call it – has already reached over 20,000 items and grows larger every week.

Here are some recent pieces by or featuring Bruce from those archives:

Other Cyberflâneurs

We’ve featured many fantastic individuals in this series: artists, musicians, academics, writers, journalists, politicians, and more. To see the full list and browse their selections, head over here.

A handful of our contributors so far:

 

  • Kaiser Kuo – Writer, Musician, Podcaster
  • Li Andersson – Finland’s Minister of Education and the Chairperson of the Left Alliance party
  • Ivan Krastev – Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Fellow at the Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna
  • Fabrizio Barca – Italian Politician, founder of Forum on Inequality and Diversity

More About our Cyberflâneur Series

To learn more about how this particularly eclectic edition of our syllabi works, head over here. Note that if you subscribe to any of our weekly syllabi, we’ll keep you posted on our latest cyberflâneurs too. Our subscribers also get a monthly Highlights From the Cyberflâneur edition.

If you’d like to propose a candidate for this series, please use this simple form.

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