ANALYSIS OF A SUBCULTURE GROUP: CYBERPUNK by Robert Weir
CyberPunks, the wave of the future. Techno nerds just waiting to damage
and pillage any computer system that is not secure enough. Is this the
CyberPunk? Or is this the false appearance portrayed by the uninformed.
This assignment attempts to portray an unbiased view of the CyberPunk.
Mention the word CyberPunk and immediately these words follow:
Hackers and Internet. CyberPunks are more than this.
CyberPunk has two facets to it. One, the CyberPunk literary genre, and
two, the CyberPunk subculture. It is almost impossible to separate the
two, so I will briefly introduce the literary movement, which gave rise to
the Subculture (or Counter Culture) of the CyberPunk.
1. CyberPunk - The literary Genre
As early as 1948 words like "Cybernetics" (Coined by Norbert Wiener)
and Punk were being used. The word Punk, at the time, was used to signify
a criminal, hence people seeing CyberPunks today as criminals. Between
1948 and 1983, several Science Fiction novels and short stories, such as:
* The Naked Lunch published 1955
* Do Androids Dream of
Electric Sheep published 1968
* K.W. Jeter completes Dr. Adder
* Shockwave Rider published 1975
Come A-Walkin' published 1980
* The Artificial Kid published
All of which were an element in the rise of popularity of the Science
Fiction genre. In 1982 movies such as Blade Runner and Tron
were released, making Science Fiction mainstream, and increasing the
demand for that type of genre. This led to a short story "CyberPunk" by
Bruce Bethke published in Nov. 1983, which is allegedly the first use of
the word CyberPunk. Neuromancer, by William Gibson, published in
1984 is considered by many to be the birth of the CyberPunk Literary
Genre. Gibson, who coined idea's such as "Cyberspace" also went on to
write several other short stories and later (1995) had one of his stories
"Johnny Mnemonic" turned into a film with reasonable success. After
the publishing of Neuromancer many people started associating
themselves with the CyberPunk subculture. They found identity in the
fictional characters portrayed in Gibson's novel. In irony, Gibson, who is
seen as the father of CyberPunk, does not even have e-mail or Internet
Access. His sole use for a Computer is Word Processing.
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2. CyberPunk - The Subculture
CyberPunks, can all be classified into three distinct categories. These
being: (1) Hackers, Crackers and Phreakers; (2) CypherPunks; and (3)
A. Hackers, Crackers and Phreakers
The Hacker, the computer genius who can penetrate systems at will.
Without conscience they aim to destroy, steal and invade information for
their own personal gain, Or so the media portrays the hacker. Where did he
come from? What does he do? Why?
The origins of the Hacker seem to be dated back to the 1960's. The term
hacker was first used by M.I.T students with the development of the
ARPANET, The first Transcontinental, High speed computer network. This
network, which was built by the US defence department, connected
researchers, universities, and defence contractors together and was the
playground for Artificial Intelligence(AI) departments at all
Universities. With this network, hackers from all over the US, and later
with the development of the Internet, all over the world, could come
together and share idea's.
Hacker's do not see themselves as criminal. In fact they have a term
for a Criminal Hacker, namely a Cracker. These are hackers who fully
intend to make profit from their efforts, and can be anyone from the
lonely college student, to the high powered Crime organisations. Ira S.
Winkler in Who are the Hackers? put it like this: "These are
information Warriors of the Future ... pose one of the greatest threats to
world prosperity and security." Phreakers, on the other hand, are
different to Hackers and Crackers. They are completely against the system
and focus on National and International telephone systems. Some are
disgruntled Hackers who thought that their telephone bill was too high,
and some just do it for the fun of it. Phreaking is highly illegal, even
more so than hacking.
A Portrait of a Hacker could be seen like this:
Hackers are usually between the ages of 13 to 30 and fit
into the Youth classification bracket.
Scruffy and intense with a very abstract
No Hacker really fits into the Nerd stereotype. They
dress for function, comfort and minimal maintenance. Clothes tend to be
casual and female hackers tend to wear little or no makeup.
Much Science Fiction(SF), as well as
CyberPunk and specialised Hackers magazines and newsletters.
SF, music, chess, and Role playing games
such as D&D and more recently, Magic: The Gathering. As Christians we
are all fully aware of these types of games and the meanings that they
Hackers will rarely participate in physical activities,
but most who do will tend to do individual sports (Skiing, skating etc.)
and they avoid team sports(Soccer, Rugby, etc.).
Most hackers are college graduates or have self
taught themselves to similar levels. Students most likely to graduate into
Hackerdom are Mathematics, Physics and Computer Studies students.
Thing's Hackers try to avoid
Hackers try to avoid all stupid
people! By this I mean they try to avoid all people who are not on a
similar level or plane.
Busy hackers tend to be the Fast Food type, who simply
grab on the run. This increases their time to hack. They also tend to more
traditional dishes from different cultures.
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Hackers tend to be anti-authoritarian and have their
own unique political view.
Gender and Ethnicity
Hacker's are mostly male, but female
hackers are respected and are treated as equals. In Portrait of J.
Random Hacker it is put like this, "When asked, hackers often ascribe
their culture's gender- and colour-blindness to a positive effect of
text-only network channels, and this is doubtless a powerful influence.
Also, the ties many hackers have to AI research and SF literature may have
helped them to develop an idea of personhood that is inclusive rather than
I found it very interesting that Christianity is
very rare among Hackers. They tend to lean towards Zen Buddhism and to a
lesser degree to Taoism. Often more than one religion is found in a single
Hacker! As described earlier in Other Interests, they play RPG's which
they use to try fulfil their need of acceptance and power. Reaching a
hacker for Christ would probably entail the Incarnation model of ministry.
They tend to avoid those who are not on the same level. This would
probably be easier said than done. Programming ideas would be quite
simple. You could have a Hack the Planet evening! Or you could simply have
programming! A subject that stimulates their thought keeps their
attention. What could be more stimulating than Jesus Christ?
Hackers tend to avoid drugs, but do tend to use
Caffeine in great volume (Coffee!).
Hackers are not the One on One
communication types. They tend to lack interpersonal skills and can write
the language better than speak it.
Hackers are all over the world, but
due to the technical nature of a hacker, there is a large concentration in
First World Countries for example, USA, Japan, and large parts of
Sexual habits of hackers tend to more Counter
Culture than subculture. They are far more open to the Gay and Lesbian
lifestyles, practice open marriage, and tend to live in group house or
Hackers tend to be High
Intelligence, individualistic and Anti - Conformist. They like any subject
than can be intellectually stimulating. Hacker motivation seems to be a
Challenge of what they can do, and how fast can they do it.
Weaknesses of a Hackers Personality
Hackers tend to be
non-emotional and self absorbed. They lack interpersonal skills and have
difficulty communicating how they feel.
"Hackers are more likely to have cats than dogs
(in fact, it is widely said that cats have the hacker nature). Many drive
incredibly decrepit heaps and forget to wash them; richer ones drive
spiffy Porsches and RX-7s and then forget to have them washed. Almost all
hackers have terribly bad handwriting, and often fall into the habit of
block-printing everything like junior draftsmen." As put by Portrait of
J. Random Hackers.
It is important to remember that each person is individual and has
their own value system. Not every hacker is the same. The above
indications are mere guidelines and may stretch to the extreme in some
cases. A persons individual personality dictates their style, and
Hackers, constitute the largest portion of the CyberPunk subculture.
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CypherPunks are people who are hell bent on privacy. Eric Hughes in
A CypherPunks Manifesto says, "We the CypherPunks are dedicated to
building anonymous systems. We are defending our privacy with
cryptography, with anonymous mail forwarding systems, with digital
signatures, and with electronic money." That sentence pretty much sums up
CypherPunks are programmers who write code (Program's) that can encrypt
any number of things, from mail to Electronic money. CypherPunks hate laws
that infringe on peoples privacy, especially laws pertaining to
Encryption. These laws (they say) invade the right to privacy of
information. Is this such a bad thing? Do they deserve the term CyberPunk
(Cyber - Criminal)? I think Not!
I found it interesting that there was a strong correlation between
CyberPunks and Ravers. The main correlation is the fact that rave music is
computer generated. To a large degree Rave has developed into its own
Subculture and I don't think it can be seen as falling under the heading
of CyberPunk. Rave has become for more mainstream than the CyberPunk due
to large media exposure. Due to this fact, I will not discuss Rave in this
CyberPunk to a large degree has become more mainstream in recent years
than in the past. With the rapid development of the Internet, information
has become far more accessible, and has become an easier target for anyone
CyberPunks in general, are viewed as a threat by the mainstream
culture. This is largely due to a lack of knowledge, and an unwillingness
to find out more.
This assignment has just scratched the surface of the CyberPunk
subculture. With the rapid development of technology, CyberPunk could be
seen as one of the most rapidly changing subcultures. New technology is
available everyday, and with the Internet, technology is all over the
world within a few hours. Who knows, this assignment may be old news
before you even read it.
Hughes, Eric. A
Kirtchev, Christian. A
CyberPunk Manifesto, February 1997.
English, Todd. CyberPunk
Shih, Daniel. The
confusion over CyberPunk
Winkler, Ira. Who are the Hackers?
Raymond, Eric. A
brief history of Hackerdom, November 1997.
Brians, Paul. Study
Guide for William Gibson: Neuromancer (1984), May 1997
Unknown Author. "Hackers and Crackers"
Unknown Author. A
Portrait of J Random Hacker
Unknown Author. CyberPunk
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