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Repurposing the hacker: Three cycles of recuperation in the evolution of hacking and capitalism

Journal article
Authors Alessandro Delfanti
Johan Söderberg
Published in Ephemera : Theory and Politics in Organization
Volume 18
Issue 3
Pages 457- 476
ISSN 2052-1499
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science
Pages 457- 476
Language en
Keywords hacking, capitalism, innovation, technology, recuperation
Subject categories Media and Communications, Sociology, Communication Studies


The spread of hacking to new fields brings with it a renewed necessity to analyse its significance in relation to industrial and institutional innovation. We sketch out a framework drawing on the idea of ‘recuperation’ and use it to situate an emerging body of work on hackers. By adopting the concept of recuperation, we highlight how hacker practices and innovations are adopted, adapted and repurposed by corporate and political actors. In other words, hacking itself is being hacked. We suggest three cycles within which this dynamics unfolds and can be studied: 1) the life cycle of an individual technology or community, 2) the co-evolution of hacker movements and relevant industries or institutions, 3) the position of hacking within the ‘spirit of the times’, or, differently put, the periodic transformations of capitalism.

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