RISC architecture is gonna change everything.
January 13, 2006 2:22 AM   Subscribe

Cyberpunk, hacker culture, BBSs and alt.2600 newsgroups... have they really all gone? Is it really all virus breeders and script kiddies now? What has happened to the cyberpunk movement - I keep reading it has died and post-cyberpunk doesn't seem to be doing much. What is the current counterculture on the net? Please don't tell me it's goths weeping on their keyboards?

Extended question: can you point me at some ezines like New World Disorder, Neofiles, Mindjack? Active ones, that is. Please?
posted by Skyanth to Society & Culture (12 answers total)
The Demoscene is still active, and I consider that to be counter-culture (or subculture at least) revolved around hacking, optimising, creativity, code and socialising.

I personally run the UK's only Demoscene party - the last one being Sundown 2005 and had around 35 visitors stay from Friday until Sunday, complete with competitions and a good amount of productions.

As far as other alternative "digital" cultures, IRC is very much where it's at, even still - it just may take some time to find your niche.

If hacking is your thing, you'd do worse than to check out the hacker conferences like Defcon or H2K2 and rub shoulders.

A fair amount of newsgroups have moved onto web forums because of the flexibility and accessibility - at the same time making it more easy for the l337 crowd to take advantage.

It certainly is still out there, but it's manifested itself differently these days. Bear in mind, a lot of old hackers ended up getting married or getting girlfriends. Or they got World of Warcraft. ;)

Good luck finding a clique. :)
posted by rc55 at 2:37 AM on January 13, 2006

DefCon, ShmooCon (this weekend), 2600 Meetings and the like keep hackers old and new connected.
posted by falconred at 2:59 AM on January 13, 2006

Hardware and devices seem pretty vibrant at the moment (PSP, X-Box, Tivo, etc).

I've heard it said that phone phreaking is on an upswing off the back of Asterisk and VoIP.
posted by Leon at 5:04 AM on January 13, 2006

If you're also referring to the Cyberpunk literature movement, I can tell you from personal experience that it died a horrible and awful death, and the only evidence that you can find of dystopic near-future ubicomputing stories are in derivative works of neophyte writers whose publishers recently watched Johnny Mnemonic and thought it was "just as good" as The Matrix.

Some of the old guard is still around: Gibson wrote something in the last 5 years (although I failed to find the motivation to read beyond the book cover), and Neal Stephenson is still writing. Stephenson has taken a turn for the literary epic, however, and has walked far afield of his previous Cyberpunk novels (namely: Snow Crash and the like). If you find yourself picking up one of the 2 novels that credit Stephenson as co-author, drop the book and back slowly away. I can only figure that the actual author once met Neal at a dinner party and found something by which he could effectively blackmail him into getting a co-author credit.
posted by thanotopsis at 5:42 AM on January 13, 2006

By and large, I'd say hacker culture has won a large part of the ideological struggle they were engaged in: computers belong to the people now. There are of course problems -- DRM, locked devices like the PSP, etc., etc. But the opinion that, e.g., "DRM is fundamentally wrong because it denies the user their rights" is pretty widespread -- not as much as it should be, but certainly not confined to some hacker subculture.

IMO that's the victory that they had: the notion that disclosure (of bugs/weaknesses in locks/etc.) is good, that software should be open and tweakable (standards, Linux), that in general knowledge is a good thing and should be shared, and the like, are far more accepted these days. Slashdot, boingboing, metafilter and other major web biggies continue to spread these ideas, but the battle for the hearts and minds of the nettelligentia have been won.

(I'll respectfully disagree with thanotopsis' opinion on the "Stephen Bury" books. _Interface_, in particular, I found horrifying/hilarious. I believe his co-author was his uncle or something.)
posted by cps at 6:13 AM on January 13, 2006

For writings by hacker-types who've grown up, let me suggest Need to Know zine. They're British and have been involved in efforts such as faxyourmp and battling UK/Euro privacy encroachment, ID cards and DRM laws. Same struggle, higher level.
posted by cps at 6:24 AM on January 13, 2006

that in general knowledge is a good thing and should be shared, and the like, are far more accepted these days. Slashdot, boingboing, metafilter and other major web biggies continue to spread these ideas

Which explains why the first answer on AskMe is always "hire a professional".

I do sympathize with what your saying, and certainly the existence of free software and open information is critical.

There is a lot going on out there...
posted by Chuckles at 6:30 AM on January 13, 2006

Besides everything everyone else mentioned, there are also Makers, circuit benders, hack-a-day types, home automators, folks who run Linux on toasters, etc. (That said, I'm not sure whether these people are cyberpunks or former cyberpunks or fellow travelers or what. Frankly, I don't think I've ever been 100% clear on what 'cyberpunk' means.)
posted by box at 6:38 AM on January 13, 2006

Wardriving, yo. There's a plethora of software, tools, hardware, antennas, computers, chipsets, mods to your car, places to wardrive in, gps devices, and other fun things to dick with. netstumbler.org has some pretty decent forums.
posted by cellphone at 9:40 AM on January 13, 2006

cellphone, are you trying to say that all the hackers are now living out of their cars?
posted by rxrfrx at 10:00 AM on January 13, 2006

The weird have turned pro. How many of the 80s hackers are now in managerial positions at software firms?

Exactly. I can't tell you how many times I've bonded with my fellow white-collar engineers by quietly sharing stories of our nerdy teenaged exploits phreaking and hacking. The folks who grew up on 2600 are now building the Internet and getting paid well for it.

The real question is what's the new movement for young geeks. I don't think it's the net; for the hacker-type kids I know who are 12-20 the Internet is kind of boring and commonplace.
posted by Nelson at 10:29 AM on January 13, 2006

billy idol has released a new album last year which was suprisingly cool (yep, this is ontopic)
posted by suni at 10:14 PM on January 13, 2006

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