Book Review: Barefoot into Cyberspace by Becky Hogge
‘Barefoot into Cyberspace’ is an inspiring historical read that interweaves two journalistic narratives side-by-side to show the reader the very real battles ongoing for our right to freedom on the Web. In my opinion the book’s achievement is that it makes the hidden battles we are undergoing for freedom in cyberspace explicit and has ignited my concern for our rights as humans on the Web once again.
The feel of this book as you read it is as a hard hitting documentary where a journalist has managed to hide out with rebel freedom fighters and survived long enough to bring this story back to the world to expose the real injustices that we are experiencing right now (the most obvious example being the continuous lies that the news corps tell us). The book asks its reader a very serious question: are you a hacker (even though you don’t know it) and if so are you going to fight for your right for freedom on the Web?
The author, Becky Hogge composes her book with two intertwined melodies, the primary motif of the story is about Wikileaks and its founders who -like many web start ups- experienced a meteoric rise to infamy over a two year period culminating in the Iraq war logs being released and the crackdown by the US government by any means possible to stop its leader: Julian Assange. This story is told with firsthand knowledge of the scenario and in such a way that it is personal and believable, and most certainly not a version you’ll find in one of Murdoch’s information empires (NB reading this book is in itself an act of hacking!).
The second leitmotif of the story (and the reason why I am strongly recommending this book) is a pseudo historical perspective of the “hacker” movement and how its roots can be traced back to the 1970’s Hippy communes inspired by freedom, peace and love (the sub-title of this book is ‘Adventures in search of techno-Utopia’).
While these historical links at times feel somewhat tenuous, they are inspiring and more importantly they are contemplative. This is the part of the book that touched me personally and made me start to think about the right we have to freedom on the Web. And indeed this post is a plea for other readers to read this book and turn around to request more on this topic by Beck hogge. I think the hacker movement needs more stories and histories arguing the trajectory and meaning of the hacker movement and why ‘the hacking culture’ is more than just about “getting free stuff” (NB though again reading this book is a self reflective example of hacking as you get the book free, but then once you read it there is more to reading this than it just being free – see my second post on how I “paid” for this book).
For me, this book has reminded me that “the hacker” is yet to be defined, and indeed many more of us are “hackers” than we know. “Hackers” who may or may not write code but none the less are looking for understanding to the radically changing world in which we live. The hacker world is driven by information and most importantly finding the knowledge needles in the information haystack. In a world where everyone is information overloaded the hacker movement is the definitive effort to combat the information being shoved down our throats. Hackers want to search for the real stories and complex truths, beyond black and white newspapers (and we aren’t afraid to deconstruct those truths to find more truths).
In summary, read the book and start looking into your rights on the Web. At first it might just be getting something for free but as you follow that path down into the rabbit warren you might find the hacker within you. See you at the next barcamp ;-)