“Whatever code we hack, be it programming language, poetic language, math or music, curves or colourings, we create the possibility of new things entering the world. Not always great things, or even good things, but new things.”
Do you ever feel like everything you own — your beliefs, your personality, your taste, your sexual orientation and so on — could be capitalized into brand-awareness campaigns? In today’s world, there’s merely any distinction between cultural products and marketing strategies. Nothing is free anymore, neither are we. We’re all data, and we’re all on sale. Is there a way out? Well, there could be one… becoming hackers! Media theorist Mckenzie Wark has been working on a new definition of the class system since her 2004 book A Hacker Manifesto, a homage to Marx and Engel’s Communist Manifesto.
“A double spooking the world, the double of abstraction”
Wark started theorizing this concepts in the early days of the web when, as she states, “No one knew how to make a business out of the internet”
In McKenzie Wark’s vision, hacking means building previously unrealized relationships between thoughts and things, creating new spaces of possibility. In the conversation we had, she talked about the Internet, at its beginnings, as a space to practice an “abstract collective gift culture”. The concept of gift is fundamental to open up alternative scenarios in which the mutual exchange between individuals is opposed to a system of commodified information, in which everything is seen as a source of revenue.
After her rendition of Marx’s manifesto, Wark remixed the famous Nietzsche quote “god is dead” in her 2019 book Capital is dead, an updated version of the line of analysis of A Hacker Manifesto. We live in a world that’s not capitalistic anymore, but something worse: a world dominated by the vectorialist class, the people who own all data chains and information about us. Here on the internet, for example, everything we use is actually using us, if something is free, it’s because we are the goods, we are for sale. Everything we do can be used and sold by those who own the power, even our activism. It seems suffocating, so I asked prof. Wark if she thinks the only way out is going to live on the mountains with no wi-fi reception or if there are maybe some other collective practices we can cultivate to escape the system.
“The zone of conflict moved to a more abstract level, from data to metadata. But what endures is the challenge of meshing cultural and technical kinds of hacking to create and recreate the possibility that there can be a world.”