Sub- and Countercultures of Computer Usage since the 1970s

PhD project

In addition to governmental, military and economic interests, there have been sub- and countercultures dealing with the new medium since the beginnings of computer usage. In particular the hackers, but also players, pursued their own practices with regard to computers and formed networks. Thus, they shaped the discourse and practices related to computers. These cultural practices and their impact on the daily-life application of computers since the 1970s in Germany will be developed in this PhD project.

The primary focus of research is on the hackers. Hackers are individuals who, for example, generated utopias of societies based on the new technology. In addition, they warn of the misuse of private data. Narrowing down the regional focus of research to Germany, it will be explored what role hackers assumed in the formation of modern societies and in computerisation, as well as how they fit into the field of new social movements.

Public actions as well as the everyday use of computers, and hence the hackers' self-understanding, will be examined more closely. The actions and the organisation of hackers can be seen in the context of the movements and the alternative milieu evolving in the 1970s and 1980s in Germany. Another topic of interest requiring further investigation is how the hacker movement developed at the interface of the aforementioned groups, as well as in relation to governmental and economic institutions. At the same time, hackers interacted with the players and the so-called crackers, who also developed their own habits concerning computers.

On the basis of its identified structures and origins, the subject is genuinely transnational. As such, the topic can be studied in greater depth as an analysis of cross-border exchange, whilst a commitment to social and political events on the part of a ‘networked’ world can be elaborated on. The national framework offers the possibility to comparatively establish the various objectives and procedures of a transnational phenomenon in its specific context.

Part of the SAW project ‘Departure towards the Digital Society: Computerisation and Social Regimes in West and East Germany

Julia Gül Erdogan

Centre for Contemporary History
Am Neuen Markt 1
14467 Potsdam

Office: Am Neuen Markt 9d, room 1.06
Phone: 0331/74510-119
Fax: 0331/74510-143

Email: erdogan [at] zzf-potsdam.de

Forschung