The Hacktivist – Screening & Discussion at the Hackspace Manchester

Estimated reading time: 1-2 min.

On the 18th of November of 2022, a group of people met at the Hackspace Manchester for watching and discussing The Hacktivist, an award-winning documentary about users’ rights to own and use their technology autonomously.

The questions proposed before watching the documentary were:

  1. Do we have the right of knowing how our technological devices work?
  2. Is the business model of big corporations ethical?
  3. Is hacking a valid way of presenting an alternative to it?

The documentary inspired us to talk about the following topics:

Levels of Technical Literacy (related with question 1)

The documentary mentions the idea of being able to understand how a technological device actually works without it being a leap of faith.

  • Who has the capacity for understanding how a device works as Bunnie did with the X-box? Not every individual has this capacity, but the information should be available for us as a society.
  • Some level of abstraction is good for regular (non-technical) users.
  • How can we instill curiosity in users?

Understanding the Tech economy (related with question 2)

  • When creating a new product or service, research and development should be rewarded. Are developers being rewarded if their work adds value to society?
  • In proprietary Software, users normally pay for using a tool that is licensed in order to get an executable version of the tool that can run in their devices. They can build a whole business around this tool just paying for the license, but this model presents some problems:
    • Can users know how it really works or if it does what it says it does?
      • Is SaaS a solution, as it presents a scenario where the code is not executed in the user’s device?
    • The owners of the tool can change the conditions at any moment, which can cause disruption on the activities that depend on it.
      • Should every Photoshop user own the code of their own Photoshop instance?
      • Should it be public domain?
    • Is choosing a technological tool a consented act? Do we have easy access to alternatives?

Understanding Tech policies (related with question 3)

  • Is the DMCA protecting users as well as big companies?
  • Do regulations stop products emerging?
  • Have regulations make it easier for people to organise around hacking? Is the role of Hackers in society?

Thanks to everybody who contributed to the event and hopefully see you in the next one!

Do you want to host a screening of The Hacktivist? Is there another documentary that you would like to watch and comment with other people? Do you have any comments about the questions proposed here?

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