SNP’s word of the day: Hacker

Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Word: Hacker

Meaning: Someone who uses computers and technology to gain unlawful access to data; someone who uses that access to mess with the digital world.

Usage: “Computer hackers are frequently denigrated as mere digital pranksters. But some are now finding they have the power to change the world for good” — from the dek of a Guardian piece by The Revolution Will Be Digitised–author, Heather Brooks.

You should know it because: You do, surely, but do you get it? In 2010, Julian Assange was the reader’s choice for TIME’s person of the year; in a reactionarily conservative move, the mag chose instead Mark Zuckerberg (certain readers were doubtless surprised not to see Jesse Eisenberg’s face). This year, TIME picked the Protester. But 2011 was as much the year of the Hacker, and sometimes, the Hacker and the Protester were the very same. Witness the “hacktivism” of Anonymous, the online provocateurs who got down with on-the-ground Occupy movements half the world over. What they accomplished wasn’t so different from the Google CEO–led “social media revolution” of Egypt, although that title tells a half-truth; Facebook was just the facilitator, hardly the origin, of that uprising and those that sprung from it. (That’s a little anti-McLuhan of me to say, but in this case I think the message is not the medium.)

Any day now, David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo comes out. Although this reimagining is unnecessary—the original, Swedish version of the American plane-traveler’s favourite novel is perfectly fine—it will be useful insomuch as it inspires lots of movie-goers to reconsider how they view computer hacking. When it’s done by a tattooed, damaged, anemic, and wickedly pretty Rooney Mara in the name of noble revenge, hacking suddenly looks kind of glam.