Why Hacking is an Activity that Relates Individuals to Systems…
Hacking, as a metaphor, refers to the behavior of an individual seeking to exploit weaknesses in systems for the purposes of transformation. A computer hacker, for instance, tinkers with computer systems–finding and fixing bugs, or flaws in the system design. When participating in this activity, one uses a hacker name. In the context of a surveillance culture, the practice of using a name that is not one’s government issued-identity undermines this system. Even though nearly all Internet and smartphone users cannot escape the grasp of the NSA’s expansive spying programs, or countless data mining companies that are able to track digital footprints, the decision to utilize a different name responds directly to personal anxieties over defamation. Most people are aware of the fact that their communication is a demonstration of character that could be held against them legally, socially, politically, and economically. Thus, a hacker name, similar to an alter-ego, stage name, drag name, stripper name, nickname, screenname, username, handle, and login ID is a sign of performance. Such alternative identities are driven by decision-making that tells a story that relates the name to an entity’s history, and perhaps, their tendency to make a particular history or accomplish some specific purpose(s).
I am Jane Nova…
Jane Nova is my hacker name. Although it may seem to defeat the purpose of a hacker name (to attain a greater level of anonymity), I am willing to associate myself with Jane Nova because her activity is more or less consistent with my own personal and professional selves. However, the decision to utilize Jane Nova stemmed from deep concerns about the pressure on academics and researchers to become “public figures.” We face a peculiar tension between our institutions and ‘the public.’ The former expects us to produce published work vetted by a disciplinary audience. Through tenure and promotion verified by said audience, we establish our credibility in a large network of higher-education institutions and their related international networks of alumni, parents, secondary institutions, policy-makers, law-makers, advertisers, and investors. The latter wonders why our work is so difficult to access. Visibility, via brand or free sampling of products, seems to be one of the basic privileges of web 2.0 platforms, and thus, serves as one of the core ethical principles shaping its users’ belief in openness and its values of transparency, sharing, and free access. Caught between job stability and occupational uncertainty, many academics continue to participate in the closed-system model of publication.
“Sharing,” for them, becomes too much of a risk to take in a highly competitive job market. Our speech is not protected if we are untenured, and even if we are, institutional responses to reputation management are unpredictable. Most people managing crises have little experience with the complexity of Open Educational Resources, Digital Humanities, new media platforms, and their political and economic possibilities and limitations. Nevertheless, some academics have online identities, regularly blog, or publish to open-source academic journals and mainstream op-ed’s, interviews, or investigative reports. Even fewer are activists that work towards a synergy between their personal lives, political beliefs, and ethical practices of their job. As Jane Nova, I am able to always maintain some level of awareness that my online activity is self-conscious, deliberate, and worth defending for the sake of expression for its own sake. I communicate for purposes that will be understandable to some audiences, and repulsive to others. I seek out audiences that seek to transcend the confinement of “right” and “wrong,” the “good and bad,” and enter the tumultuous, exciting, ethereal realms of “possibly and maybe,” “utility,” and the “consequential.” As Jane Nova, I seek to communicate in ways that will eventually minimize harm and maximize opportunities for minimizing harm.
I cannot control my curiosity for truth-seeking and willingness to discover novel expression as either Alexandria or JaneNova. However, JaneNova offers Alexandria psychic protection because “she” is going to be the first association an audience connects to words, and thus, challenges the readers that are preoccupied with knowing names rather than experiencing substance.
Jane Nova’s Bio-Mythography
Jane Nova is a hacker name/alias for an individual assigned with the government-issued identification name Alexandria L. Lockett. She has chosen Jane Nova as exemplary of her understanding of the conflict that drives her professional life, and so you will find Jane Nova wherever Alexandria is consciously performing in what many would demarcate as “professional” space. Jane represents the banality that stems from the individual’s forced conformity to participate in standardization procedures in ‘formal’ and ‘professional’ organization. On the other hand, Nova eclipses Jane and implores her to recognize what she truly is–stardust confronting her amnesia of self alongside fellow stars. Nova inspires Jane by serving as a reminder that her entire being really belongs to the cosmos and that if she is to be wise and happy she must bring that sense of connectedness to all that she does in her life, including the one that could potentially compartmentalize her away from the natural drive towards creating, exploring, discovering, and becoming awe.