Challenging the commodification of public spheres: The hacker work ethic in a free media lab

Steven Corbett


This paper explores the hacker work ethic in a case study of Access Space, a free media lab in Sheffield, United Kingdom, which provides free access to information and communication technologies (ICTs). It is suggested that the hacker work ethic allows participants at Access Space to become socially and digitally included in an empowering way. This aspect of ICT culture is explored in the context of social and technological changes from a public sphere perspective (Habermas, 1989). Access Space is described as part of a hacker counter-public sphere that challenges the dominant trend towards the commodification of ICTs by engaging the principles of the hacker work ethic in social practice. With a move towards informationalism as the ideology of the techno-capitalist age (Castells, 1996; Kellner, 1989), adopting the hacker work ethic in wider social practice may promote empowerment, social and digital inclusion, and critical engagement with ICTs and wider society.


Public sphere; commodification; hacker work ethic

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