Thursday, 9 October 2008

De Certeau and the iPhone hackers

De Certeau and the iPhone hackers: is there a link? This post comes out of some discussion board posts on iPhones and Michel de Certeau and is, I guess, a kind of "weave".

Apple is employing what de Certeau would call a 'strategy' of careful control of the apps (applications, the gadgets and gizmos that add functionality to your device) available for purchase or free download from the iTunes Store.

In the face of this 'strategy', iPhone users and apps developers are employing a range of what de Certeau would term 'tactics' (e.g. the creation of web sites in which tips on how to 'hack' your iPhone and interesting apps are publicised).

Apple is saying: we control the virtual space of the iTunes Store; we define how an iPhone can be used and what applications are appropriate; our corporate/commercial interests come first.

Users - and the developer community - resist this; they find ways of outwitting the control mecanisms of Apple's strategy. The Apple iPhone School web site, for example, has tutorials on jailbreaking, hacking, modding and unlocking - terms which evoke de Certeau's poaching metaphor - and reveals a vibrant culture of reinterpretation and reappropriation.

Is the conflict between 'strategy' and 'tactics' the inevitable consequence of power asymmetry? Link to Clay Shirky's Here comes everybody and his reflections on the ease and speed of development of informal organisations and 'lightweight collaboration' on the web.

[Posted with iBlogger from my iPhone]

1 comment:

David F. Bello said...

I agree with your connection of hacking to De Certeau's notion of tactics. Do you know of any theoretical works that make this connection? Lev Manovich's The Language of New Media makes brief mention in a discussion of Myst (the game) as new media art. I'm currently working on a paper connecting the theory to the hacking of Amazon's Mechanical Turk crowdsoucring platform in 2005. I'm very much interested in the topic, and was curious whether you had run across this connection in other works. Thank you,

David F. Bello
PhD Student in Communication and Rhetoric
@Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute