Ham radio required solitary tinkering with sophisticated electronics equipment, often isolated from domestic activities in a “radio shack,” yet the hobby thrived on fraternal interaction. Conversations on the air grew into friendships, and hams gathered in clubs or met informally for “eyeball contacts.” Within this community, hobbyists developed distinct values and practices with regard to radio, creating a particular “technical culture.”
Sounds familiar in the light of hacker culture, open source, social software, and so on ad infinitum, no?
Without wanting to just impose patterns derived from contemporary culture onto history, I’ve been very interested lately in the way that emergent amateur cultures of (cultural) production have been articulated with technological change in a whole heap of contexts. I’m also increasingly interested in the articulation of the hacker ethic (or, the ‘tinkering’ discussed by Haring in the book) with masculinity. Looking through the gender+tech lens, it’s interesting to compare the history of ham radio and the personal computer with the domestication of, say, the gramophone or my old favourite, the camera. So this is one for next year – oops, I mean post-phd this year. It’s started already and slowly grinding into gear.
Happy New Year, by the way!