Information And Democracy: Lessons From The Hacktivists
the Frankfurt School
“Information and Democracy: Lessons from the Hacktivists” examines three hacktivist groups—WikiLeaks, Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT), and Anonymous—through the lens of three different democratic traditions: the “epistemic,” “aesthetic,” and “radical.” Emblematic of the epistemic tradition, WikiLeaks’ hacktivism foregrounds the role of information as truth to democracy. By contrast, EDT exemplifies the aesthetic tradition as it seeks to go beyond the dissemination of mere information to encourage critical thought through artistic intervention. Finally, Anonymous’ hacktivism participates in the radical democratic tradition, which decenters the role of information in democracy by subordinating it to opinion. In particular, Anonymous’ hacktivism is identified with a previously untheorized strain of radical democracy, characterized by “audacity,” which is defined by radical—both fundamental and extreme—challenges to authority. The three theoretical traditions help to differentiate the frequently conflated forms of hacktivism, while the examples, in turn, highlight the potentially undemocratic elements of each tradition. Ultimately it is argued that while the three traditions are best understood as complementary, the aesthetic and radical traditions represent valuable correctives to the contemporary fetishization of information, and “audacious” radical democracy, in particular, represents an important counterbalance to the elitist tendencies of the epistemic and aesthetic traditions.
Jeffrey E. Green