[Humanist] 27.789 why the wreckers' bots?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Feb 12 07:52:33 CET 2014

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 789.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2014 06:41:58 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: wreckers, not hackers

Yesterday I received (from Adafruit, may they be praised) a Raspberry Pi 
in the post. I was pulled by force of curiosity and an old hacker's 
passion (once satisfied by building voltmeters and other such kits) away 
from serious work to play with it long enough to rekindle a much 
GUI-muffled sense of computing's primal appeal. This led just now (as I 
gazed across my desk longingly at the Pi and its bits) to a marvellous 
change in my slightly earlier annoyance at yet another attempt of 
someone, more likely someone's machine, to flood Humanist with bogus 
subscriptions. That annoyance became a question: has anyone studied the 
activities of those who set up and run bots the whole purpose of which 
is to wreck the operations of others? Here is no (supposedly) high moral 
purpose to bring down the great military and intelligence centres, no 
Robin Hoodian or Julian Assangian or Ned Kellian cyber-bushranger and 
romantic outlaw but bots set up to do their mischief mindlessly, 
possibly yielding no direct pleasure at all to the instigator. I have great 
sympathy for the larrikin trickster but not for such as these, who 
aren't even present to shake one's fist at.

It would be a fascinating study, would it not? Even, perhaps, a PhD in a 
social science.

Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Research Group in Digital
Humanities, University of Western Sydney

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