Remember when Senator Ted Stevens said the Internet was a “series of tubes?” Well, back in the 90s, people talked a lot about the “information superhighway.” Do a Google image search for that phrase. You’ll see a lot of tubes.
The way we represent technical concepts visually shapes how people understand them, which in turn affects how and why decisions are made. This initiative both critically analyzes representations of security, and shifts them through interventions and provocations.
Even the most sophisticated journalists and businesses tend to use the word “hack” to discuss nefarious or criminal activity online. Unfortunately, “hack” can refer to anything from disrupting a nuclear plant to a “hackathon” for social good. This confusion of positive and negative connotations obscures the human impact of malicious activity online.
Starting with news media, this project seeks to amplify the original, positive use of the word “hack,” and replace its negative usage with more specific alternatives: theft, vandalism, espionage, stalking, harassment. New words aim to highlight both the human impacts of cybersecurity, and its human perpetrators. These semantic shifts could, in turn, empower people to take greater responsibility for security, partake more directly in security’s practice, and become more vocal in demanding security protections from companies, governments, and service providers.
We'll evaluate impact by measuring and observing usage of the word “hack” over time. Stay tuned for further work on that.