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13:30 Uhr - 17:15 Uhr | Weizenbaum Institute, Hardenbergstraße 32, 10623 Berlin

Workshop: Hackers as Heroes in German Film and Television

We are thrilled to invite you to an interdisciplinary workshop based on the book "Hackers as Heroes in German Cinema and Television" by William Mahan. This workshop is presented by the Weizenbaum Institute in collaboration with and will be held in English.

The workshop will give an interdisciplinary view on hacker culture. We will consider the social, historical, political and cultural implications of hacking and hackers as well as how these factors are influenced by and in turn influence the development of digital technologies and their (in)security.

About the Workshop

Join us for an introductory lecture by William Mahan, followed by four parallel breakout sessions, each delving into unique aspects of hacker portrayals and their real-world counterparts. This workshop is designed for researchers interested in the intersection of hacking, cinema, and digital culture.

Introductory Lecture

William Mahan will provide an overview of his book and discuss key themes and insights about the representation of hackers in German media. This will set the stage for the in-depth sessions that follow.

Breakout Sessions

Hacking – Fiction vs. Reality with Constanze Kurz

In our workshop with Constanze Kurz from the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), we will explore how professional hackers or amateur hackers are portrayed as heroes in movies and TV shows. We will contrast these portrayals with the reality of the actual hacker profession and the activities of hobby hackers. We will ask: How realistic are the typical activities of hackers shown? What techniques and tools do they use in reality and which ones are depicted in movies? What characterizes the job description of a hacker today? What does the hacker mercenary sector look like?

Hacking Worldwide: Differences and Similarities in the Depiction of Hackers and Hacking with William Mahan

To what extent does hacker identity depend, if at all, on nationality? How are these identities portrayed, especially in film and television shows? In this workshop with William Mahan, we will consider filmic representations of hackers in relation their nationalities, as well as historical influences on hacker activity or political activism. We will examine the regional differences in depictions of the hacker scene, with a particular focus on punk ethos. Even without prior familiarity, we can consider archetypal characters and actors (like Keanu Reeves) as well as differences in costume and mise-en-scène, a term that represents everything that we see on screen during a movie. We will focus especially on hacker portrayals in the United States and in Germany, but other perspectives are welcome.

Does Silicon Valley still hold appeal as an epicenter for technological progress? Is Berlin the new Silicon Valley, did or does it want to be? Does location or nationality matter in the present day, or is it irrelevant as soon as a hacker is online and using a VPN? Is the Chaos Computer Club a more successful example of hacker solidarity than the decentralized hacking in the USA (Anonymous), and how is the CCC portrayed differently in German film than groups of American hackers in Hollywood films?

Hackers on Screen with Dietmar Kammerer

Dietmar Kammerer will introduce basic film-analytical tools and concepts, and together with workshop participants, analyze selected film scenes. We will also discuss how social science and film studies can be combined: What does social science do in cinema?

Hacker Ethic – Laws for Outlaws? with Rainer Rehak

Rainer Rehak will present the hacker ethic widely known in the scene. He will contextualize its cultural background and explain the political motivations of its extension in the 1980s in Germany. We will then discuss to what extent the hacker ethic is still a guiding principle, reflected in social practices and technology design, and how it can aid in the scientific analysis of digitalization.

Special Features

To prepare for the workshop, we recommend listening to the Chaos Radio podcast with William Mahan or reading the transcript of the podcast. Unfortunately, the material is only available in German.


Participation is free. The places are limited. Please register in here.