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Hacker Literacies


Keywords: Values in Technology Education, Digital Literacies, Computer Science Education


This line of research focused on conceptualizing an intersection between critical media literacy and participatory digital literacies. Hacker Literacies, which draw their name from computer programmers that take existing code and reconfigure it for their own purposes and in line with their own values, are distinct from existing media literacy practices in that they are not only empowered by participatory new media tools, but empowered in relation to these tools as well. 


I define hacker literacies as empowered participatory practices, grounded in critical mindsets, that aim to resist, reconfigure, and/or reformulate the sociotechnical digital spaces and tools that mediate social, cultural, and political participation. These “critical mindsets” include perceiving how values are at play in the design of these spaces and tools; understanding how those designs affect the behaviors of users of those spaces and tools; and developing empowered outlooks, ones that assume change is possible, in relation to those designs and rooted in an understanding of their malleability. “Empowered participatory practices” include making transparent for others the effects of sociotechnical designs and the values at play therein, voicing alternative values for these designs, advocating and taking part in alternative designs when spaces and tools are misaligned with one’s values, and employing new media as a means to change those digital spaces and tools—whether on the social or technological level—via social, legal or technological means.


  • Santo, R. (2013). Towards hacker literacies: What Facebook’s privacy snafus can teach us about empowered technological practices. Digital Culture & Education, 5:1, 18-33. 

  • Santo, R. (2012). Hacker Literacies: User-Generated Resistance and Reconfiguration of Networked Publics. In J. Avila & J. Zacher-Pandya (Eds.) Critical Digital Literacies as Social Praxis: Intersections & Challenges. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

  • Santo, R. (2012). Hacker Literacies: Synthesizing Critical and Participatory Media Literacy Frameworks. International Journal of Learning and Media. Vol. 3, No. 3, Pages 1-5

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