Sketching with Code

Artist or Hacker?

“Arthacking and exhibition to remember” is the theme of the next Digital Sizzle hackday, one of East London’s many tech industry meetup events.

It’s an event with the intention of bringing people together who want to collaborate around converting raw data into art in some way.

Something caught my eye about the artist/hacker distinction around the attendees, and I noticed that a few others had spotted it too:


You are someone who can help shape data into a useful format


You can take the data from the developers, and turn it into something visual or aural

And there were a few comments on Twitter:

And some comments from a few that I follow, including:

Benefit of the doubt

When someone is organising something where they’re not being paid I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, especially when there’s a system like Eventbrite in control that says you have to decide how to describe the tickets you’re making available.

It also seems pretty sensible to ensure that there’s a sufficiently mixed crowd - those who self-identify as mainly “hackers” and those who self-identify as mainly “artists”.

Asking people to choose between being a hacker and an artist

This is the interesting bit though, because from the conversations that I’ve been having over the last few months whilst researching “hacker culture / cultural hacking” (or however I’ll eventually describe it), I’ve learned that the organisers of cultural hack days all seem to be saying that there is a large gap between “developers” and “cultural people”.

I think it would be great if there were a fair few people who self-identify as “artist/hacker” who also attend hackdays, but from attending a handful of hackdays, I’ve not really seen many people in attendance who’d self-describe in that way.

Perhaps because being an artist/hacker is their practice, they don’t feel the need to go along to a hackday and play with things in the same way, or perhaps the organisers haven’t been reaching those people very well, in general I’ve noticed that at the hack days I’ve been to (admittedly only a handful), the trend has been “these are the developers, these are the artists/cultural folk”.

Arts organisations or artist/hackers?

Perhaps I’ve been looking in the wrong place, and while I’ve been looking at events where people from arts organisations are in attendance, perhaps I’ve missed a class of events where it’s more about artist/hackers.

I’m interested in hearing about links, events and organisations that do hackdays with people who do identify as “artist/hacker” - perhaps I’ve been looking in the wrong place.

And I’m also looking forward to going along to the event that’s given me this interesting point to consider - I suspect we’ll see some exciting stuff come out of it as a result.


Clarification - it sounds like I’m saying that “all” of the culture hack organisers make some kind of artist/hacker distinction. I meant that there’s a noticeable gap between people who work in arts organisations (the focus of my research) and the hacker-maker attendees. As Rachel Coldicutt said on Twitter - “we’ve never used that distinction for a Culture Hack. I find the term “artist” quite problematic tbh.”