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OxDEG: Fedoras, Virgins, and Hardware: Hackathons and the social dynamics of competitive creation

With Dr Siân Brooke
Date & Time:
15:30 - 17:00,
Monday 30 November, 2020


Programmers are geniuses. They are the protagonist of a revenge fantasy in which the geek rises to entrepreneurial success, following the path of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Elon Musk. The geek is virtuoso, an innovator, and an inventor. They are also white men. This is the stereotype of the geek and of those who possess technical knowledge. An identity which defines who participate and who can flourish in technology cultures.

Hackathons are time-bounded manifestations of technology culture. They are intensive 24 to 30 hour events in which participants compete for recognition, both in terms of monetary prizes and social capital. They are ritualistic occasions where geeks can enact the collective fantasy of invention, bonded by their shared identity. Yet, despite narratives of openness and meritocracy, hackathons are the purview of white, geek, masculinity.

In this talk, Dr. Brooke will present her findings from her doctoral research into gender at hackathons across the UK. As large organized, offline, events, how do hackathons deal with the gender disparities of coding? How does gender mediate how people interact with one another? How does anonymous technological culture manifest itself offline?

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