Hacking ethics for edupunks

April 22nd, 2010 |

I think one of the primary goals of academics is to encourage students (and each other) to innovate. Frequently, that innovation takes the form of modifying, re-purposing, and reusing existing existing tech and software for learning, and I have argued that educators should be at the forefront of this innovation.

However, much of the technological innovation driving the production of new devices has come in the form of locked-down tools such as the iPhone and iPad (with notable exceptions like Android). I am interested in discussing the legal and ethical gray areas created when educators hack commercial products. Is this hacking educationally justifiable? If not, should educators abandon the locked-down space created by these devices and roll our own open source software / tech (I’m looking at you, arduino).?

And if anyone wants to get together and hack an iPad, I’d be up for that, too 🙂

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14 Responses to “Hacking ethics for edupunks”

  1. boonebgorges Says:

    This is a great idea for a session. There’s a pretty good chance I’ll have an iPad by the time THATCamp rolls around, but If I don’t have it hacked by then, I probably won’t bring it – don’t want to diminish my geek cred 🙂

  2. Amanda French Says:

    I got kind of bored with the whole iPad closed/open discussion, myself, but you did link to some article about it on Twitter that I thought was interesting, John. Can you re-post that here if you remember which one I’m talking about?

  3. Amanda French Says:

    And by the way I didn’t mean that this session idea was boring — far from it! I’m absolutely interested in the educational ethics of hacking closed systems, including the iPad. I just got bored with people talking about *Apple’s* ethics or lack thereof with regard to making the iPad a closed system.

  4. johnmjones Says:


    I understood. 🙂

    Here’s the link.

  5. johnmjones Says:


    I’m bringing my iPad, cred be damned 🙂

  6. John Jones Says:

    I’ll take all the points I can get.

  7. Amanda French Says:

    Dude, I literally didn’t remember that you *wrote* that article, John, and I didn’t click through on your link above — all I remembered was that you tweeted “some article” about the iPad that was better than the rest of them: insightful and well-written and balanced, in short. Ten points to you and minus two to me.

  8. patrickmj Says:

    I’d love to hear the conversation about this, especially around the DMCA/Fair Use conflict at the heart of it. Much agreed that educators need to reassert Fair Use principles in general!

  9. THATCamp 2010 » Blog Archive Says:

    […] programs and games using the original ROMs). As I wrote in a comment to John’s post on Hacking Ethics for Edupunks, these emulators are crucial for our scholarship, but they often rely on copyrighted BIOSes and […]

  10. Mark Sample Says:

    Hacking Ethics for Edupunks is a great session idea. But geek cred aside, I’d like to push us beyond just talking about the closed nature of the iPad. In fact, trying to avoid talking about Apple might make this session more interesting.

    There are a host of—for lack of a better phrase—democratic hacks that are more accessible and applicable to our daily lives as teachers and researchers than figuring out how to jailbreak an iPhone or root an Android. Greasemonkey scripts, AdBlock, web developer extensions—they all “break” systems, and they all raise important ethical and epistemological questions.

    My own interest along these lines concerns software emulators, which are often used to run archaic programs and retro games that would otherwise be unavailable to contemporary researchers and students (unless you happen to have a garage full of dinosaurs like the Atari VCS, the Apple II, the C64, the NES, etc.). These emulators are crucial for our scholarship, but they often rely on copyrighted BIOSes and ROMs that are, strictly speaking, illegal to possess, unless you somehow got the ROM from a legal copy of the hardware or software that you yourself already own.

  11. John Jones Says:


    Sounds interesting.

  12. briancroxall Says:

    This sounds like a really productive session idea. A lot better than making iPad users run the gauntlet, as had been previously suggested.

  13. Why “Hack the Academy”? « The Leisurely Historian… Says:

    […] when a group of us at THATCamp 2010 attempted to put together the beginnings of a syllabus on "Ethical Hacking for the Humanities." The more we discussed what should be included, the more amorphous the whole endeavor began to feel. […]

  14. Hacking our Conferences | ClioWeb Says:

    […] Hacking in the Humanities a group-edited syllabus on ethics in hacking for digital humanities, a session proposed by John M. Jones at […]


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