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Radical Cannibals July 3, 2007

Posted by François in cannibalism.

As we sort through appropriation practices, a key distinction is the degree to which users come into conflict with suppliers when they re-make technology. At the harmonious end of that spectrum we find baroquization, where users re-make artifacts along a supplier-provided personalization script. By contrast, cannibalization occupies the other extreme. Tech cannibals intentionally confront suppliers by re-making technology into something that goes against the interests of those suppliers. Just as with antropofagia, creation then emerges from destruction – literal or symbolic. This week’s news brings two examples of phone destruction, each creative in its own way.

The first story brings a welcome tale of technological failure: This week’s “attempted London car bombings were meant to be detonated by calls to mobile phones in the two vehicles, but failed for technical reasons.” Re-making mobile phones into bomb detonators is nothing new, and constitutes perhaps the most radical illustration of technology cannibalism. The practice is antagonistic at every level – artifact, practice, and politics. The objective is -literally- to destroy the phone, the practice is hostile to the intentions and business plans of providers, and, most importantly, the resulting explosion appropriates technology toward aggressive political goals.

The second news item reports on several iPhone dissections, some more meticulous than others. Here, the stated purpose is to discover what is inside and understand what makes this new device tick. The next cannibalistic challenge will be to crack the software. As the Reuters story points out: “Opening the iPhone was the easy part. For many, the real prize is hacking the phone to get it to do things Apple never intended, such as run on networks other than that of AT&T Inc., the exclusive U.S. service provider. Some programmers also want to find a way to run their own programs directly on the phone’s operating system rather than being limited to programs run through the Web browser.”

(click on pictures for credits and additional information)



1. matthewweber - July 3, 2007

It is worth noting that the antagonistic extreme of technological appropriation can often yield positive outcomes. Much like social hackers battling Microsoft security flaws in the 80’s, todays technological cannibals often uncover product flaws and security vulnerabilities. Referring to the iPhone example, this article in The Register (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/07/03/iphone_hacking_progress/) points out a number of critical security issues with the Safari iPhone browser that were uncovered within the first 48 hours of the product’s release.

2. Sasha Costanza-Chock - August 13, 2007

There’s an interesting take on this theme over at Ryan is Hungry video blog. Check it out.

3. Tiago Dória Weblog » Blog Archive » Os melhores sites de 2007 - December 17, 2007

[…] Exemplo – pessoas que transformam o celular em campainha de casa ou até detonador de bombas. […]

4. sandrar - September 10, 2009

Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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