Accepted paper:

Stabilized instability. hacking tournament as a laboratory


Marcin Zaród (Kozminski University )

Paper short abstract:

Capture the Flag is a tournament in hacking, revolving around breaking and defending computer systems. How this game contributes to construction of knowledge in computer security? How instability might be stabilized? Paper is based on ethnographical study of several competitions, done within ANT.

Paper long abstract:

Capture the flag is a tournament in computer security, in which teams of hackers compete in solving tasks and attack or defense of systems. Using the Actor-Network Theory framework, the paper presents the results of ethnographical studies of such tournaments in order to reveal the mechanisms of the construction of hacking knowledge. Selected stages of tournaments are examined with this approach, from task construction through different types of competition to a write-ups and potential links between tournaments, companies, and military agencies. By using selected concepts from laboratory studies (black boxes, stabilization, purification), the paper demonstrates the concept of stabilized instability. As a result, a new understanding of errors and black-boxes is proposed. Instability may be treated not only as a way of opening technoscientific black-boxes, but also as a product of stabilization. This concept also serves as a potential link between laboratory studies, classical studies of hackers, and contemporary social studies of technoscience of hacking.

panel B06
Collaboration in/with "open labs": studying the objects of boundary-making and crossing