Civic Hacking. Redefining Hackers and Civic Participation

Ksenia Ermoshina


Abstract: Civic hacking movement, born at the times of Obama campaign, promotes trust in programming code as a new tool able to solve a large variety of public problems usually delegated to public services or dedicated private institutions. Based on a four-year STS-inspired ethnography of “civic hackathons” in France and Russia, the paper aims to draw a profile of a “civic hacker” and grasp the transformations of civic participation brought by this phenomenon. Beyond technoscepticism and solutionism, the author suggests to follow the actors in their work of “putting problems into code” and proposes a pragmatist approach to civic hacking. While recent studies have been critical of civic hacking as part of the broader neoliberal transformations of labor, the author argues that, in the context of distrust towards traditional political institutions and repertoires of contention, civic hacking can assist construction of public problems, and can also mean “hacking the civics”.

Keywords: civic hacking; hackathons; civic tech; public problems; civic participation

Full Text: