Reverse Engineering

Technology vs. Technocracy
Reverse Engineering as a User Rebellion
Preliminary Thoughts on paraflows .7


1. Opening the devices

The term »Reverse Engineering« was originally used in the context of mecha-
nical engineering, but, in recent years, it has been increasingly used, discussed
and thereby popularized in the context of digital technology. It signifies those
modes of operation in which an existing artefact should be imitated. In order for
this to be possible the blueprints have to be exposed first, enabling the repro-
duction of the functional relationships underlying the artefact. The interior of the
artefact can only be understood and grasped as: the parts and their interde-
pendent functions and reactions, or as: the source code.

In case the copy works as well and in the same way as the original, one can
say that the new device was »read out« from the original, that its »trade se-
crets« were recovered as well as appropriated creatively.

Underlying the user interface of an artefact or a program is the knowledge of
those that have created it. The outer form, the casing, which impedes our direct
access to the mechanical and electronic innards, is therefore not only a protec-
tive layer. It also constitutes a deflective barrier for prying eyes: The interior
workings of the artefact should not be any of our business.

When technology is hidden from us, by manifesting itself as mere »design« or a
set of controls, we are kept at a distance. We're barred from the arcane know-
ledge of the engineers and programmers that pulsates within the artefact. And
when repairs or modifications are needed, we're relegated to customer service
and specialists. Only they have the legitimate right to open, check and repair
our tools, gadgets and apparatus. To the extent that we're unable to under-
stand the inner workings of our tools, we're also dependant: upon the tools
themselves and upon the heteronomous structure that was erected for their

The opposite is expressed by »Reverse Engineering«: it is the demand, the
claim of the users to be able to open, to explore, to modify according to one's
own requirements, to expand and develop new characteristics and adapt every-
thing to the ever-changing technological framework. Only in this way are we no
longer confronted with our means of production and reproduction as complete
and closed (segregated) systems. We thereby acquire and appropriate the
technology with which we (have to) live and work, to which we are referred,
which shapes our every-day life and which constitutes us as those beings which
we can be within the scope of our technological possibilities.

In those instances where we let the designers, engineers and salespeople
define our technology (because we don't want to know or are not allowed to
know more than the basics needed for its use), we let others define our lives.
When we, however, explore its secrets, we invert our relationship to it: by
surpassing superficial usage (merely knowing which levers and buttons to push
and pull in the correct sequence), we can truly gain control over technology. We
are no longer forced to adapt to the machine (as we were in the Fordistic re-
lationship to machinery), rather, we become autonomous subjects – to the
extent in which we are able to understand, replicate and modify technology.

We can thereby free technology from all the alienation which we experience
again and again in its heteronomous use, turning it against the technocracy to
which we are subjected when we utilize technology in accordance with the po-
litical and economic interests of those who provide it.

In this manner we do not only learn how to replicate technology in detail (let-
ting the new tool function like the original one – or also, the own like the other)
but we also learn how to modify, create and design it. We are therefore no
longer constrained by user manuals, interfaces, manufacturer information and
our habits. When we turn and use technology contrary to the intentions of its
creators, we must defend ourselves against that conditioning which was im-
posed in their name.

Opening artifacts does not only mean unscrewing them or breaking open their
shell in order to gain access to their innards, it is rather a form of technological
self-empowerment with which we conquer our tools, assigning new functions
and uses different to those that were originally assigned by the manufacturer.
By doing so we free ourselves from the disenfranchising snippets of knowledge
to which we are condemned by keywords such as »user friendliness«. Thus, we
open that capitalist technology whose specific form is the closed, trade-secret-
protecting product.

Capitalism is based on the principle of constant exploitation. All that is exploited
is converted into products or aids their production. This is not only valid for as-
pects of nature (such as resources, water, genetic information in the scope of
pharmaceutical patents or lifeforms), but also for the acquisition and dissemi-
nation of the knowledge on which human culture is based, the acquisition and
dissemination of which is a central impulse of our psyche.

Because this knowledge is converted into a product (as a device or as software)
and is therefore subject to the principle of exploitation, it needs to be made
scarce and limited. Only when it may not be exchanged freely can it be traded
profitably. When knowledge is limited, regulated and made inaccessible in such
a way, those who possess it – either because they control its distribution or be-
cause they possess the necessary means to acquire it as a technological pro-
duct or as access to education – acquire a privilege.

Knowledge, so an old proverb says, is power. And to the extent that the power
that is knowledge increasingly comprises excluding others and keeping them dependant, that power will be increasingly allocated in a non-democratic, mono-
polistic and technocratic fashion.

In the last decades, which were characterized by a fundamental opening of the
knowledge society, the question of whether to limit access to knowledge or
make it globally accessible (digitisation and worldwide networks having pro-
vided the necessary basis long before) was discussed again and again. The
formation of so-called Pirate Parties gives voice to the demand of humanity to
no longer be excluded from knowledge and technological participation as enfor-
ced by the principles of a profit-based economy.

The unconditional protection of intellectual property (as current copyright laws
instate) is no longer seen to be as self-evident as fifty years ago. This is be-
cause of the fact that our daily interactions with the web often bring us in conf-
lict with copyright, and our digital day-to-day lives have long since evolved into
a legal limbo in which we ourselves often no longer know exactly what we may
or may not do – and what legal consequences we might face when doing what
everybody does and getting caught by coincidence. The practice of admonishing
internet users, mainly widespread in Germany, causes a state of permanent un-
certainty in the web.

Medical patents have led to health becoming a commodity which is not afford-
able for all. This brings us to the following contradiction: Those who subscribe to
the common arguments of the pharmaceutical companies which value their eco-
nomic interests higher than the lives of many millions of people whose illnesses
could be healed easily if they could afford the medication (e.g. generic drugs).
Patents and intellectual property rights protect and isolate knowledge upon
which we are all dependant in order to live well or even just survive.

The main reason given for the existence of licenses and patents is the cost in-
curred in developing a drug or a technological artefact. Of course, what is sel-
dom mentioned is that the societal long-term cost of capitalist production (e.g.
the depletion of global resources or the production of CO2) are paid by all of us.
The production of knowledge or goods always means exploiting others or ex-
propriating them, as demonstrated by those cases of bio-piracy in which phar-
maceutical companies patent traditional knowledge which, in case of a success-
ful patent, is no longer freely available to those who originally developed it. This
example shows how intellectual property rights are exclusively used to protect
the interests of those who want to exploit knowledge profitably. They uphold a
system of exploitation and oppression which we can break open by not sub-
jecting ourselves to the logic of intellectual property, but rather raising our voi-
ces claiming democratic structures that enable transparency and participation.


2. The appropriation of our alienation

The popular fearful projections of technology, as found in science fiction narra-
tives, public debates or paranoid delusions (such as the carcinogenic properties
of mobile phone rays), are not exclusively caused by that »anthropological cons-
tant« which fears »the other« of technology because it threatens »the self« in a
very stone-age sense. They are rather fed by the way in which technology is implemented socially: in the specific power relationships of Fordism and Post-
Fordism it always manifests itself as coercion, as an invocation and the relation-
ship of human capital, as the pressure to adapt and as a call for increased per-
formance. We are subjected to this coercion during working hours and leisure
time, publicly as well as privately. The new possibilities and spaces invoked by
technology, under the imperative of capitalist valuation, are always imbued with
a coercive necessity to use them: Those who do not and can not utilize the ever
following next generation of tools become technological losers. The social
Darwinist imagery of threats of the bourgeois society (as constructed by con-
temporary debates on life-long learning and the losers, those left behind in our
education system) convert delight in technology into Fordist duty and post-
Fordist commitment to be competent technologically.

What scares and coerces us about technology is not, as technophobes and cri-
tics of civilization would have it, some ingrained part of technology's nature. It is
rather the paradigm of valuation that we are bleakly confronted with in this
form – and which is founded in that relationship which forms all cultural and
technological artefacts while the economic order that creates it remains in

Because technology cannot be anything else than an instrument for the un-
hindered exploitation of humanity and nature under the given circumstances,
we sometimes experience its presence and might as so suffocating that we
fantasize about pre-technological spaces which, since the conversion of ape to
man through the use of tools, have never existed. The relief we imagine gaining
through the absence of technology can of course not know (nor want to know)
of the fact that it is not technology that overstrains us, but rather its ingrained
interests of exploitation – in whose name we are being driven.

Destruction, the motor of capitalist economy, is therefore not specific to tech-
nology, but merely the scope in which it is delivered under the given circum-
stances. What we fear is not technology, but the capitalist relationship, that it
purveys – just like any other cultural utterance of capitalist added value pro-

This can be seen mainly in the application of the concept of alienation, with
which Marx characterizes the relationship between the worker and his or her
product, to technology. Not only the »alternative« movement has used concepts
critical of capitalism in a diffuse and emotional way, speaking of a general ex-
perience of alienation in our technological age – and thereby contaminated con-
servative fears of losing the traditional (e.g. the substitution of small, personal
shops through anonymous supermarket chains) with the criticism of ideology.

While capitalist technology (especially since the advent of the personal computer
and the internet, available everywhere at all times) completely transposes the
heteronomous relationships of the capitalist factory into the daily lives of its
subjects, alienation from »grown«, »natural« structures can be seen as having
emancipatory potential. Therefore, it is necessary to separate the two aspects.
Technology as an agent of alienation from the supposed own and »actual«
(identity, tradition, social roles, hierarchies and the positions of the subjects of
bourgeois society) can be used against technology as a representative of ex-
ploitation. The following dialectic could be expanded upon: alienation as eman-
cipation (which creates autonomy from tradition) and alienation as an effect of
capitalism (the heteronomous relations of production). In order to achieve such
differentiation we first need to learn how to use technology in such a way that
enables us to choose which form of alienation we want to realize with it.


3. Deconstruction, not destruction

By (re)appropriating technology and thereby taking control of the positive as-
pects of alienation we escape from that power relationship which was imposed
on us by its heteronomous nature. Insofar as we convert it into participation,
its seriousness into a game exposing its inaccessible depths, we can escape
our dependency of it. Only in this way are we able to re-write those aims and
causes alien to us, to which technology subjects us, with our own.

We also learn how to extract abstract principles from concrete artefacts and
apply them to other problems and intentions than those originally intended –
and thereby transpose existing technical or program-like solutions to a higher
level of abstraction, another thing that the enclosures of our artefacts would
want to make impossible.

In a life-world mostly characterized by technological routines and automatiza-
tion, »Reverse Engineering« is the current form of the historical project of the
»enlightenment«: through it, we learn not to blindly trust technology simply
because of the fact that we are controlled by it. We question and permeate it
and expose the source codes of our experienced reality. In a certain way, this
mimics Kant's definition of the enlightenment: »man’s emergence from his self-
incurred immaturity«.

»Reverse Engineering« is not fueled by weariness from technology, but it rather
takes its classic promise literally: improving all of our lives. This is, however, only
possible if we redistribute it as a means of production of reality and prosperity.

When we practice »Reverse Engineering«, we do not want to destroy tech-
nology as the luddites did, the proletariat of the industrialization fighting
against its enslavement through technology. We want to make it democratic
and therefore deconstruct its capitalist ideology of exclusion and exploitation
that has found entrance into its blueprints and a concise articulation in the

We take it as a given that it's not only important what technology we have in
which way and what we are able to do with it. We see the technical forms
themselves, in which technology presents itself, as equally powerful. They can
never be innocent or without ingrained values. Their form is partly shaped by
the ideologies of the people and institutions that create them. And that ideo-
logy has an effect on who has what access to them, who is attracted or re-
pulsed, and how one is able to understand them. It is because of the neces-
sary adaptions to the needs of groups and subcultures that the artefacts (and
their encasings) need to be modified again and again. In the free-market eco-
nomy, these subcultures would have to constitute a sufficiently large and
wealthy target group to be noticed and included.

The term »deconstruction« makes it clear that »Reverse Engineering« is not
exclusively concerned with technology-specific relations to the artefact. In a me-
taphoric sense, its strategies can be adapted for the so-called »cultural tech-
nologies«, and therefore also for the current political battles for representation
and definition of symbols.

Our social or cultural programming may be re-coded in a similar fashion to digital
culture re-coding its means of production. For instance, the binary structure of
gender, which still gives order and structure to large parts of our lives, and
therefore limits our possibilities of action, according to ideas from the 18th
century, can be overcome by intervening in the cultural and genetic source code
of gender and sex, e.g. through hormonal treatments, sex change operations
and plastic surgery, gender bending, cross-dressing and polyamorous relation-

»Reverse Engineering« is therefore not only a technical game for nerds and
hackers, but it is itself a program which can change the seemingly naturally
given (which, as a matter of fact, is merely programmed) and thereby articulate
desires that are made invisible by existing artefacts or programs. We need only
understand the cultural codes that constitute the existing order of things and
know how they were ingrained culturally and socially – as specific forms of re-
lationships between people and artefacts – in order to write our own
»programs«, e.g. »coding« our very own gender (apart from the obsolete male-
female dichotomy).

Gene technology and stem cell research work on decoding the blueprints of life
itself. The current knowledge in biology and medicine would not be possible
without the principle of dissection, opening the bodies.

In the field of art the last decades have brought forth methods for disassemb-
ling existing aesthetic artefacts and using the thereby produced material as a
cheap, low-prerequisite and easily accessible means of production (e.g. collage,
digital image processing, sampling, remixing).

Seen in a metaphorically expanded way, »Reverse Engineering« is a key social
technology that forms the basis of art, science, politics, even societal production
and development.

Even if the methods of »Reverse Engineering« gain plausibility and relevance
because of the continuing permeation of our lives by digital and other tech-
nology, they are in no way a genuine invention of digital culture or even moder-
nity. Disassembling pre-existing things and modifying them is a constant
throughout the history of humanity that leads directly from the stone that is
turned into a weapon to software that is cracked.


4. License regulations as tools of rule and power

Through the transposition of technical solutions into the specific form of owner-
ship that is intellectual property, humanity's history has acquired a new form of
hindrance to its development which nullifies the progress made available
through our digital networking (with which solutions could be propagated
worldwide instantly for the benefit of everyone).

Because bourgeois society cannot imagine technological development as a col-
lective effort, but rather personalizes it in individuals (from Galileo to Thomas
Alva Edison and Steve Jobs) who acquired specific solutions supposedly on their
own and had the luck of being the first to do so, it is converted into ownership
(of the means of production). Others may only make use of that development by
acquiring licenses (by paying for them).

While the dissection and reassembly of natural objects or technical hardware
has become an undisputed means for acquiring knowledge and technology, the
licenses of software – the central impulse of technological development – still
have very restrictive access policies. Often, software may not be cracked, ope-
ned or edited. The reason given for this fact is that the program itself is not
purchased by the user (and thereby owned). Rather, only licenses are sold,
accordingly restricted and optionally imbued with measures to prevent access.
The »non-material« nature of software, it is reasoned, lets it remain the intel-
lectual property of the developers, even when it runs on our computers and e.g.
causes windows-specific problems.

Therefore, many software license regulations forbid »Reverse Engineering« and
impede access to their source code. Our daily experience tells us that this is not
always beneficial for their functionality – similar to the copy protections of CDs
and DVDs.

This is not only about the protection of ownership titles, however. The users of
software are to be held in dependency, which then can again be exploited, not
only through the coercion to purchase ever-changing upgrades and updates,
but also through controlled obsolescence that forces us to purchase new soft-
ware or hardware which remains compatible with its permanently progressing
peripherals for a short time only.

Often, the developers no longer provide up-to-date drivers when the software
ceases to run on the newest operating system. Without these, the expensive
apparatus becomes useless. Those who possess the necessary skills and
knowledge are able to write them themselves, but they are not allowed to
provide these online for those less fortunate.

Software license regulations therefore protect the developing companies and
their copyrights, but are in conflict with the interests of the users and the public.
Scrapping incompatible scanners is a financial problem for those who need that
tool for work or leisure, and for the rest of the world it is a problem of resource
politics. Devices with short lifetimes consume global resources without any ne-
cessity for it, and their production and distribution increases the CO2 output.
The repeatedly propagated goals of climate protection (without any pers-
pectives for their accomplishment) have to constantly avoid talking about this
basic problem of the capitalist economy. This shows us how incontrovertibly
ingrained the concept of not being able to produce sustainably now or in the
future is, avoiding the contradiction with the basic principle of capitalist

The common license regulations therefore not only make the users unable to
fully control their means of production, they also coerce all others to bear the
cost of their selfishness. Blockading the continued development and adaption of
existing software technology by the users and thereby forcing them into depen-
dency hinders technological development and is in immediate contradiction to
social development goals such as participation, inclusion and individual freedom.
Not only are we denied our right to participate in the control over the devices
that define our daily lives; the subject of the digital revolution is in this way also
denied access to the constitutional level of its subjectivity.

When we unlock trade secrets and reconstruct them we are not merely pro-
ducing »counterfeits« – illegal copies that leave the costs and effort of deve-
lopment to others – rather we re-imagine technology: it is no longer a relation-
ship imposed by technological development (and the ingrained interests of
those who possess the means of production), rather a cooperative effort for
changing our lives, stemming from the need for (technological) participation.
Instead of merely confirming and prolonging the relationships of capital, under
whose precepts technology continues to be developed, we convert it into public
property. The critique of existing access regulations is therefore one of the most
important confrontations of our time. We are presented with the fundamental
decision whether and how the users should be able to participate in their de-
vices or whether they should rather be subjected to them by acquiring licenses.


5. The digital avant garde as a political formation

paraflows sees itself as a space for current debates in digital art and culture,
and as a medium for net culture, whose ideas, goals and requests we try to
bring into a theoretically founded form. It is from this position that we voice the
claim for unregulated access to devices, and also show that this is not a soft-
ware-specific problem, but rather a general problem of societal participation. In
capitalism, the claims for participation and inclusion are confronted with inte-
rests in exploitation that exclude in order to secure and enforce their position
on the market, i.e. their power. As we understand digital art and culture, it
needs to support these claims instead of merely voicing their own.

It is in this scope that paraflows.7 wants to examine the discussion about the
access and distribution of digital culture (be it software or digitalized culture)
not as a series of individual and basically unconnected conflicts, but rather as
a concatenated series of conflicts that poses the question of ownership and
access anew in the 21st century.

We believe that a societal paradigm shift is underway, of hitherto incomprehen-
sible dimensions, in free access to software and free distribution of digital
culture. Currently, this is most obviously visible in the medially effective conflicts
about net freedom (e.g. the trial against the sharehoster Megaupload) –
though not only there.

In order to make this conflict explicit and, at the same time, advance it, digital
art and culture has to transgress the limits imposed by software and devices. It
does, however, not only want to show what is possible in the scope of the cur-
rently legal. Instead, it shows us what could be possible – through spectacular
interventions in net politics, playfully in digital art – and how we can achieve
these possibilities in practice.

»Reverse Engineering« is one of the central strategies in this endeavour, even
though – as mentioned before – it is not an invention of digital culture, where
this method is currently most advanced.

When we, as digital culture, fight for our freedom by gaining access to techno-
logy that wants to keep us as mere consumers, we have to be aware of the
fact that this conflict has a symbolic aspect. When we remove access limitations
(and their ingrained ideologies of intellectual property and social exclusion) in
mere individual hacks – a simple task for a well-learned programmer – we miss
the opportunity to voice the claim for autonomy of the human, which finds its
most up-to-date expression in this act.

Net culture, as the contemporary cultural and technological avant-garde, needs
to connect with other participatory projects and needs to be aware of the cen-
turies-old history of its struggle. Only in this way can it achieve to productively
include the knowledge and experiences of those that have fought for comp-
letely different things with the same methods, for example participatory models
in companies, the legal codification of so-called »commons«, the freedom from
gender-specific preconceptions or the opening of closed structures, whether
digital or analogue.

Therefore, our struggle should not end at claiming barrier-free technology, as
the contemporary software-liberalism of the open-source and public domain
culture does.

The activists of the free software community and similar groups are often led by
the false idealist belief in the political power of media or technology. And this
belief deteriorates into banal techno-optimism when the economic basis is ig-
nored: the belief that societal economy could be changed by merely re-desig-
ning it technologically or medially. The struggle for a different economy, for the
equal distribution of society's wealth and its means of production, disappears in
the skirmishes of establishing always newer media and technology. These skir-
mishes have characterized bourgeois society since its inception and have only
revolutionized it to such an extent that it could remain the same without be-
coming obsolete.

Digital art and culture needs to distance itself from this if it doesn't want to be
merely the cultural avant-garde of the digital age, introducing, testing and en-
forcing new devices against the resistance of macro-economically obsolete
structures – and presenting creative solutions for the resulting conflicts of in-
terest. »Reverse Engineering« is also product development and in this way
helps to adapt and rejuvenate the system. For instance through users adapting
their programs and devices more quickly to new requirements, imposed by the
logic of exploitation, than slow behemoths like Apple or Microsoft would be able

paraflows.7, as a representative of digital art and culture, does not want to ad-
vance the liberation of devices from repressive user manuals for all of us to be
able to do more than intended and thereby enhancing our efficiency and market
value as digital day laborers. We're also not about cleaning up the worst copy-
right anachronisms in order to bring capitalism up to speed in the 21st century.
Instead, we want to articulate a general claim of humanity for participatory ow-
nership, which is probably at the moment best seen in the embattled freedom
of the web.

In order to do this we need to take a stand for all those who are excluded and
left behind by the capitalist production of added value, which bars them from
having means of production and from access to socially produced wealth.

Software liberalism, however, will only continue to be more of the same if it con-
tinues to claim, in a one-sided and transparently selfish way, just the one with-
out also mentioning the other, if it fights for the freedom of digitalized culture
without also creating a model for the distribution of goods that goes further
than p2p exchange sites. If its claims are not brought into a general form, it
remains that struggle for the best space at the trough and for class positions,
for individual participation and for human capital, which stabilizes the system
and in which the bourgeois society is reconstituted and reconfirmed daily.


6. Aesthetic imitation as »Reverse Engineering«

In this context, we also want to examine the history of art – which has since
forever been confronted with a specific form of »Reverse Engineering«: the de-
piction of that which is considered nature. Through the imitation of that nature,
art has always transcended the ideology of the »natural« – long without rea-
lizing it itself – by imitating it artificially as an aesthetic artefact. Aristotelian
Poetics had already defined art as essentially being imitation in the so-called
»mimesis imperative«.

Mimesis, understood as the imitation of the seemingly natural or nature-like as
seen by human consciousness in a certain point in its evolution, does not, how-
ever, only signify the depiction of »nature«, such as the pictorial depiction of a
CD-R containing driver software (which would probably not pose a problem for
the licensees). It moreover signifies the pervasive depiction of its subject –
especially so through the decline of simplistic concepts of nature – to a certain
extent exactly what »Reverse Engineering« means. Seen in this scope, Mimesis
casts off the old characterizations of illusion and imagination. Aristotle already
saw imitation – in the specific case of the tragedy (about which his thoughts on
poetics mostly were) – »the imitating depiction of an action« – not as end in
itself or mere depiction, but as a means to achieve emotional participation with
the depicted: The viewers should empathize in order to achieve a cathartic
experience of own or generally human emotions.

Since the start of modernity, art has become reflexive – with profound conse-
quences even in the »post-modern« present. This means that its own media,
symbols and structures have become its topics, that it talks about how it talks
to us, and that the materials for its creation have become partially autonomous
from their function of depiction: They are converted from tools into points of
contact for reflection. This reflection is, however, no longer aimed at an extra-
linguistic, incorruptible reality that may be represented correctly or incorrectly,
but rather at the ways in which art reaches its depictions of reality. It has in
consequence ceased to be a depiction of that first reality, but it rather arti-
culates its own claim for reality, with grave consequences for the world in ge-
neral. The world has started to dissolve itself because of competing routines of
depiction, such as seen in the »linguistic turn« in the humanities.

Digital art is hereby dependant on the use of digital tools – sound and image
editing software, the net or social media. If it wants to keep the state of reflec-
tion of modern art and not – as a soft update of illusionist art – merely produce
digital spectacles (which is the case far too often), it needs to have free (as in
free speech) programs which do not hamper access through license regulations
and prescribe a certain stereotypical use while incriminating other uses.
Therefore, the freedom of programs needs to be of the same value for art as
the litigable freedom of art itself, which was historically established in long


7. Basis for discussion

paraflows.7 will therefore examine problems and possibilities of »Reverse
Engineering« in many mutually interconnected ways. Questions which transcend
the tight limits of the discourse of legitimacy, as it has been practiced by the net
community, open source activists and the owners of software patents, will be
central. In opposition to that discourse we need to state that »Reverse
Engineering« is not a problem of digital culture, but rather a cultural technique
that incepted that development at whose current end we now discuss ques-
tions of intellectual property.

We therefore strive to show structural similarities – and equally significant
differences – between the historical forms of »Reverse Engineering«: How do its
claims change with the changes in its subject matter? Which new possibilities
are created by current software problems – and which historical insights (espe-
cially about the structure of ownership in a bourgeois-capitalist society) could
be gained by the currently implemented access impediments and restrictions?
How can access restrictions be seen as an indication of fundamental errors in
the fabric of our society and which propagandistic effect for the claims of a de-
regulated culture of have-nots is achieved by the often outrageous counter-
measures of those protecting software?

We should furthermore ask whether or in which way the classic dissection of
bodies practiced by medicine and biology is comparable with the dissection of
software. Which methodological insights can be translated from one to the
other, and which insights remain bleak analogies?

Who actually owns software, and which alternative models of ownership are
conceivable – in contrast to the restrictive practice of tight license regulations?

Which exclusions are produced by open source culture? Where are the weak
points of software liberalism? How is it positioned socially? Which subjects and
types of subjects are generated by it, who is drawn to it and who is alienated?
Who is excluded by its concept of freedom? How can the ideological system in
which it resides be hacked? How can it be re-written? How should social move-
ments refer to it and which points of contact and similarities are ingrained in it
implicitly or explicitly? – To what extent is technological and digital basic know-
ledge available for all; who even has access to software?

And: How can the existing social systems be opened for us to reach their
blueprints and change them? How do the economic relations constitute them-
selves as relations of class, race and gender, and which aspects of the social
matrix can be »reverse engineered«?

And finally: digital art and culture also constitutes a system that needs to be
opened. We will also have to think about: through which interventions and
preconceptions can paraflows.7 break with the state of net culture, in order to
not only articulate claims, but also realize them?

Frank Apunkt Schneider/Günther Friesinger