A couple of nights ago I was relaxing on my sofa looking for some nice video on YouTube. After surfing for a while I decided to search for a weird clip I had seen months before.
It is called The Max Headroom Pirating Incident and it is about one of the most famous television signal hacking/hijacking of all the times.
The attack occurred in Chicago, on the evening of November 22, 1987, on WTTW.
During an episode of the serial Doctor Who, the signal was hacked by an unidentified man, wearing a Max Headroom mask. During the following minutes, the man put on a crazy show based on laughs, screams, nonsenses and spankings.
The attack then ended, but the mysterious hacker has never been identified.
I love this video, both for its lo-fi 80’s-style aesthetics and for the technical ability the hacker showed for hijacking the television signal.
Speaking about hacking the future, usually we tend to associate the word hacker with digital devices such as computers and smartphones. But hacker has multiple and deeper meanings.
The Jargon File lists eight definitions of hacker. Personally I love the first one:
“A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary”
Put in these terms, hacking (and hacking the future) can be considered as a process of lateral innovation. Artists can play a great role in developing hacking techniques for creativity, thus helping companies and manufacturers in finding new ways to innovate.
By deliberately letting systems and machines be hacked for artistic purposes, companies can stretch their capabilities and gain a competitive advantage towards competitors.
- Rethink machines as living systems that can creatively react to unplanned actions
- Rethink the use your machine was built for and try to imagine another creative use
- Rethink the way your machine is part of a complex system and change the system
I truly think that it makes sense.