Betatester Consumer Hacker Catalog (excerpt) by Ray Ogar

>>> COPYRIGHT 2004

my mom was the first hacker i ever knew. she would buy clothes for herself and me, come home and rip the threads out. slowly she would modify our clothes, remove brand names, and change what we wore. Thirty years later she still does this, but with more radical flair. objects she buys, appliances, product, games, everything eventually gets modified. over the years i have come to realize mom’s self indoctrination slowly infected everyone around us, including me. i was especially sensitive to her programming considering the endless array of legos, low resolution adventure games and books that rotated into my hands–all have contributed to my desire to become a beta tester, to imagine differently my surroundings into something not dictated
by others. at present i don’t know anyone who doesn’t modify his or her environment to some extent.

our adult toys involve drag-and-drop song remixes, cut-and-paste movie modifications, and open source programming.

it is one thing to live with what we buy, it means something else to unmake that same thing and to recontextualize it for personal use. there are only so many buttons a manufacturer can add to a product. unfortunately it is the buttons that aren’t there that we want to push. disney, microsoft, even barnes and noble, tell us to think one way, and it is for them that i decide to make my own button.

with the advent of digital, we now think and act less linearly. life is less about the way space already exists around us and more about how we can carry our own spaces, rather how do we make the environment inside us, outside. i would argue that the liquid nature, the oral nowness of our daily lives and the digitizing of objects makes our culture and the way we think all the more ripe for change by us. it is one thing for companies to dictate what we buy. but, it is not up to them to tell us how to use what we buy. in no way am i advocating product modification and then the reselling of that product for profit. i am pointing out the fact that when i buy a cd, dvd or t-shirt that i am not renting that object, nor am i borrowing it, but that the act of buying is final, it is mine. i would argue that when i purchase a cd, the music on it becomes a part of me and if that music finds its way filtered by me, mangled and distorted in the form of a remix, i have every right to express that. perhaps i play the song for myself and a little bit of it leaks into reality from my headphones. A guy sitting on the subway next to me asks to hear it. i don’t charge him, but i do invite him into my space, my mind and my way of thinking.

disclaimer - as we move deeper into a permission culture and further from a free culture with a free exchange of ideas we have to consider the implications of the restrictions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). it states that any modification of any copyrighted work or object is illegal, and any attempt to circumvent the form or idea of an object is in direct violation of the creator’s intended use of that object and therefore you are committing a crime. this catalog is about sharing, interchange, trading recipes, and swapping patterns. by changing what we buy we reduce the commercial monologue to a dialog–we refuse the feudal lords their one version of creativity and control and reassert ourselves as our own map makers. this allows the propagation of a public domain. with this in mind, feel free to photocopy this catalog, it is considered fair use. it is not for sale. some rights reserved.