Hacked! Reflections on a Hackjam

One of my favorite parts of NCTE 2011 wasn’t a scheduled session. It was an ad-hoc National Writing Project sponsored hackjam (not to be confused with Spacejam). Organized by the incomparable Andrea Zellner, the hackjam gave 20 or so folks the opportunity to muck around on the web. Using Mozilla’s FireFox browser and a toolbar button from the hackasaurus site to modify websites by changing the HTML code for the site.

I think Paul and Andrea were pretending to type

I took the opportunity to “hack” the NY Times webpage to date it a day forward in tribute to my favorite 90’s TV show, Early Edition, and to replace some of the ads with Buy Nothing Day logos. With so many people on the Corner Bakery wi-fi, we were draining it, so instead of tweeting out a pic from my page, I took a pic and tweeted it out.

On one level, it was a futile activity. Other than a screenshots we took, there was no evidence of our work. Using hackasaurus doesn’t actually modify the website, but just the way it displays in your browser. It’d be easy to say, “That sounds fun, but what’s the point?” For me, mucking around in the HTML was like making bread from scratch or changing a tire. They’re activities in which I want to engage as an act of understanding and joy, not necessarily of utility or efficiency. I think for ourselves and our students understanding the means of production are important, so that we can be responsible and thoughtful teachers, students, and humans.

Cross posted from In For Good