”The Silicon Valley model of public good enacted by hackathons provides technical solutions to social problems. This cultivates a mode of entrepreneurial citizenship that is increasingly welcomed by governments in times of austerity. Even so, the consequences of the hackathon’s terms of engagement — which recognize problems only insofar as technology can operationalize and solve them — mean that the work practices of the engineer become the preferred technique for civics. The existing social world is taken as given, requiring only tweaks and tinkering around the edges. By narrowing focus to problems that can be solved, questions of power and equity are avoided. There is no time to consider the structural or political causes that make some problems priorities over others. Instead, hackathons ransack the social for issues that can be fixed under accelerated conditions. In this way, hackathons’ speculative citizens also reap speculative rewards. They remain firmly in the realm of tactics rather than strategies. In hackathons, we simulate genres of accomplishment but we don’t ever progress to a position of owning infrastructure, influencing the economy, or changing laws that distribute resources. As the app economy trades off the free labor of aspiring citizens and workers, we might wonder what is “good” about this kind of hacking, which offers struggling institutions a means to harvest work given away for free.
The Trouble With White Hats – The New Inquiry