Dear fellow demoresearchers,
Since Markku has kindly added me to the list and the homepage, I thought it would be appropriate to write a few lines about what I'm doing. Some of you might know me as a demoscene activist (among other things, co-organiser of the Evoke demoparty and one of the admins of Scene.org and Demozoo) - however, in "real life" I'm a historian, originally specialised in East European history. Having recently defended my PhD thesis on early Soviet history, I was keen on doing research on something rather different, and decided - motivated by the Demoscene Research Bibliography and the excellent groundwork research you all have been doing - to go for a computer-history-related postdoc. After several conceptualisation attempts and job interviews, since last month I am a very happy holder of a postdoc position at the University of Zurich, where, for the next three years, I will be working on a global, inter-platform history of the software piracy scene(s) in the 1980s and the early 1990s, hopefu
lly resulting in a book.
Unlike much of the research done up to now, I am not primarily interested in the aesthetical side of the cracking scene and its visual products, but rather in its structures and practices. I approach it as a subculture that was deeply embedded into the 1980s not only in terms of popular culture, but also in terms of politics and economy. The project is being conducted as part of the German-Swiss interdisciplinary research group "Media and Mimesis", whose Zurich branch, rooted in the cultural history of economy, is concerned with "Mimetic Economies" - and this is also the analytical lens I'm using to conceptualise the early pirate scene. While crackers positioning themselves as antagonists of the formal software economy, instead practicing their own informal "honour economy" (Rehn), they creatively reappropriated many of the formal economy's practices and discourses - from "branding" and "marketing" their "products" over building up transnational distribution structures to mimicking
the industry's brands and logos. The latter, I would argue, was not merely a parody or a form of "culture jamming" (Klein), but a genuine expression of the subculture's sense of belonging to the larger context of home computing economy. I will highlight this by looking at the manifold and intense entanglements between the cracking world and the games industry, and the ambiguous role crackers played in contemporary mainstream media.
I'm looking forward to the following three years, and am very happy to be part of such an intense and fresh field of research - some of the pioneers of which I am really glad to see on this discussion list. Among other things, Markku and I will organise a small international workshop on digital subcultures in Zurich in early 2016. We will keep you updated as soon as the plans for it are past the very early planning stage.
It would be great if we could revive this discussion list a bit!
Dr. des. Gleb J. Albert
Historisches Seminar, Universität Zürich
Forschergruppe "Medien und Mimesis"