Hacktivism and its Struggle in Changing the World:The Aaron Swartz Case, Access to Knowledge and Economic Model

I'm Eduardo Cuducos and this is a sociological study focused on Aaron Swartz's prosecution and its repercussion. It was done during my MA in Sociological Research at University of Essex. The research was supervised by Dr. Linsey McGoey and co-supervised by Dr. Lynne Pettinger.


Aaron Swartz was an outstanding programmer and a vigorous activist of freedom of information, a status that conferred him the label of a hacktivist — i.e. someone who uses skills in coding, network and applications to make political statements. He was charged of several felonies and could have faced up to 50 years in prison after a massive download of academic articles from JSTOR through MIT network. He committed suicide before the trial could take place in the age of 26. The prosecution and his death caused considerable repercussions not only in the tech and activist communities but in the general media as well. This dissertation examines the judicial case surrounding Swartz's prosecution in order to analyze the social and political implications of Swartz's actions and death. Drawing primarily on genealogical analysis, the dissertationtion (1) explores legal difficulties in determining appropriate sentencing in unprecedented and highly contentions areas of law; (2) analyzes how a point of view based on the access to knowledge movement contributes to a genealogy of this case; and (3) adds an epistemological layer to the analysis of the case and its repercussions.

The analysis builds a social context for the prosecution which is concerned with a wider political and ideological debate (one that was absent from the legal prosecution itself). The research explores the sociological implications of different parts of this case towards intellectual property regimes. In particular, it looks into how the circumstances of Swartz's prosecution may be reframing current economic and political debates regarding access to knowledge.


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Hacktivism and its Struggle in Changing the World by Eduardo Cuducos is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.