Tag Archives: thick description

The Multifaceted Hacker

By Ethan Zuckerman

Clifford Geertz (1973) opened his seminal “The Interpretation of Cultures” with a helpful concept borrowed from British philosopher of language Gilbert Ryle: “thick description.” Ryle (2009) posits one of the thought experiments philosophers of language are so fond of, asking us to imagine two men winking, one due to an involuntary twitch, the other to signal a co-conspirator.

A thin description, in which an observer notes that both men winked, is incomplete at best, and misleading at worst. A thick description, which considers not just the two acts but an examination of the context, significance, motivation and meaning of the acts is much more difficult to construct, but brings us closer to the “actor’s eye view” of a situation, though Geertz hastens to remind us that “what we call our data are really our own constructions of other people’s constructions of what they and their compatriots are up to.” Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Essay Dialogues, Hackers: Freedom Fighters or Danger to Society