danah boyd Wants You To Hack Your Own Work

Danah boyd is tired of seeing peoples’ good intentions gamed by malicious actors.

Her proposed antidote is a hacker mindset.

How 2011 is that?

I kid. I’ve cooled on all the hacking lingo that got me so charged up five years ago. I’ve stopped looking for hacks and started committing to just doing work. But cute tricks are not what boyd means by “hacks.” She means design decisions that account for all the malicious and unintended ways the thing you make can be used. She’s talking about “extensibility,” which, in her words, is “an ideal of building a system that could take unimagined future development into consideration.”

People who are good at this “don’t just hold onto the task at hand, but have a vision for all sorts of different future directions that may never come into fruition.” She essentially wants people to “imagine innovative ways of breaking things.”

So, what innovative ways might teenagers employ to break your curriculum? Are you writing it with that in mind? What about your session agenda? Your sermon? Is there value in church leaders developing the mental muscles to wreck our own well-intentioned work from the inside, so that what we build ends up being stronger and more durable?

A story to illustrate this. I ran an overnight retreat years ago to teach a relationship and sexuality curriculum. It was very flexibly scheduled and there were design decisions made that were ill-informed, even sloppy. The next day I heard from a parent that her son had told her we taught that “premarital sex is okay as long as it’s fun.”

You don’t have to impute nefarious intentions to that kid to take the lesson that the design should have anticipated that potential direction.

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