Acts of digital parasitism: Hacking, humanitarian apps and platformisation.

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The opacity of digital technologies has posed significant challenges for critical research and digital methods. In response, controversy mapping, reverse engineering and hacking have been key methodological devices to grapple with opacity and ‘open the black box’ of digital ecosystems. We take recent developments in digital humanitarianism and the accelerated production of apps for refugees following the 2015 Mediterranean refugee crisis as a site of methodological experimentation to advance hacking as critical methodological interference. Drawing on the work of Michel Serres, we propose to understand digital technologies as ‘parasitic’ and reconceptualise hacking as ‘acts of digital parasitism’. Acts of digital parasitism are interferences that work alongside rather than work against. On one hand, this reworking of hacking advances an agenda for digital methods through reworking hacking for digital humanities and social science research. On the other, it allows us to show how the object of research – humanitarian apps – is configured through platformisation and incorporation within digital parasitic relations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2548-2565
Number of pages18
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number11-12
Early online date10 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Apps
  • Serres
  • humanitarianism
  • methods
  • parasite
  • platforms


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