Institute Historian T. F. Peterson (Author), Eric Bender (Contributor) – Nightwork: A History of Hacks and Pranks at MIT [Paperback]

Institute Historian T. F. Peterson (Author)

Paperback: 248 pages, The MIT Press; updated edition edition (March 11, 2011), English, ISBN-10: 0262515849, ISBN-13: 978-0262515849
This is a book about hacks and pranks at MIT, compiled by the Institute Historian and published by the MIT Press (actually, it’s an updated version from 2003). With these premises one might expect a self-indulgent book… but actually it’s not. Using original pictures and documents, the book reveals the inexhaustible creativity of MIT students (who seem to be in a kind of permanent state of intellectual competition) in re-thinking their environment and intervening on the college and nearby spaces. André DeHon, MIT alumni calls it “mastering the physical world”, but it has more to do with perception of reality and familiar structures (both physical and conceptual ones). Most of the time the pranks and hacks slip easily into some kind of performance art, although they occasionally contain some light traces of geeky naïvité – or more often, implement some kind of instant innovation – such as in the use of windows to functionally replace pixels, so celebrated in the new media art world in the 2000s with the Chaos Computer Club’s work Blikenlights (at MIT they started to be used in this way at the end of sixties and throughout the seventies on various occasions – although in a non-interactive way). The iconic campus spaces – the corridors, lobby and offices – are here viewed as platforms. The MIT dome has always been considered as the holy grail of hacks for its scale and visibility. And despite this, every hack has followed the hacker’s ethical rules, producing hilarious and amazing results, transforming brilliant studious spirit into inspired projects.