Oliver Reichenstein: We are the Medium
We often imagine hackers as being hardcore computer nerds with evil intentions. People who want to get into your computer, steal your important data and sell it to the highest bidder.
In Oliver Reichenstein’s talk “We are the medium. Designing the new power of information and it’s form.” we’re introduced to his concepts of ‘the hacker’ and ‘the priest’. Hackers and Priests are being translated into ‘The anarchist’ vs. ‘The institution’. ‘Hackers’, by Reichenstein’s definition, are people who are devoted to making complex matters simple and accessible to the general public. According to Reichenstein, priests are people seeking to standardize and create knowledge. But do so in a form that creates institutions and barriers, rather than a platform for knowledge.
Reichenstein illustrates the rise of hacker culture dating back to 1600 BC, opening up the complex system of ‘textual language’. Where (literally) priests were the first ones who transformed thought into writing.
In the journey that follows we’re taken through time to uncover the origin of modern-day serif and sans-serif fonts. With sans-serif fonts being portrayed as the ‘hacker font’ or ‘democratic font’ whereas the serif font is portrayed as the ‘conformistic, archaic’ font.
Interesting to see is that, in the initial ‘hacker revolt’, hieroglyphs were transformed into sans-serif fonts by Early Roman and Greek culture. More “recently”, with the uprising of minimalistic styles and graphic design movements we see a favor over the geometric and the simplistic rather than the stylized Serif. In Reichenstein’s terms; the old hacker movement has become the new priest order.
One could say that Oliver Reichenstein’s presentation is a cry-out to stop ‘creating priests’ and complex systems. In a way he reminds us that we can all be ‘hackers’ if we want to. Sans-serif-fonts are considered to be the “new” hacker movement in the world of visual language. It’s up to type designers to create the new movement and keep the system open.