Modding is an age-old human urge and an exploding creative trend that's rattling the nuts and bolts of mass culture. It may primarily call to mind the alteration of technological devices and systems, but modding's reach extends far beyond a desire to mold modern technology to an individual's needs. Andy Oram of the O'Reilly Network broadens the definition to include social activists and anyone altering systems to effect change.
Humans have been transforming others' inventions for thousands of years. But the contemporary face of modding is different, Oram argues, because modders are now coming together and finding a sense of community in the shared activity. This community gathers on the internet, participating in collaborative software development and digital music projects, and sharing project how-tos on DIY-themed blogs. The magazines Make and ReadyMade serve as hubs for modders who can find ideas within their pages, and in the case of Make, on its blog.
Modding isn't just about tinkering away at computer systems and devices. For many, it's a way to make technology more environmentally friendly. (Check out Don Dunklee's electric scooter rigged to run on solar power, for example). And for others, it's a way to push the boundaries of copyright law. A number of activist modders are asserting their cultural voices on the web and in books that address the philosophical aspects of modding culture, including McKenzie Wark's A Hacker Manifesto, and Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture. Modders, including Lessig, have pushed for an alternative to traditional copyright law, founding Creative Commons licensing, the 'some rights reserved' answer to traditional copyright law's 'all rights reserved.'
Though some modders limit their interests to personally tailored technology, others are trying to make a dent in the culture that created it. Oram hopes that modders can be an inspiration to other creative types who want to find new solutions using the data available to us every day.
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