Dani Grant is just about to finish up her stint as an undergrad at NYU, but in her spare time she has decided to take on a separate mission: reclaiming the word “hacker.”
Studying computer science opened Grant up to all of the possibilities that lie in the field, the possibility to solve new problems, the possibility to create and innovate. And for Grant, “Hacker” is the best way to describe those who are tackling these problems and challenges.
“In [the TV show] Scandal, Huck is a criminal described as a hacker, and he’s dark and ruthless and enjoys killing people,” Grant told Business Insider. “Quin [another character on Scandal] is a good character until she starts tinkering with computers and then starts killing people. The two are associated in media.”
“I don’t think we need another word meaning criminal, but a word that recognises and encourages innovation is really important to have. That word gives us a lot as a community, and I think it’s very important that we’re reclaiming it,” she added.
To reclaim the term, as well as to encourage others to take on the role, Grant decided to start a blog called Hackers of New York. The blog is modelled after the popular blog Humans of New York and aims to portray the diverse and unique individuals involved in the tech community. Grant interviews random people in the greater tech community and publishes their picture along with a quote or two from the interview.
The blog is expanding to other cities and countries, with Hackers of Silicon Valley, Hackers of Chicago, and Hackers of London already up. And according to Grant, people from 13 different countries have reached out asking to start their own version.
Grant is currently spearheading the Silicon Valley version — she’s originally from Mountain View and is home for summer vacation — and she has a team of individuals leading up the blogs in the other locations.
In addition to her goal of reclaiming the word hacker, Grant is also looking to inspire others to join the tech community, even if they don’t think they’d fit in.
“For many of the women I meet, they were told from a very early age that they’re too much of a people person or too extroverted to work with computers, and that can be very discouraging,” Grant said. “With a blog like this you can see hackers who look like you.”