Barbrook studied for a BA in Social & Political Science at Downing College, University of Cambridge, a MA in Political Behaviour at University of Essex and a doctorate in Politics & Government at University of Kent.
In the early 1980s, he was involved with pirate and community radio broadcasting. Helping to set up the multi-lingual Spectrum Radio station in London, he published extensively on radio issues during this period.  
Having worked on media regulation within the EU for some years at a research institute at the University of Westminster, much of his material was published in his 1995 book Media Freedom. In the same year, he became the coordinator of the Hypermedia Research Centre at Westminster's Media School and was the first course leader of its MA in Hypermedia Studies.
Working with Andy Cameron, he wrote The Californian Ideology which was a pioneering critique of the neo-liberal politics of Wired magazine. His other important writings about the Net include The Hi-Tech Gift Economy, Cyber-communism, The Regulation of Liberty and The Class of the New.
In 2007, Richard moved to the Social Sciences School of the University of Westminster and published his study of the political and ideological role of the prophecies of artificial intelligence and the information society Imaginary Futures.
The Media Ecology Association selected Imaginary Futures as the winner of the 2008 Marshall McLuhan Award for Outstanding Book of the Year in the Field of Media Ecology. 
Richard Barbrook is a founding member of Class Wargames and co-wrote the script to the group's film: Ilze Black (director), Class Wargames Presents Guy Debord's The Game of War .