[hackerspaces] History of shared workshop spaces

Ron Bean bucketworks at rbean.users.panix.com
Fri Dec 4 02:01:56 CET 2009

Back in the '90s, I used to lurk on rec.woodworking and
rec.arts.metalworking, and the idea of shared workshop space came up
regularly. The general consensus (or at least the loudest opinions) were
that it was unworkable, because you'd be dealing with partners you don't
know. How do you know they won't abuse your tools? How do you know they
won't hurt themselves and get you sued? How you do know they won't
disappear and leave you stuck with the entire rent? (etc).

Then Wired writes an article, and all of a sudden we have shared
workshops popping up all over the place, often including woodworking and
metalworking tools. What changed?

I don't know the answer, but I can make a few guesses.

I always had the impression (maybe not accurate) that the woodworking
and metalworking newsgroups were dominated by homeowners who had garages
and basements to work in. There was sort of an implication that if you
weren't a homeowner, you needed to work on your career instead of having
hobbies, until you could afford to buy a house (Or, maybe I'm imagining
that.) In any case, most of the people there had no strong desire to
work with other people (more likely, they were using their hobbies as a
chance to get *away* from the people they worked with all day, and spend
some time alone).

Contrary to popular belief, many hackers do value each other's company,
and enjoy working on projects together. And in many cases, hacking is
directly related to their careers. And in theory, it doesn't take much
space (although some hackerspaces are quite large).

There's also a long history or artists sharing studio space. Artists are
used to not having enough money, and sharing space makes sense from that
point of view. And many of them do value having other artists around.

So I'm thinking that it's a cultural thing, rather than any practical

Anyone have other comments on this?

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