[hackerspaces] Hacking the Spaces: A critical acclaim of what was, is and could be a hackerspace (or hacklab, for that matter)

Hellekin O. Wolf (/tmp/lab) hellekin at hackerspaces.org
Sun May 10 16:48:44 CEST 2009

On Sat 2009-05-09 at 23:10:19 +0200, das ende der nahrungskette wrote:
> Johannes Grenzfurthner/Frank Apunkt Schneider (monochrom)
> A critical acclaim of what was, is and could be a hackerspace (or
> hacklab, for that matter)
> // Hackerspaces 1 // History
*** I can't agree with that part as I find it a bit too simplistic.

The nature of open spaces with shared resources resounds as much older than
the 60s to me, going far before the Industrial Revolution. What IR brought
is the separation of home and workspace, and the collapse of local
communities as a mean to control society. See all these brick houses erected
in the XIXth Century: sleepspace and a small garden, to keep you meeting
with other people and thinking too much about the current situation in an
infinitely mobilized world, and the purpose of life.

The existence of social spaces where you can share technological resources,
aka. hackerspaces or hacklabs, should not be mistaken for Kolkhozes: people
coming to hackerspaces seek knowledge, realization and action. They're not
here because they were forced into it. They won't come if they don't want to.

As it happens, at least in Europe, so far as I've seen it, hackerspaces are
actually connected to alternate lifestyles. But I wouldn't put it the way
you did: we're not against anything, but rather for something that's been
shaping nicely as the hacker philosophy. We're more into questioning things,
and authority, but frontal fight isn't an issue. Rather, we're trying to
build alternatives that render the oppressive system obsolete, and make it
easier to traverse it through its holes. 

That's probably why there are lots of connections between hackers,
hackerspaces, squatters, anarchists and other libertarians and autonomists.
Hackers and scientists share the same approach: opening things and keeping
them open. But even there, Science has been corrupted by the ideology of
Progress. Innovation and progress have merged: RFID tagging, CCTVs, etc.
account as innovations, as progress. They're not. They're destroying freedom
and humanity. Technophiles as we are, we still question technology, because
we're humans before anything else. 

When one enters a hackerspace, she's into a supportive environment, by
default. Far from the Hobbesian view of bellum omnium contra omnes (the
"state of nature" in which everyone is against everyone) that funds the
modern social contract of Democracy and Capitalism, although contemporary
Capitalism actually *maintains* a state of war. The only social contract
I've seen in hackerspaces so far is *be excellent to each other*. Now that's
contrary to the new world order as we know it. Do It Yourself, cooperation,

Yes, we're being political. No, we're not fighting against.

> // Hackerspaces 2 // Present

Indeed, having thousands of people working for the sake of knowledge and
openness is a very good thing to have for governments and capitalists. Look
at Google: they take over the world by granting hackers with the means of
their aims. When Google leaders retire, who do you think will take over? Not

By taking the stance of Us vs. Them, we're just taking part of the
domination system we actually reject. Hackers, IMHO, are better thinkers
than that. As rivers, they take the path of least resistance and make things
that only individuals or small groups could make, as opposed to governments
and corporations whose interests are in their own perenity. Open hardware
bring a serious challenge to competition.

I can't agree that hackerspaces have become something less than they were
supposed to be when they supposedly were in an Us vs. Them position. On the
contrary, the will to intensify relations between spaces and between
projects, actually fostering cooperation, makes me think we're on the right
track towards an effective counter-power, that is: a new way of doing things
for the sake of liberating people from the Leviathan.

> // Hackerspaces 3 // Future
*** Although it's true that the average hackerspace attendant is a young
white male, I don't see it as a problem, but rather as a consequence of the
development of our civilization. Be sure that in a few years, hackerspaces
in Asia or Africa will pop like bubbles in a world famous soda. The transfer
of technology will happen and probably people living in much harder
environments than ours will come up with groundbreaking ideas and
realizations. You have to realize how African kids transform junk into
working toys to grasp their imagination and latent power.

The interest for technology--as in: technique applied to society--is rather
an interest for consumption. IPhones make you belong. As do TV-Be-Gone. But
the latter is a political statement, while the former remains a product of

When more people realize they can appropriate technology, more hackerspaces
will appear, and more community involvement will happen. In the meantime,
although theory and the inscription of the movement in a political framework
is an interesting exercise, I don't see an urge to orient what's going on in
hackerspaces around the world. 

I'd rather meet people and make things happen that converge towards more
benefits for a local community, that can be replicated and adapted to other
communities, in the same way FOSS is acting, than trying to put labels on a
movement that would eventually make it collapse in useless talks about how
we should bring the revolution to completion. Life and nature have their own
rythm, from which our civilization has been decorrelating its ways. But that
won't last. At some point this civilization will collapse, as all others
before it, and the only thing we can do is help it collapse by inventing new
ways, more in tune with what we know, what we feel. No need to force it on
anyone, it will happen in its own time. 


I couldn't resist but critique your text, although I understand and
appreciate its motivation. But I'm no way near the communist approach of
trying to force the revolution upon everyone. I like the word: sabotage a
lot more. Nowadays, sabotage means not complying with the norm, making it
obsolete by refusing it and tracing our own path. There are as many ways to
do that as there are people around the world, gathering on a regular basis
to make and invent new ways. Hackers do that. Hackerspaces ease that.


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