[hackerspaces] Thread for living: "Hacking it all"

Rose White rose at yarnivore.com
Tue May 12 10:26:13 CEST 2009

Hi -- Rose here, from NYCR.

This weekend, Johannes and Frank of monochrom gave us their appraisal
of the past, present, and possible future of hackerspaces. I found
quite a bit there to agree with and enjoy, particularly because I have
been considering many of the same points myself.

A full history of how we got from primeval dust to hackerspaces would
include everything in the monochrom piece, but would also add more to
the historical dimensions that Hellekin referred to, to fill in some
of the centuries between 1100CE and the Industrial Revolution. For the
20th century, I'd also want us to look at Kristen Haring's excellent
book, "Ham Radio's Technical Culture", which documents a white, male,
technical world which in many other ways was a kind of Bizarro World
inverse of our historically more radicalized hacker communities. The
strong leftist, activist, anarchist, and utopian/communalist tradition
of many of our spaces is not the sum of our history -- but it is there
and well worth examining.

I disagree that the current state of our hackerspaces is completely
apolitical. Our creation of collaborative spaces where we
reappropriate technology and lost knowledge (tinkering and crafts of
all kinds), work towards post-scarcity (open-source 3-d printing), and
reorganize ourselves socially (sharing rent with people who are not
family or work colleagues) is inherently political -- it's a push-back
against mainstream society. Just by existing, we are changing social
norms, and I personally think that's awesome. However, doing this
without consideration is a missed opportunity, and that is what I see
as the main point of the original monochrom post.

For an example, I'd like to call attention to Michael Zeltner's
response: http://lists.hackerspaces.org/pipermail/discuss/2009-May/000374.html

"Diversity shouldn't be a political issue anymore, but the bare
fucking minimum any social space should look into. ... 'Theory is a
toolkit to analyze and deconstruct the world.' Call it gdb for the
real world if you want, but making the information and tools around
this available is crucial."

For now we have private, subscription-based hackerspaces that are
clubhouses for people who have already earned the right to be there. I
love my hackerspace and I'm thrilled that I can walk in and use it
24/7; I love it just as much as I would have loved a private,
subscription-based library in 1870 -- but I wouldn't have had access to one.

In 2009 in the United States, libraries are public utilities; I am
welcome in one anywhere. When I think about the former model, it makes
me cringe -- and I hope it makes you cringe a little, too. In 140
years, hackerspaces may be public utilities; they may be something
else entirely. But do you have a good answer about why our "hacker
ethic" of sharing and making only seems to apply to a very small
sliver of society? Why didn't women and brown people want to read
books in 1870?

To reiterate: I'm pleased at how we are changing society for the
better, right now, with the rise in the number of hackerspaces. But
I'm also pleased by monochrom's call for more theoretical attention to
what we are doing.

-- Rose/yarnivore

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