[hackerspaces] Out with the "hackers"... In with the "makers" and the "fixers"

Mitch Altman maltman23 at hotmail.com
Sun Nov 27 23:45:14 CET 2011

I am a hacker.  I am a geek.  I am queer.  I use words to define aspects of myself.  Words can be empowering.  I consciously use words to empower myself, and share my enthusiasm with others.  Choose your own words consciously for your purposes.  

I love communicating with people.  And I love communicating through media -- even mainstream media.  People who really enjoy communicating will gladly let me share my enthusiasm for hackerspaces, and consider a different definition from what they've heard from the mainstream media (the only place they've probably ever heard the term "hacker" till then).  Saying I'm part of a hackerspace is a great way to pique peoples' curiosity.  And media -- especially mainstream media -- loves "controversy".  And just saying the word "hacker" or "hackerspace" smacks of "controversy" (and the quotes are important, since there really is no controversy).  I use these words all the time in the mainstream media -- and they *eat* *it* *up*!  And they give me free reign to tell *my* version of those words.  And the mainstream media coverage of hackerspaces has been nothing but positive.  And that's because of all of the incredibly way cool people doing incredibly way cool things -- and with incredible enthusiasm -- and simply because we love it!

Use your words with enthusiam, with compassion, with passion.  My experience is incredibly, overwhelmingly positive.


> Date: Sun, 27 Nov 2011 11:05:20 -0500
> From: bakmthiscl at gmail.com
> To: discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
> Subject: [hackerspaces] Out with the "hackers"... In with the "makers" and	the "fixers"
> I have no problem with language, but that seems not the case with the
> general public.  "Hacker" has become a bad word.  This was driven home
> to me a couple night ago, over dinner with a group, in which a
> programmer who worked for a major computer company (in the
> communications field) responded to my talk about a "hackerspace" by
> commenting that she might have trouble professionally if associated
> with such a group!
> This movement is shooting itself in the foot by continuing to use the
> terms "hack", "hacking", "hacker", and "hackerspace".  Like it or not,
> the American public "knows" that hackers are evil people who steal
> identities and money, infiltrate corporate, government, and military
> computers and steal their secrets, etc., etc.  The media has told them
> that and they believe it.  Even intelligent people believe it.  That
> "hacker" could mean something benevolent as well, does not occur to
> them.
> As I was repairing the pan in my automatic bread-making machine this
> morning -- mostly involving replacing a broken C-clip -- it occurred
> to me that fixing things is as American as apple pie.  As a movement,
> we need to ally ourselves with that tradition.  Likewise, making
> things is All-American. (I'm being a bit facetious, here, but if we
> have less than 30 seconds to get a message across, we have to use buzz
> words).
> Therefore, we should chuck the term "hacker" in all its forms, and
> switch completely to "makerspaces" or even "fixerspaces".  Or, more
> simply, "shops" or "labs", with relevant adjectives to further
> describe them.
> I'm sure there will be disagreement as to terms to use, but some
> change is needed lest we alienate too many people.
> - Bruce
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