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

Phillip Rhodes motley.crue.fan at gmail.com
Mon Nov 28 18:01:25 CET 2011

On Sun, Nov 27, 2011 at 11:05 AM, B F <bakmthiscl at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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!

I'm sure there a handful of people who might actually have that issue... but
it would take an incredibly rare confluence of circumstances, including
brain-dead management, for that to hold.  If I had a friend in that
position, I'd
(politely) suggest they seek a new position.

> 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.

I think you're overstating the situation.  Most people who are even slightly
intelligent and informed realize that words in English are frequently overloaded
with multiple meanings.   And to the extent that people *do* see "hackers"
as "people who break into computers," you have to consider that on many
occasions in pop-culture (films, etc.) they are actually portrayed as
the good-guys!
See: Hackers, Wargames, The Matrix, etc.

> 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).

It's easy for us Americans to forget that the entire world is not the
USA.  We shouldn't
assume that the same cultural norms hold up everywhere, and we
definitely shouldn't
feel that a world-wide movement should adopt a particular premise or
principle just
because it's "All American."  Our government has already done a fine
job in encouraging
everyone else in the world to hate us, let's not perpetuate that, please.

> 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.

Sorry, but I disagree.  The term "hacker" has an old and fine
tradition associated with it
and I'm not in the slightest bit interested in walking away from that.

> I'm sure there will be disagreement as to terms to use, but some
> change is needed lest we alienate too many people.

Meh. If the people we alienate are people who are that clueless,
short-sighted and/or uninformed (and
unwilling to become informed) they weren't mean to be part of this in
the first place.


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