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

Nathaniel Bezanson myself at telcodata.us
Mon Nov 28 21:41:34 CET 2011

> "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*

Amen to this! I use the H-word happily and people always ask for the
details. You can't start with an apologetic term! Start with something
provocative to pique their curiosity, then set the hook and reel 'em in.

It works:

My favorite leaflet design started with the big top line
Tinkerers Crafters Artists
greasemonkeys engineers teachers
students musicians photographers modelers
modders programmers builders makers do-it-yourselfers...

With the text size decreasing on each line, so they all ended up the same
width. The big H-word at the top grabbed people, and the next few words
steered their interpretation. I had a few advertising-savvy people comment
on the design (the rest of the page lacked whitespace, etc) but all said
the opener was very effective.

And yeah, everyone at work knows I'm active at a hackerspace. Heck, my
first day on the new project, I go in to meet the team, and one of the
other faces in the room lights up and goes "Hey, don't I know you from
that lockpicking class?", at which the boss^2 raises an eyebrow, and I
reply "Yeah, I spend a lot of time at the hackerspace!", and there goes
the other eyebrow. The conversation whips around to out-of-the-box problem
solving, and about a dozen people get the thirty-second version of "why
your brain needs a playground". And for the rest of the day, everyone
looks at me, expecting me to pipe up with surprising insights... (I did my
best to oblige.)

Basically, if someone's caught up in the "media" use of the term, I just
grin and play it up a little. Sometimes way, way over the top. Sooner or
later, they realize I'm not here to destroy civilization, and they ask.
That's invariably a good conversation. Most people are not so firmly off
in the wrong direction, though, and ask for the details immediately.

That being said, I've started to realize that internally, we're definitely
part makerspace. When someone on the members' mailing list asked "Who else
is going to Defcon, maybe wanna get dinner while we're out there?" and
someone else replied "What's Defcon?", I had a laugh/cry moment. Nooo, not
purely hackers anymore! Yesss, broad appeal and diverse membership!
Colloquially, it's always just "the space" or "the group".

But externally, it's "the hackerspace" if the hook-and-explain
conversation would be appropriate at the moment, or "a workshop" if not.
The term is powerful, and I use it whenever I can.


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