[hackerspaces] hackerspace demographics

Edward L Platt ed at elplatt.com
Tue Jan 15 16:57:46 CET 2013

TLDR: Demographics are self-reinforcing without actively welcoming people
with different experiences, ideas, and skills.

Matt, I totally understand where you're coming from, and I've heard similar
sentiments expressed often in the hacker/maker community, but after a lot
of thought I have to disagree, and I'd like to try to explain why.  One of
your comments is a good place to start:

> it's also not a bad thing for a community to focus on their core values

The demographics of a community tend to be self-reinforcing.  If the
current group focuses on their core values, they are likely to recruit new
members with the same values, and that often implies from the same
demographic.  Furthermore, when entering a new community, most people feel
like outsiders even if they match the existing demographic.  If they don't,
they are likely to feel like that much more of an outsider, even if the
group does nothing to discourage them.  As an example from i3, we had a
group of aerial acrobats using our space and everyone thought they were
awesome, but they were continually worried about wearing out their welcome.

I'm not saying that it's wrong for spaces to have focuses or values, but
that we should strive to be on the open-minded about applying those focuses
and values.  We shouldn't require members to prove that they fit into our
ideal, we should welcome everyone who doesn't work against our values.

A diverse membership doesn't happen by accident.  It requires being
actively welcoming to new members, and *encouraging* them to bring new
ideas and skills, rather than asking them to fit themselves into what
already exists.  It also requires reaching outside your current circles and
comfort zone to look for new members.

Edward L. Platt
@EdwardLPlatt <http://twitter.com/EdwardLPlatt>
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