[hackerspaces] hackerspace demographics

Matt Joyce matt at nycresistor.com
Wed Jan 16 22:33:08 CET 2013


Thought this was relevant.

On Tue, Jan 15, 2013 at 8:40 AM, Steven Sutton <ssutton4455 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Sorry to keep sending out novels, but this is an important subject to me and
> a bit sensitive too -
> Well, I think that a big part of inclusion is finding common ground. I've
> been reading How Children Succees: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of
> Character recently. It's based on research from KIPP schools and I got to it
> through the work of Jonathan Haidt
> (http://www.ted.com/speakers/jonathan_haidt.html) so it applies as much to
> adults as to children.
> One of the ideas presented in the book is that "Diversity empowers
> individuals, but similarity empowers teams." This kind of restates my first
> point that in order to improve outreach, you have to improve inclusiveness.
> In other words, the best way to be inclusive is to find commonality and grow
> from there. I think core values are a pretty good place to start for that.
> Again, this gets into touchy-feely soft skills, but there is a lot of merit
> to being sensitive to those.
> One study that they presented was tested on several children in the middle-
> to high-school age groups. Boys and girls were paired with mentors for 30
> minutes and then given a math test. Half of the mentors gave the standard
> "drug free" message and half spent the time talking about how success is
> about habits and character (so anyone can develop these habits and they are
> a function of hard work and opportunity).
> For the kids that got the drug-free message, the boys averaged an 84 on the
> math test and the girls averaged a 74. However, the group that was given the
> message that invalidated the stereotype that skills are intrinsic, the boys
> averaged 86 and the girls averaged 84. The girls' scores went up 10 points
> and almost closed the gap with the boys. The girls weren't under-performing
> because they were worse at math, but because they had internalized the
> stereotype that they should be. This is referred to as "stereotype threat"
> and these schools have had a lot of success in applying personal development
> concepts to overcome these stereotypes.
> While I take this and most psychological studies with a grain of salt, I do
> think that the message that points of commonality do exist in personal
> development values is important. Curiosity, enthusiasm, compassion,
> integrity, social responsibility. These are the kinds of values that I think
> of when bridging cultural gaps, and they're also why I like the hacker
> community so much.
> Steven
> On Tue, Jan 15, 2013 at 10:57 AM, Edward L Platt <ed at elplatt.com> wrote:
>> 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.
>> -Ed
>> --
>> Edward L. Platt
>> http://elplatt.com
>> http://civic.mit.edu/users/elplatt
>> http://i3detroit.com
>> @EdwardLPlatt
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