[hackerspaces] hackerspace demographics

Jenny Ryan jenny at thepyre.org
Thu Jan 17 02:08:53 CET 2013


Thank you for sharing that story, and that panel talk - I've bookmarked it
to watch this evening. I've also witnessed such 'hacker witch hunts' often
targeting clothes-hackers and foodhackers - people doing really innovative
things with some of our more fundamental technologies. Matt's suggestion
that he would 'wear out his welcome' by integrating arduinos into his
crafts in a knitting circle is baffling, since the creative
application/tinkering of any technology is imho exactly what hackerspaces
are about. Here is a link to our clothes-hacking night at Sudo
integrating LEDs and electronic thread, if anyone feels inspired. We don't
have a kitchen yet, but we're really excited about our komucha and beer
brew setups, cheese-making, and upcoming mushroom grow

At Sudo Room, our core values are inclusivity, transparency, and
regarding what a "hacker" is and could be <http://sudoroom.org/definitions/>.
This includes hacking our city's government by coming up with participatory
budgeting models and tools for working with open data; it includes
community radio stations and Oakland Wiki, tools which endeavor to document
and give voice to our surrounding community (rather than insulating in a
little hacker bubble); it includes sewing machines, CNC routers, 3D
printers and bike repair stations - and creating a space where, rather than
telling folks who come to our space to make things that what they're doing
isn't "real hacking," we ask if they'd like to teach a workshop so we can
all learn a new skill.

That's what it means to be welcoming, which is one viable strategy for
improving the demographic diversity of hackerspaces.

Just my $0.02,


 "Technology is the campfire around which we tell our stories."
-Laurie Anderson

"Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it."
 -Hannah Arendt

"To define is to kill. To suggest is to create."
-Stéphane Mallarmé

On Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 3:52 PM, Matt Joyce <matt at nycresistor.com> wrote:

> On Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 3:41 PM, Lisha Sterling <lishevita at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> > Sorry for the delay in response from me directly. Yesterday I was in
> transit
> > and, while I was able to read the emails on my phone at the Newark
> airport,
> > I didn't feel like writing a response on the phone.
> >
> > I'd like to say thank you to Michel Gallant for making me laugh out loud
> and
> > hoot, "You tell 'em" in the food court at the airport. :)
> I don't think you should be promoting juvenile language and the
> projection of the very thing you are trying to combat.  While it's
> easy to indulge in a revenge fantasy, commentary such as this debases
> every salient point you may have and erodes your own platform for
> contribution.  Also it can be offensive to some.
> > Matt, yes, this may have come off as annoying to you, but I hope that
> you'll
> > understand that some piece of Michel's response hit the spot. One of the
> > reasons that women get sick of dealing with the issues of "feminism" and
> > "inclusion of women" is that we explain what the problem is and then
> have to
> > re-explain along with thorough defenses for each position we have taken.
> > Your response to me put me in exactly that situation.
> That by the way is not something that annoys just women.  It annoys
> all of us.  But it is also a necessary thing if you intend to discuss
> an issue and attempt to address it.  Suck as it may be, I think it's
> probably worth suffering through.  Heck I suffered through the
> juvenile remarks, because I thought this conversation had some real
> merit.  I have been very pleased with the full discussion we've had as
> a result.  I hope you take the time to read the full thread if you
> haven't already.
> > Sam Ley gave as good an answer to your questions as I could probably put
> > forward myself when he said,
> > "Regarding shared interests: Hackerspaces, almost by definition, have
> very
> > wide interest levels, and theoretically, new interests among active
> members
> > is taken as an opportunity to learn something new, not an "outside"
> activity
> > to be scorned. Knitting is a form of making that is very practical and
> > interesting, involves math and patterns, and is connected to a long
> history
> > of craftsmanship. If you didn't already know that the hobby is mostly
> women,
> > you'd assume that most hackerspace types would be interested in learning
> how
> > to do it, in the same way they happily take up microcontrollers,
> bicycles,
> > etc. Why would a group that tends to think of an opportunity to learn a
> new
> > making skill as a good thing all of a sudden think it was a bad thing?"
> I believe I've responded to that point in detail.  My last email on
> this thread I believe is highly relevant to rebuking that argument at
> least in part.  I recommend reading it if you have not already.
> > The only thing that I can add to that is to say that I did state in my
> > original story that the knitting club had been a sort of gateway drug
> for a
> > number of women to get involved with the hackerspace beyond just the
> > knitting and that the bad blood around the issue of knitting not being
> "real
> > hacking" and other such derogatory statements led to those same women
> > *leaving* the hackerspace. (Luckily, at least some of them left *that*
> > hackerspace, but not the community as a whole, as I also stated in my
> > previous email.)
> Not being there it's hard for me to get a feel for the event.  But, in
> general I have no real problem with a space excluding a group of
> people because their core values don't match up.  I'd love to discuss
> that further with the list.
> > Interestingly, I watched the Queer Geeks Panel at CCCongress from 2011
> > yesterday which touched on many of the same issues. There was even a
> > specific reference to how sometimes exclusion comes in the form of spaces
> > declaring that some forms of hacking/making aren't "real hacking" because
> > only woodwork and soldering and software are real hacking. The
> conversation
> > is well worth a watch or listen if you haven't checked it out already.
> > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6c9Eg_IA9w
> I might view it later as time allows.  I'll let you know what I think
> If / when I do.
> In general I think people tend to oversimplify complex issues and that
> does no one any good.
> -Matt
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