In March of this year (2013), I spent several days performing research at Noisebridge as part of my master's thesis project at the University of Chicago. The paper can be downloaded here:
While it is not my intention to publish this article formally in any academic journals, it has been my intention from the very beginning to share this paper with the Noisebridge community, and especially with those who volunteered their time and energy to participate in my research. I would like to thank the entire community for allowing me to invade your time and space for several days, and to loiter awkwardly in corners scribbling notes while you went about your work. To those of you who welcomed me into your lives and took the time to sit down for interviews or show me the particulars of your projects, I am incredibly indebted to you. A simple thank you is not enough, but I would like to say thank you nonetheless.
As is the case with any piece of academic writing, and in spite of my very best intentions and efforts, I have no doubt whatsoever that many of the observations, conclusions, and viewpoints expressed in this paper are inaccurate. For this, I offer my sincerest apologies. I am a firm believer, however, that an academic paper (especially one hailing from the social sciences) should never be taken as the final word on anything. In its very best form, it should merely constitute a single step closer to a broader understanding of something. That being said, I hope this paper was able to capture some basic themes and ideas that are important to the Noisebridge community, and hackers in general. I also hope it will encourage those who read it to think about hacking, and question what hacking is rather than relying on preconceived notions, or subscribing to interpretations of hacking often invoked in mainstream media. In this regard, I hope I have been successful. I also hope, however, that the Noisebridge community will not hesitate to comment on, criticize, or completely refute the points I have made in this paper. As mentioned above, this thesis is not intended to be the final word on anything, but rather what I hope will be (at least for some) the beginning of a conversation.
Regarding the projects and opinions alluded to in this paper, names were used only at the direct request of respondents. I am happy to add attribution if requested by the respondent, however. If you participated in my research and would like direct attribution for any of the material appearing in this paper, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would also like to point out that due to certain practical limitations, not all of the material obtained during interviews and observations appears in this paper. For those who do not see direct or even indirect reference to your responses or the interactions we had together while I was at Noisebridge, I would like to assure you that your responses provided me with an invaluable context for the material which does appear in this paper. After six months of research on hackerspaces, I was left with more than 500 pages of notes, resulting in a great deal of very worthwhile material that I was unfortunately unable to include due to the narrow scope required for a thesis. Again, while it may not appear in direct reference, this additional material forms a backdrop that was indispensable to my research, and in my efforts to logically think through the subject of hackerspaces.
For those who take the time to read this paper, I hope you will find it to be an interesting and enjoyable reflection (although obscured) of the Noisebridge community, and a useful tool for self-reflection. Thank you for your support, and I hope all continues to be well and weird at 2169 Mission. Many thanks, and happy hacking.