The Hackerspace Movement
by Mitch Altman
I have a VISION! A world full of unique centers of community, Each center supporting individuals there to explore and do what they love; Each an inspirational source of true education
Where anyone can learn what they need to live the lives they want to live; Each a hub of vibrant local economy; Each helping the other community centers to flourish.
This is what the hackerspace movement is all about! And it's already starting, in a huge way.
And how do I know? Because this is the world I live in 24/7, all day, all night, all year 'round! And I love it. And I hope you will too.
In the past 63 months over 1,100 hackerspaces have popped up all over the planet, seemingly out of nowhere, including some seemingly unlikely places, with more popping up all the time. What is going on here?
What's going on is that hackerspaces are providing two very deep universal needs, needs that have been way too scarce for way too long: Community, and creative expression.
Our species evolved to survive by supporting each other in community. We need community -- it's in our DNA!
One of the things we did in community through the eons was get together to make and share cool tools.
And just because we can now buy anything we want doesn't mean that we don't have a deep inner need to create! We do! It's in our DNA!
Hackerspaces provide this magical combination the need to create+community [right hand in air, left hand] and bring them together; [bring hands together] making dreams come alive!
slide: "But what is a hackerspace?"
Hackerspaces are real, physical places, (like a store front in Los Angeles, or a warehouse in Detroit) with supportive community for anyone to explore and do what they love through hacking.
slide: "And, what is a hacking?"
Hacking is taking what is, improving upon it with whatever is available, and sharing it.
slide: "What can be hacked?"
Since anything, no matter how cool, can be improved, We can hack anything! We can hack computers (of course); And electronics, science, craft, art. You can hack yourself, society, the planet! We can (and do) hack anything!
slide: "I hacked myself"
The choices we make have a huge impact on our lives. I started my life as a totally depressed blob of a kid. Yet am now a jet-setting, crazy-haired inventor who loves my life.
I started that transformation by making choices. Good ones and bad ones. And learning from my messes and successes. And making new choices.
I learned and grew, and learned and grew, and learned and grew? Taking who I was, Improving to the best of my ability, and eventually sharing with others. That's hacking! It works!
Even if it wasn't easy. Even if it still isn't easy. But it is so rewarding!
slide: "graphic of happy 50s woman turning off TV"
It eventually led me to making a living doing what I love, which is turning TVs off in public places. Yup! I actually invented a keychain that does this and I make a living from it!
The success of TV-B-Gone remote controls got me invited to my first hacker conference, which changed my life forever.
Unlike the world all around us, imagine what it might be like if you were surrounded by people, almost all of whom do what they love!
Well, it's very high!
This was my experience at my first hacker conference.
I did not want it to end. But, like all conferences, it did. And I wanted more!
slide: graphic of collage of 4 photos of Camp 2007
night scene, workshop, tents, and talk in bunker] And, I got it, in abundance, at a huge and wonderful outdoor hacker camp, (Chaos Communications Camp 2007), outside of Berlin, full of people from all over the world wanting to share their projects they love!
No one knew it upon our arrival, but the hackerspace movement was about to be born here. (At this point in history, there were only about 50 hackerspaces in the world, mostly in Germany.)
Everything that would soon be part of the vast diversity of hackerspaces was there, at Camp:
Art, science, electronics, computers? Crafts, workshops, music? Blinking colored lights out the wazoo, lasers? Incredible food!
Sharing, teaching, learning. Community, and creating. Plus, of course: Great talks and presentations.
One talk in particular really hit home: People from German hackerspaces gave a presentation on how to start your own hackerspace.
It was so obvious! We don't have to wait for the next conference, we can have this kind of energy all day, all night, all year 'round at a hackerspace in my home town!
I wasn't the only one inspired by this presentation. Several of us North Americans talked about it for the duration of Chaos Camp.
We all knew we would start hackerspaces when we got home. And we all did.
And, we did it the way everyone now starts a hackerspace: You visualize the culture you want to be a part of, put it out there, which attracts others who resonate with it, which makes the culture stronger, attracting more people, etc.
Pick a name; Make a website; Make a logo; Make stickers with your web address. You hand out the stickers to everyone; Tell anyone and everyone and don't' shut up about it!
Meet every Tuesday night to work out details (and play together);
And finally: Rent a space!
slide: photo of people hacking at Noisebridge title: Noisebridge, San Francisco
This worked great for us at Noisebridge! It took a year of discussions and planning, but when we rented our first space, it was very exciting for everyone.
We raised $12,000 in 24 hours. and we've never been in debt since.
And within weeks, people also donated enough to put together: a full kitchen, a machine shop, a complete electronics lab, sewing machines, a library, computers, tables, chairs, lamps.
And Noisebridge was instantly full of people working and playing on projects, teaching and sharing and learning. We had a vibrant community!
slide: photo from HSBxl or VoidWarranties or WhiteSpace, with title for the hackerspace
Here's a photo I took from a hackerspace right here in Brussels from a couple of years ago when I gave a workshop
These few new NA spaces, + the established EU spaces , + hackerspaces.org (a networking website a bunch of us started), served as example for others:
Hackerspaces are not only a way cool idea, but they work!
Within a year, there were hundreds of hackerspaces in the world. The world obviously needed hackerspaces! The world still does! 'Cause we all need community, and we all need to express ourselves creatively. And hackerspaces provide these powerful needs.
slide: photo of 50 people happily soldering at my workshop
Since then, whenever I travel, giving talks, I look up local hackerspaces online and give workshops everywhere I go on how to solder and make cool things with electronics. It's way fun for all all ages, all skill levels. It's my way of creating community, and sharing what I love. (And attracting even more people to hackerspaces, to help the movement.)
I want to briefly show you just a few way cool hackerspace projects that I've come across, all grown from people doing what they love.
Like most projects at hackerspaces, they're all open source for others to learn from, to use, to innovate.
slide: BlinkLights2.wmv, with logos for CCC and C-Base, title: Blinken Lights CCC/C-Base (Berlin)
(This project blew my mind.) For Das Blinken Lights project, the city of Berlin gave the Chaos Computer Club, the well-respected German hacker group, access to this building.
They put a bright light in each window, each under computer control, turning the building into a giant computer screen.
They set up a website with open source software to control it, where anyone in the world was invited to hack on it. Initially, it could display an image. Soon there were animations and scrolling text. And eventually, the first two people who called in on their phones could play Pong on the building.
After seeing this project, I was hooked on the hacker scene!
video of BorgCube, with logo for Das Labor, title: "BorgCube - Das Labor, Bochum, Germany"
BorgCube .. is a lot of colored lights in the shape of a cube to create a low-resolution 3D display that plays hours of the trippiest 3 Dimensional animations! (This is the first thing I saw at my first hacker conference, and, as a hardware geek into shiny things, I fell in love.)
slide: photo of Earth from SpaceBridge launch title: SpaceBridge, Noisebridge, San Francisco
A few people at Noisebridge, calling themselves SpaceBrigde, decided they wanted a snapshot of the planet. $250 and 6 weeks later, they sent a balloon into near space and got this photo.
(This is what can happen when people get together to collaborate on a dream.) They documented everything so that others could do what they did. With improvements from balloon launches by hackerspaces around the world, the project is now simple enough that high school kids can do this on their own (and win at science fairs).
slide: graphic of very crude line drawing of space-suited-person standing on moon title: "The Hackerspace Space Program"
There is now a Hackerspace Space Program with an ambitious goal: A hacker on the moon by the year 2023!
Will we reach that goal? - Who cares.. Just think of all that will be learned along the way!
slide: photo of MakerBot, with NYC Resistor logo, title: "MakerBot - NYC Resistor, New York City"
MakerBot ..is a 3D printer, one of the first inexpensive ones that worked well. You create a representation of any 3D object on your computer screen; press the PRINT button - and within minutes, the MakerBot will actually *print out* the object in plastic.
3D printers are almost common place now, all because people at NYC Resistor thought this was cool!
video: Stompy, with Artisan's Asylum logo title: Stompy - Artisan's Asylum, Boston.
(This one is awesome.)
Stompy .. is an 1,800 Kg, 6 legged robot with a 100KW engine, that 2 people can ride on top of. It's big enough that a car can drive under it. (This project happened simply because a few hackers loved the idea of giant robots they could ride on. The idea seems to be contagious, as now a huge group of people are making it happen.)
slide: photo of Meat Cards, with Hive76 logo. title: Meat Cards - Hive76, Philadelphia.
Meat Cards, is a company started by Hive76 members who use the space's laser engraver to make business cards on beef jerky (dried meat slices).
slide: photos of DIY Geiger Counter and SafeCast. with logos for Tokyo Hackerspace and Crash Space, title: DIY Geiger Counter & SafeCast - Tokyo Hackerspace / Crash Space, LA
After the disaster at Fukushima last year, people were unsatisfied with the lack of info coming from the Japanese gov't. Tokyo Hackerspace made cheap, Do-It-Yourself Geiger Counters so anyone can measure radiation levels.
But there's a problem: no one knew what normal radiation levels were since no one measured radiation at all these places before. So someone at Crash Space organized SafeCast, a non-profit organization, set out to fix this. They give away DIY Geiger Counters to people to travel with all over the world, which automatically uploads all the data collected to an online database, open and free for anyone to use. (This is citizen science in action!)
slide: photo of OpenPCR, with Bio Curious logo. title: OpenPCR - Bio Curious, San Francisco Bay Area
OpenPCR is an open source PCR machine that anyone can use to replicate DNA on your desktop. It works great, and costs a few hundred dollars, rather than several thousand dollars it would cost if you bought a professional one. This, together with many other DIY bio tools, (along with imagination and desire) make it possible to create entire biology labs for very little money.
slide: photo of HDD Centrifuge, with brmlab logo, title: HDD Centrifuge - brmlab, Prague.
A cheap way to make a centrifuge for DIY bio is to tape test tubes to a motor from an old computer Hard Disk Drive.
For this one, brmlab used their 3D printer to make test tube holders that mount to the disk drive's motor, and added an inexpensive motor speed controller.
video Code Hero, with Noisebridge logo. title: Code Hero - Noisebridge, San Francisco
Code Hero, ..is an engaging computer game full of awesome 3D computer graphics. As you explore and play this game, you learn how to program, and how to make your own computer games. (it's also imbued with its creator's incredible inspirational living philosophy)
These are just a few of the zillions of projects going on at hackerspaces around the world Whimsical to practical; Big and small; Merely fun to world changing; (and all without much money).
All simply because people love them. All shared with the world as open source.
The growing community of hackerspaces can provide you and the world so much!
Two realms are very important to me:
First: Real Education happens at hackerspaces! As education bureaucracies around the world continue to fail us, hackerspaces are filling in some of the void: Where people teach because they love teaching; Where people learn because they love learning; All geared towards living the life you want to live.
Second: Local economy grows at hackerspaces! Hackerspaces provide supportive community for exploring and doing what you love. Think about it! If you love something, and do it, chances are really good others will love it too. And, in capitalism, if people love what you do, they will pay you to do it! Many companies have started this way (including mine).
And, if your company grows, and needs help, then you can hire from your community, thus creating local economy that works for everyone. The future of economy everywhere is creative. And hackerspaces are fantastic for everyone to explore their creativity!
By now I hope you see that hackerspaces are way cool! I hope you may want to check one out! There may be one near you. Simply search online and see.
If there's not one near you, Start your own! It's the only way it will happen! It's the only way each hackerspace has happened! Someone like you started it! Your home town needs a hackerspace! So, get to it!
And know that there's a world of hackerspaces willing and wanting to help you. Each hackerspace in the world is unique, since the people who start them are so unique.
Let me show you show you just two of these two unique, contrasting examples of way cool hackerspaces:
slide: photo of NYC Resistor people hacking with NYC Resistor logo title: NYC Resistor -- New York City.
NYC Resistor, in New York City: Is For-profit (though, by design, doesn't make money it was just easier to start this way);
Has democratic decision making; Has some rules, so everyone knows what's expected; Membership is by invitation (and only ages 18 and over); Open to non-members for open houses and classes and events, otherwise limited to members and their guests.
This structure works great for their community! So many cool projects come out of NYC Resistor! So many peoples' lives are enhanced by NYC Resistor!
slide: photo of Noisebridge people hacking, with Noisebridge logo title: Noisebridge, San Francisco.
Noisebridge, in San Francisco (that I co-founded) has a structure that works great for our community! Noisebridge is Non-profit (so we can receive tax deductible donations); Has Consensus decision making; Has One (and only one) rule, which is: Be excellent to each other!
Membership is open to all (including all ages). Noisebridge is always open to everyone (as long as they follow our one rule) You don't need to be a member to Take classes at Noisebridge; You don't need to be a member to Teach classes at Noisebridge; You don't need to be a member to use any of Noisebridge's tools. You don't even need to be a member to have a key to Noisebridge. I happen to have some keys, if anyone wants one. [empty bag of keys on to stage] Please take one. And please use it! (I'm totally serious) You are always welcome at Noisebridge!
slide: graphic of map of all hackerspaces, with hackerspaces.org logo title: Map of all hackerspaces
Those were two examples of way cool hackerspaces. There are now 1,106 examples listed on hackerspaces.org. This map shows where.
Whenever and Wherever you travel, anywhere in the world, you are welcome to: Look up and Visit the local hackerspace; Make new friends; Find and create community that works for you!
We all need community to thrive in our lives.
At hackerspaces around the world we have found ways of creating community that works. The world is looking to us. In community we can support each other to explore what we love. If we choose to explore what we love, then our lives become better. If we choose to share it with others, the lives of those around us get better. If enough of us choose to do this, the world gets better. It is up to you, and you alone, what you choose to do with the time of your life. Please, choose well!
[full time: 17 minutes]