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Hackerspaces, makerspaces, or hacklabs are workshops organised with an open community model where people with technological interests can come together to socialise, collaborate, share and expand their knowledge.


The history of hackerspaces expands back to when the counter culture movement was about to make a serious statement in the 1970's. In the decade after the hippies attempted to establish new ways of social, political, economical and ecological relationships, many experiments were carried out concerning the construction of new spaces to live and to work in. Hackerspaces provided room where people could go and work in laid-back, cool and non-repressive environments (well, as far as any kind of space or environment embedded into a capitalist society can be called laid-back, cool and non-repressive).

Hackerspaces are workshops organised with an open community model where people with technological interests can come together to socialise, collaborate, share and expand their knowledge. The last few years have seen an increased activity in this area including the founding of many new locations, increasing cooperation and discussions about the potentialities and the directions of hackerspaces. Similar spaces, however, called hacklabs, have existed ever since personal computers became widespread. Hacklabs are typically based on a political agenda. These new and old places are often seen retrospectively as part of a single trajectory and most of the discourse treats hacklabs and hackerspaces as equivalent. Outlining the overlapping but still distinguishable genealogies of both hackerspaces and hacklabs will prove helpful in questioning the tendency to confound the two and can further contribute to the contemporary debates over this vibrant culture and movement. The article ends with a reflection from a strategic point of view how hackerspaces and hacklabs contribute to the production of postcapitalist subjectivities through their organisational dynamics. The findings are based on personal experiences and field work, mainly at a now-defunct hacklab in London (the Hackney Crack House) and a hackerspace in Budapest (the Hungarian Autonomous Center for Knowledge).

The function of hackerspaces has changed. When the first hackerspaces were formed there were always clear distinctions (an "antagonism") between "us" (the people resisting) and "them" (the people controlling).

Hacklabs are, mostly, voluntary-run spaces providing free public access to computers and internet. They generally make use of reclaimed and recycled machines running GNU/Linux, and alongside providing computer access, most hacklabs run workshops in a range of topics from basic computer use and installing GNU/Linux software, to programming, electronics, and independent (or pirate) radio broadcast. The first hacklabs developed in Europe, often coming out of the traditions of squatted social centres and community media labs. In Italy they have been connected with the autonomist social centres, and in Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands with anarchist squatting movements.

As Nick Farr (2009) pointed out, the first wave of pioneering hackerspaces were founded in the 1990s, just as were hacklabs. L0pht started in 1992 in the Boston area as a membership based club that offered shared physical and virtual infrastructure to select people. Some other places were started in those years in the USA based on this "covert" model. In Europe, C-base in Berlin started with a more public profile in 1995, promoting free access to the Internet and serving as a venue for various community groups. These second wave spaces "proved that hackers could be perfectly open about their work, organise officially, gain recognition from the government and respect from the public by living and applying the Hacker ethic in their efforts" (Farr, 2009). However, it is with the current, third wave that the number of hackerspaces begun to grow exponentially and it developed into a global movement of sorts. I argue that the term hackerspaces was not widely used before this point and the small number of hackerspaces that existed were less consistent and did not yet develop the characteristics of a movement. Notably, this is in contrast with narrative of the hacklabs presented earlier which appeared as a more consistent political movement.

Fablabs, Makerspaces, & Hackerspaces

In general, a fabrication lab (fab lab) is focused on the equipment. They prioritize stocking the space with key tools, maintaining work-safe areas, and keeping everything well-maintained and well-stocked. The space is laid out to allow big tools to be used safely. The cost and danger of the equipment may require membership to be mandatory.

Hackerspaces and makerspaces tend to focus on the community. Educational events and casual brewing sessions are common, and the space is more accessible and useful to visitors. The terms 'hackerspace' and 'makerspace' are interchangeable. Make Magazine and a number of companies, most notably Adafruit, popularized the term 'makerspace' to distance DIY workshops from 'hacker' security penetration.The term 'makerspace' is often used when the organization wants to seem friendly to outsiders and associate its name with the so-called 'maker movement'. The term 'hackerspace' sounds cooler and calls back to the old-school laissez-faire underground computer clubs. Whether a fab lab, hackerspace, or makerspace, they're a place for anyone to work on, and talk about, whatever project they want. If it's not open to the public, hobbyist-friendly, and free for members to use any time, the correct term is coworking space.

Contacts is an informal volunteer network of such spaces, maintaining community services - including a wiki for everyone who wants to share their hackerspace stories and questions, mailing lists, XMPP services, a blog and a feed aggregator, and many others. From around the world, hackers meet on the Freenode IRC channel #hackerspaces.


The latest edition [MIT Electronic Research Society, better known as MITERS] features a throwback to the first journal published in 1976, showing that some things just never change:
June 24, 2004
The next year O'Reilly Media started to publish Make Magazine which focuses on do-it-yourself technology, including tutorials, recipes, and commentary.
Although they have published exclusively Internet-based works like Diseases of the Consciousness (1997), their tactical media approach emphasises the use of the right tool for the right job.
And yet, when it all was over in 1972, some of the people involved were not ready to give in and give themselves over to the system and to fade into integration - hence the launching of micro-political tactics.

Further Resources


Do Not Hack (Hackspaces Documentary)


Hacker space in New York. Hack Manhattan.


Hacklabs and hackerspaces - tracing two genealogies » The Journal of Peer Production


Inside San Francisco's Anarchist Hackerspace


Open Source Creativity - Hackerspaces: Science on the SPOT



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