Earlier this month the Tate Modern hosted a mini exhibit on shared machine shops (i.e. makerspaces) as part of its Tate Exchange program. It featured a couple of photos from my fieldwork in the USA this summer alongside an audio piece featuring recordings from my hackerspace back home in Brighton.
Noisebridge was one of the first hackerspaces to open in the USA. It’s part of the wave of spaces founded after a group of American hackers including Noisebridge’s co-founder, Mitch Altman, visited existing European hackerspaces including c-base and Metalab after the 2007 Chaos Communication Camp in Germany and decided to set up their own hackerspaces back home.
This April, Kat Braybrooke and I gathered 28 brave souls to explore algorithmic ghosts in Brighton — a city known for its blending of new-age spiritualities and digital medias, but perhaps not yet for its ghosts — through the launch of a new psychogeography tour for the Haunted Random Forest festival.
Metalab is one of the oldest hackerspaces in Europe. Its workshop in the center of Vienna – in between the Austrian Parliament and Vienna’s Rathaus (city hall) – has been open since 2006. It got started when a few friends wanted somewhere to meet and exchange ideas, and to get access to machines that they couldn’t afford to have at home.
Surrounded by technology startups and artisan coffee shops in the hip area of Bethnal Green in East London, Machines Room is a makerspace and FabLab that provides workspace and machine shop access to local businesses, artists, designers, technologists and engineers.
Located in a commuter belt town 40 miles west of London, rLab has been the hackerspace for Reading, England for nearly six years now. rLab – short for both “Reading Lab” and “Our Lab” – grew out of the monthly Reading Geek Night event in 2011, when a group of programmers, hardware hackers and 3D printer enthusiasts decided to start a hackerspace in Reading.
When I tell people about my PhD—that I research ways to make technology more engaging for women—I usually brace myself for a reply like this: “Why would you bother to do that? Everyone knows men are just better with technology. It’s science!”. It happens more often than you would think, and more often than I’d like. And then I get into a whole conversation about why this isn’t true. So I thought I’d lay out the arguments against biological determinism—the idea that ‘male’ and ‘female’ bodies are in some way built to have different competencies in doing maths, designing bridges or operating computers—so I can point people here instead. And then there turned out to be a lot of arguments to cover and this turned into a pretty long read.
A key problem created by gender imbalances in the tech and engineering industries is that it means fewer women than men have access to the means of designing and producing technological artefacts. If most programmers and engineers are men, then most software and hardware is going to be designed by men.
In the first episode of the Freakatoms podcast I look at the world of DIY biology. Featuring interviews with Nicholas Ritzroy-Dale of London Biohackspace; Phillip Boeing, co-founder of the Bento Lab home DIYbio kit; and Dr Jack Stilgoe, lecturer in science policy at University College London. Music provided by onlymeith and Doxent Zsigmond.
I spent the past couple of weekends getting my geek on at EMF Camp, a camping festival for hackers and makers, and Nine Worlds, a fan culture convention that covers everything from Joss Whedon to roller derby.