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.
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.
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.
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.
A strong thread of reflexivity has run through the maker movement since its birth around a decade ago in the mid-2000s. Neil Gershenfeld, creator of the first FabLab at MIT, heralded personal fabrication as a “coming revolution on your desktop”; Cory Doctorow tempered this with a utopian/dystopian (and just barely fictional) vision of making in the near future; and Chris Anderson lauded the Maker Movement (with capital ‘M’s) as nothing less than the New Industrial Revolution.
This year’s Brighton Mini Maker Faire was produced on somewhat of a shoestring, with reduced funding available both from public grants and from private sponsorship compared to some previous years. Despite this we were able to produce our core event (minus a few bonuses) and attract a wide range of makers from many and varied fields through a focussed production effort and the benefit of word of mouth from our previous four events.