Hacker Spaces

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= Hackerspaces are community-operated physical places, where people can meet and work on their projects. [1]


From the Wikipedia:

"A hackerspace or hackspace (from Hacker and Space, sometimes referred to as a makerspace in reference to Make Magazine.) is a real (as opposed to virtual) place where people with common interests, usually in science, technology, or digital or electronic art can meet, socialise and collaborate. A hackerspace can be viewed as an open community lab, workbench, machine shop, workshop and/or studio where people of diverse backgrounds can come together to share resources and knowledge to build/make things." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hackerspace)

Discussing the definition, by Jarkko Moilanen:

"A simple and compact definition is still missing even among the persons who a involved in Hackerspaces. Yet some discussion about this has occured among the participants. I participate in the discussion list of hackerspaces since I’m a founder and member of our local Hackerspace (5w) in Tampere, Finland. I began to browse the discussion archives of ‘Hackerspaces General Discussion List‘ which is publicly available here. The archives included discussion sbetween Jul 20th 2008 and Nov 16th 2009. I expected to find some hints and thoughts related to the question ‘What is a hackerspace?’. Very soon after looking at the archive content I noticed that there is a lot of discussion about this topic. It seems that the community is still defining the meaning of hackerspace." (http://extreme.ajatukseni.net/2009/11/14/viewpoints-to-the-development-of-hackerspaces/)


Jarkko Moilanen:

"A topic which has been raised several times and in several contexts in the hackerspaces discussion list and IRC channel is what is a hackerspace. Some discussion has been about how to make a suitable division to ‘true’ hackerspaces and ‘others’. The rhetorics of this kind of discussion is about building the identity of hackerspaces. The rhetorics resembles the common identity definition process in all communities which is often related to ‘we’ and ‘others’ kind of thinking. Several kind of categorizations have been suggested. Most common categorization is about whether a ’space’ is commercial or non-commercial or as one hacker puts it: “as to how to distinguish spaces that are not ‘Non-Profit, Member-Run’ Hackerspaces.”

Some have suggested that the financial models, governance models, real estate models, philosophical models and occupational models could be used as categories. It must be noted that the categorizations should not be seen as binary; black or white. Hardly any space is a perfect (or clean) example of any categorization. They are more or less combinations or different ’shades of grey’. In brief the division or tagging of hackerspace should describe the breadth of spaces out there, without having to get too deep into distinction between ‘we’ and ‘others’. The above suggested categories sound valid. Yet another category could be the political activity or interest to society related issues. In other words, the hacktivistic nature of hackerspace. Could some hackerspaces be seen as physical extensions of hacktivism?" (http://extreme.ajatukseni.net/2010/09/05/hacktivism-and-hackerspaces/)


Jarkko Moilanen:


"In this post I will try to define hackerspaces by comparing them to traditional, larger hacker culture and community. The idea for this post came to my mind while writing the “Viewpoints to the development of Hackerspaces”. Every hacker group and other computer related groups or clubs can not be called hackerspaces. Some groups that would look like a hackerspace don’t even want to be labelled as hackerspaces. Some hackerspaces avoid using the word itself in the groups name or in the descriptions of their group. Reasons for avoiding the word hackerspace vary but the most common is related to the uncertainty of how ‘others’ will react to anything that includes or refers to ‘hacker’. This fear of the opinions of other is an example of how communities are shaped, defined and identified also by others than the members of community. Jordan and Taylor (1998) have written an article about hacker communities (“A Sociology of hackers”) and I will use that article as the main starting point.

According to Jordan and Taylor the ‘imagined community’ of hackers can be described with six internal aspects and through exploring the community’s boundary between itself and the others(Jordan & Taylor 1998, 762-775). In this post community is understood as Jordan & Taylor so neatly put it: “[...]collective identity that members of a social group construct or, in a related way, as the ‘collective imagination’ of a social group. Both a collective identity and imagination allow individuals to recognise in each other membership of the same community.”(Jordan & Taylor 1998, 762-763). Previously mentioned 6 internal factors are: technology, secrecy, anonymity, membership fluidity, male dominance and motivations." (http://blog.ossoil.com/2009/11/17/sociological-view-of-hackers-and-hackerspaces/)

Detailed discussion of six factors here at http://blog.ossoil.com/2009/11/17/sociological-view-of-hackers-and-hackerspaces/


"Both generations - hackerspaces and Hacktivists - have a lot in common. Both see the possibility of real and virtual, the material and immaterial to merge and coexist. Common antagonistic division of the above worls in traditional hacker communities is blurred in hackerspaces and hacktivism.

Hackerspaces can be seen as the ‘third place’,a setting beyond home and work in which people relax, have fun and meet other hackers in some shared space and do so on a regular basis. Hackerspaces break the intrinsic nature of hacker communities, since they aim to reach to the public to lure more members, are open to public and wish to be part of the surrounding community. Hackerspaces are extrovert version of formerly introvert and closed hacker communities. Although hackerspace can be labelled as a ‘third place’, it is a small local community which is technically oriented, not a knitting club or tee party." (http://blog.ossoil.com/2010/11/20/extrovert-hacker-generations-hacktivism-and-hackerspaces/)


Jarkko Moilanen:

(this text is preceded by a history of Hackers generally, see [2]

"Hackerspaces began to form during the late 90s, but the grounds for hackerspaces were constructed around the turn of the millennium in Germany by CCC. (Farr 2009) During that time, hackerspaces began to organize as assosiations or alike, became known to the public and identified hacker ethic as one of the key elements to guide activities. The year 2001 was a turning point for hackerspaces. during that time several still existing spaces were established. (Moilanen 2009) One possible reason for the growth might be the recession around the millenium, which was in general one of the ‘best’ recessions in history. The overall economical effects of the recession were relatively small.(Nordhaus 2002, 200-204) Yet it affected the IT sector and the technology bubble had just bursted in Silicon Valley. Therefore several companies were forced to reduce resources in IT expenditures and a lot of ‘hackers’ were laid off in Europe and in US. The hackers still needed a community to attach and different forms of ‘fabbing’ communities offered a new ‘place’ for them. For the above reasons I have located hackerspaces generation to begin at 2001.

Hackerspaces are hacker versions of ‘third places’ defined by Oldenburg. According to Oldenburg ‘third places’ refer to separate social settings or surroundings from the ‘first place’ (home and other similar settings) and ’second place’ (workplace). (Oldenburg, 1999) The third places are ‘anchors’ of community life, facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction. These places serve as focal points of community life, which has eroded due to commercial chains and unifunctional zoning policy.(Oldenburg, 2001, 3) In other words, we have abandoned public parks, playgrounds, schools, cafees and little local stores as places for community life. We have been growing apart from one anothers since the second World War. Third places are needed to reconnect to each other and strengthen community ties. To become a succesful third place, they must be locally owned, independent and small-scale and be based on steady-state business.(Oldenburg, 2001, 4) Furthermore, the places should be highly accessible, within walking distance, free or cheap and involve regularity. When these criterias are compared to hackerspaces, the similarities become obvious.

Eventhough a compact definition of hackerspaces is missing, some features can be assosiated with it. Firstly, a hackerspace is owned and run by it’s members in a spirit of equality. Secondly, it is a nonprofit organization, and open to the outside world on a (semi)regular basis. Thirdly, members of hackerspace share tools, equipment and ideas without discrimination even to outsiders. Fourthly, is has a strong emphasis on technology and invention. Fifthly, it has a shared space (or is working on a space) as a center of the community. Finally, it has a strong spirit of invention and science, based on trial, error, and freely sharing information. Hackerspaces are spesialiced third places for technically oriented people. Hackerspaces function to serve hackers’ “need to construct the infrastructures of human relationships”(Oldenburg, 2001, 2)

Hackerspaces want to be part of surrounding community to enhance technological knowledge and bring people together including the ones who are not so technology prone. Hackerspaces offer knowledge and skills to surrounding community and arrange classes, courses and demonstrations about various topics. They seem to rely on attraction rather than agitation. They also want to create a positive attitude towards technology and the possibilities it can offer to everyone. In this sense hackerspaces promote the hacker ethic, where one key aspect is: “You can create art and beauty on a computer.” (Levy, 1984, 43) and another one: “Computers can change your life for the better”. (Levy, 1984, 45)."


More Information

  1. Specialized wiki at http://hackerspaces.org/wiki/Hacker_Spaces
  2. List of spaces at http://hackerspaces.org/wiki/List_of_Hacker_Spaces
  3. Hackerspaces, members and involvement (survey study, 2010) at http://blog.ossoil.com/2010/07/19/hackerspaces-members-and-involvement-survey-study/
  4. Peer production communities survey 2011 (survey study) at http://blog.ossoil.com/2011/07/10/peer-production-communities-survey-2011/


  1. Farr, N. (2009). Respect the past, examine the present, build the future. Hackerspaces Blog. Retrieved Oct 20, 2010 from http://blog.hackerspaces.org/2009/08/25/respect-the-past-examine-the-present-build-the-future/
  2. Moilanen, J. (2010). Hackerspaces, Members And Involvement (Survey Study). Extreme activities in Cyberspace. Retrieved Oct 20, 2010 from http://extreme.ajatukseni.net/2010/07/19/hackerspaces-members-and-involvement-survey-study/
  3. Moilanen, J. (2009). Viewpoints to The Development of Hackerspaces. Extreme activities in Cyberspace. Retrieved Oct 20, 2010 from http://extreme.ajatukseni.net/2009/11/14/viewpoints-to-the-development-of-hackerspaces/