There’s been some interesting talk recently on the hackerspaces.org list about making some things that have been unofficial more official, specifically interhackerspace relations. This has been met with varying degrees of agreement, ranging from some folks thinking it’s a great idea to others thinking it’s terrible, to yet others noting that if something isn’t broken it doesn’t need fixing. I’m not going to repeat the conversation here rather I wanted to throw out some of my own feelings on the subject.
First of all, I think that chaos is one of the most driving and inspirational aspects of every hackerspace I’ve ever visited. It creates an atmosphere that is essentially a breeding ground for new ideas. Things are chaotic, but they still work. In fact they work very well in many cases and that alone is the spark that people often need to try their own project. For whatever reason in the “real world” things are much more structured. People want to have all their ducks in a row before trying anything. They need plans in place and analyzed. They need paperwork filled out. Hackerspaces, like any group of creative people, don’t really work well in those confines. You can’t come up with an idea and build it tonight if you are worried about business plans or licenses or agreements. Those things all stifle creativity. Even art schools which used to be bastions of experimentation are now being crushed by red tape to the point where students have to get all kinds of approval before they can try anything. Since the first time I set foot in Metalab years ago I’ve felt that Hackerspaces were the final holdout of this raw creativity. Anything goes, and that’s a good thing.
I think because the rest of our lives are so structured it’s only natural to try and bring those rules into the hackerspace world, but I’m not sure that is a good thing. Certainly if there is a problem you solve it, but I’m extremely hesitant to try to solve problems that may or may not come up sometime in the future. I’m a fan of the chaos and the lack of walls. I feel like there is so much in life that tries to control us, that there’s really no reason we should try to beat them to it and control ourselves first. I probably sound like I’m making this a bigger thing than it is, but it’s that overall life approach that I think applies here and it’s what I try to defer to in decision about spaces I’m involved with. The fewer rules the better, people will naturally figure things out. That’s how I feel.
Now that isn’t to say I’m against spaces working together, quite the contrary. With Crash Space I’ve said publicly that any member of another hackerspace is welcome to come visit and I think there can be some really interesting results when super creative groups from different spaces work together. As far as I can tell that feeling is shared by a lot of spaces and personally I’ve been welcomed with open arms to every hackerspace I’ve ever been to. That said, I appreciate the differences in each space and don’t think there should be anything official saying hackerspaces are expected to act a certain way. The chaos, and the variety is what keeps things interesting and I think creating rules and legislation, even to support worthwhile actions, is self limiting and can snuff the creativity right out.
I totally support hackerspaces working together but I don’t support anything that regulates that from a top down perspective. Like the web itself, I think these things work better with lots of smaller connections rather than a few large ones. Again, I’m not saying organized collaborations are bad. Quite the contrary in fact, but I think those collaborations are better worked out one on one from the ground up rather than via some overall system people plug into. But I should note that those collaborations are something I’m very interested in and why I’m trying to take an active role at not just the space we have in Los Angeles but other spaces around the world run by friends. I think when the opportunity presents itself the combined efforts of these fantastic teams and spaces all over will be something amazing, as to when that will happen, well that’s up to the chaos to decide.