A hackerspace (also referred to as a hacklab, makerspace, or hackspace) is a community-operated workspace where people with common interests, often in computers, technology, science, digital art or electronic art, can meet, socialize and/or collaborate.
Hackerspaces can be viewed as open community labs incorporating elements of machine shops, workshops and/or studios where hackers can come together to share resources and knowledge to build and make things.
Many hackerspaces participate in the use and development of free software, open hardware, and alternative media. They are often physically located in infoshops, social centers, adult education centers, public schools, or on university campuses, but may relocate to industrial or warehouse space when they need more room.
Hackerspaces with open membership became common within Germany in the 90s in the orbit of the German Chaos Computer Club, with the C-base being probably the most impressive example. The concept however was limited to less than a dozen of spaces within Germany, and did not spread beyond borders at first. Most likely this was because initial founding costs were prohibitive for small groups without the support of a large organization like the CCC.
In 2006, Paul Bohm came up with a fundraising strategy based on the Street Performer Protocol to build Metalab in Vienna, Austria, and became its founding director. He and others started the Hackerspaces.org community in 2007 which maintains a list of many hackerspaces, and documents patterns on how to start and run them. As of 2012, there are an estimated 700 to 1,100 active hackerspaces all over the world and the numbers are growing.
Most recently the advent of crowdfunding and Kickstarter have put the tools required to build hackerspaces within reach of an even wider audience. Right now those tools are for example used by Bilal Ghalib, who had previously worked on a Hackerspace documentary, and others to bring the hackerspace concept to the Middle East.
The specific activities that take place at hackerspaces vary from place to place. In general, hackerspaces function as centers for peer learning and knowledge sharing, in the form of workshops, presentations, and lectures. They usually also offer social activities for their members, such as game nights and parties. They typically provide space for members to work on their individual projects, or to collaborate on group projects with other members. Hackerspaces may also operate computer tool lending libraries, or physical tool lending libraries.
The building or facility the hackerspace occupies is important, because it provides physical infrastructure that members need to complete their projects. In addition to space, most hackerspaces provide electrical power, computer servers and networking with Internet connectivity. Well-equipped hackerspaces may provide machine tools, audio equipment, video projectors, game consoles, electronic instrumentation (such as oscilloscopes and signal generators), electronic components and raw materials for hacking, and various other tools for electronics fabrication and building things. Some hackerspaces provide food storage and food preparation equipment, and may teach courses in basic or advanced cooking. Tools and material for sewing, craft, and art are also important at many hackerspaces.
The individual character of a hackerspace is determined by its members. Many hackerspaces are governed by elected boards selected by active members in good standing. Elected officers may serve predetermined terms, and help direct decisionmaking with regards to purchasing new equipment, recruiting new members, formulating policy, conforming to safety requirements, and other administrative issues.
Membership fees are usually the main income of a hackerspace, but some also accept external sponsors. Some hackerspaces in the US have 501(c)3 status (or the equivalent in their jurisdiction), while others have chosen to forgo tax exempt status. University-affiliated hackerspaces often do not charge an explicit fee, but are generally limited to students, staff, or alumni, although guests from other hackerspaces are usually welcome to visit. Some hackerspaces accept volunteer labor in lieu of membership fees, especially from financially limited participants. In addition, some hackerspaces earn income from sponsoring and staffing high-tech flea markets, where members of the general public may buy and sell new and used equipment and supplies.
There is a loose, informal tradition at many hackerspaces of welcoming visitors from other similar organizations, whether across town or internationally. Free exchange of ideas, skills, and knowledge are encouraged, especially at periodic gatherings sometimes called build nights or open house days.
In 2009 there was a debate about inclusionism and exclusionism within the hackerspaces community, Johannes Grenzfurthner and Frank Apunkt Schneider released a critical pamphlet about this struggle. The discussion is still ongoing.
Hackerspaces can run into difficulties with building codes or other planning regulations, which may not be designed to handle their scope of activities. A new hackerspace in Nashua, New Hampshire, for example, was shut down by the city for after an inspection in 2011. The main issues were venting of heat and fumes. It reopened after work was done to the building.
Over the years many hackerspaces have grown significantly in membership, operational budgets, and local media attention. Many have also helped establish other hackerspaces in nearby locations.
c-base (1995) from Berlin is recognized as one of the first independent, stand-alone hackerspaces in the world, not affiliated with a school, university, or company. Wired writes that "European groups, particularly in Germany, have a long tradition of this kind of activity". Another known German hackerspace is RaumZeitLabor, organizer of Trollcon.
TechShop is the first chain of commercial hackerspaces. It was launched in October 2006. As of October 2012, there were six TechShop locations in the US: three in California and one each in North Carolina, Michigan, and Texas, the last a partnership with the Lowe's home improvement chain.
In August 2007, a group of North American hackers visited Europe "to get a sense for the potential of European 'hacker spaces'", and upon their return, the groups NYC Resistor and HacDC were set up in late 2007, with Noisebridge following in fall 2008.
Tokyo HackerSpace was initiated in 2009. Safecast.org (a global open data network for ionizing radiation monitoring) was formed around prototyping efforts there following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
MakerSpaces have also begun to enter into public schools in the US. The first high school to open a true MakerSpace was in Sebastopol, California, and now even middle schools are starting to follow the trend. White Hill Middle school in Fairfax, California has now opened up their own MakerSpace with a class called "Makers and Hackers". The first public library to open a MakerSpace is the Fayetteville Free Library and is located in New York State.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hackerspaces.|
- Hackerspaces.org, includes a comprehensive international directory of hackerspaces
- The Hackspace Foundation for UK Hackerspaces
- Hackerspaces, Members And Involvement (2010 Survey study results)
- Peer Production Communities Survey (2011 Survey study results)
- Mapping hackers: DIY community survey 2012 results
- Business models for Open Hardware and Hackerspaces
- School Factory