A hackerspace (also referred to as a hacklab, makerspace or hackspace) is a community-operated workspace where people with common interests, often in computers, machining, technology, science, digital art or electronic art, can meet, socialize and collaborate. Hackerspaces have also been compared to other community-operated spaces with similar aims and mechanisms such as Fab Lab, Men's Sheds, and with commercial "for profit" companies such as TechShop.
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. 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, public libraries 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 1990s in the orbit of the German Chaos Computer Club (CCC), with the C-base being probably an example. The concept however was limited to less than a dozen 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.
The advent of crowdfunding and Kickstarter has put the tools required to build hackerspaces within reach of an even wider audience. 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.
Most recent studies of hackerspace in China — where Internet access is heavily censored — suggest that new businesses and organized tech conferences there serve to intervene in the status quo "from within". The first hackerspace in China, Xinchejian, opened in Shanghai in 2010. Thereafter a network of hackerspaces emerged, nourishing an emerging maker culture. By designing open technologies and developing new businesses, Chinese makers make use of the system, make fun of it, altering it and provoking it. DIY makers often bring and align contradictory idea together, such as copycat and open source, manufacturing and DIY, individual empowerment and collective change. In doing so, they craft a subject position beyond the common rhetoric that Chinese citizens lack creativity. As a site of individual empowerment, hackerspace and DIY making enable people to remake the very societal norms and material infrastructures that undergird their work and livelihood.
The specific tools and resources available at hackerspaces vary from place to place. 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 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, sewing, crafting, art fabrication, 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 creating things. Specialized large-format printers, 3D printers, laser cutters, industrial sewing machines or water jet cutters may be available for members to use. Some hackerspaces provide food storage and food preparation equipment, and may teach courses in basic or advanced cooking.
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 visiting guests from other hackerspaces are usually welcome. 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.
Hackerspaces are widely defined on hackerspaces.org as “community-operated physical places, where people can meet and work on their projects”. The exact functioning of the space varies from place to place and is determined by its members and while there is no blueprint or set of guidelines to create a hackerspace, they generally follow a “hacker ethic”, which “include freedom, in the sense of autonomy as well as of free access and circulation of information; distrust of authority, that is, opposing the traditional, industrial top-down style of organization; embracing the concept of learning by doing and peer-to-peer learning processes as opposed to formal modes of learning; sharing, solidarity and cooperation”.
Hackerspaces can run into difficulties with building codes or other planning regulations, which may not be designed to handle their scope of activities. For example, a new hackerspace in Nashua, New Hampshire was shut down by the city after an inspection in 2011. The main issues involved ventilation of heat and toxic fumes; the space was reopened after improvements were made 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.
- The Geek Group, formed in 1994, is a budding nonprofit hackerspace in Grand Rapids, Michigan that has a large following and internet presence. There are various chapters around the United States. Their main focus has been as an opensource hackerspace to increase STEM education accessibility and one day become an accredited institution of higher education.
- 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.
- In 1997/98 The Lane Cove Community Men's Shed in Australia was set up to provide a substitute space for "shedless blokes". Initial establishment was assisted with a Commonwealth grant from the Department of Health & Aged Services under the "Healthy Seniors Grant Programme
- Metalab, founded in 2006, is generally considered to have pioneered the funding principles that enabled rapid spread of the concept.
- 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.
- The first Chinese hackerspace Xinchejian was established in Shanghai in the fall of 2010. Thereafter hackerspaces have grown in numerous cities including Beijing, Shenzhen, Ningbo, Hangzhou and Guangzhou. Chinese makers became internationally visible when the first Maker Carnival was hosted in Beijing in 2012.
- Men's Sheds has over 1000 active spaces in Australia, Scotland, England, Ireland, Finland, and Greece, as of 2012[update]. Instead of seeing themselves as "hackers" they describe themselves as "shedders" and their activities as "shedding". The Men's Sheds movement is many ways parallel hackerspaces in their aims; although open to anyone regardless of age or gender, they tend to advertise themselves as "Men in sheds". In some ways they can be seen as the flip side of working men's clubs, as their community is drawn from a similar age group and their original aims are similar: to provide recreation and education for working class men and their families.
- Seattle Attic was founded in the summer of 2013, as a response to the misoginy shown by the brogrammer culture that sees hackerspaces as 'male' spaces, and was the first Feminist Hackerspace in the United States soon followed by Double Union, in San Francisco. Their founding came as a result of The Ada Initiative, and their AdaCamp conferences. Which has also lead to the formation of FouFem in Montreal, the Mz Baltazar’s Laboratory, a start-up organization and feminist hackspace in Vienna, the Anarchafeminist Hackerhive in San Francisco, the Hacktory in Philadelphia and the Miss Despionas in Tasmania, Australia 
- HackerSpaces have also begun to enter into public schools in the US. The first high school to open a true MakerSpace was in Sebastopol, California,[when?] 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".
- Public Library Hackerspaces. There is contention about whether Chattanooga's 4th floor was the first use of a library a laboratory and playground for the entire community. The User Experience (UX) is a public laboratory and educational facility. Or according to Forbes The first public library to open a MakerSpace is the Fayetteville Free Library and is located in New York State.
- Columbus Idea Foundry moved into a 65,000-square-foot factory in Columbus Ohio on May 22, 2014. They offer classes, host events, and have 66,000 pounds of tools. By one account, it is "the country's largest such space."
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