Hackerspace Architect: A Shared Workspace
When we talk about hackerspaces, its important to remember we are talking about a workspace that is shared by equals. I want to remind my readership that these hackerspace posts, the book I am aiming to write and most of the ideas I am sharing are squarely aimed at shared workspaces and not private workspaces. That’s not to say that some of the ideas, like 5S and other approaches to organisation that I write about might not be useful for someone managing their own private space. Fundamentally though the aim here is to help those who would set up and run a shared workspace where those using it are considered equals.
Whilst we’ll get into the long grass discussion about the semantics of what a hackerspace is, for the purpose of my writing a hackerspace is always a workspace shared by equals. That’s not to say that a hackerspace can’t be privately run, or even have some sort of leader or owner or manager. That is to say an uneven heirarchy, though I would say that generally those sort of spaces are edge cases from the point of view of this writing.
Its important to think carefully about the interpersonal dynamic of a hackerspace. If the space really is run by one person, who can not for one reason or another is the unquestionable owner or lynchpin of a space, this should be acknowledged in the rhetoric of the space. That is to say don’t tell everyone you have a flat hierarchical democracy when one person has a veto over everything because they paid for everything.
I’ve encounter situations like this even in very flat and egalitarian spaces. In one space they had a very well equipped set of welding and plasma cutting equipment. It was available to all members but had been paid for by one members. That members point of view (though very generous) was that if members didn’t like the way he did things and were seemingly ungrateful for his generous loan of equipment, he’d take the equipment away. Even unintentionally and with the best intentions this changes the dynamics of a space.
Other examples I’ve encountered include an offer of access to a full workshop of equipment for a few thousand pounds, the owner would continue to work (make a living) in the workshop and have first dibs on the kit, though the hackerspace would some how own it. Again the power dynamic is skew, though the offer on first look would seem irresistible ultimately an awful lots of boundaries need to be agreed before it should be undertaken. Who pays for repairs and how quickly etc?
Its not that an arrangement like this can’t work, but it must be recognised that they often disintegrate, primarily because the parties don’t have a unified mission, they aren’t pulling in the same direction even if both directions feel like they are only a few degrees apart. This is often the problem that is encountered when teaming-up with a Men’s Shed organisation, or in one case some railway modellers. The mission is rarely close enough and in the end the objective destination, though from afar it looks like the same place, is really the other side of town.
This is a new book post.
Today’s thumbnail is taken from South London Makerspace cartoon by Tim Hunkin