Hackerspace Architect: Emotional Labour
In these posts, emotional labour is often mentioned. What is meant by this? I am distinguishing types of work that needs to be done in a hackerspace. There is of course physical labour. That is the work of cleaning and tidying, putting up new shelving, mending the band saw, taking out the bins and so on.
Then there is the emotional labour, this is influencing the behaviours in a space, having a difficult conversation with a member who has behaved inappropriately towards another member, patiently dealing with complaints, talking to the member who has left the workshop in a mess. This sort of emotional labour can leave us tired and drained and sad and can have a much greater impact on our health and wellbeing than physical labour. It is the emotional labour that often goes un-done at a Hackerspace. After all, hackerspaces are primarily hobbyist spaces and who would make a hobby out of emotional labour?
It’s tempting to sometimes stereotype hackerspace people into logical-nerds with poor to no interpersonal skills, and whilst this stereotype exists for a reason, it’s certainly not unique to tech groups. People are highly varied and they don’t fit neatly into some predefined box. As much as we may wish it, other people really really do not think the way we do ourselves and yes, they really really believe the things they believe.
For those about to embark on the journey of founding a new hackerspace or makers group, prepare yourself for the idea that the hardest and most important work you will do, will be the emotional labour. Emotional labour is incredibly important in all aspects of work and has the greatest impact of all on the wellbeing of customers and colleagues alike. Reassuringly artificial intelligence is a long way off being able to replace the work of emotional labour. So embrace the idea of it, and know that it is hard work. Be sure to regularly seek feedback and ensure you reflect to make sure you’ve not become so irritable grumpy bully. Take time to listen to others, and be ready to catch people doing something right, and mention it, rather than looking to be the bad-cop and catch people out for doing wrong. If you think this stuff is “easy” you are doing it wrong.
Today’s thumbnail is a lathe from “the asset strippers” exhibit at Tate Britain by Mike Nelson