Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"We have met the enemy and he is us."

Walt Kelly was a Great American. He drew the Pogo comic strip and filled it with subversive content.

Considering that he died in 1973 I am shocked at how subversive the strip _still_ seems. We still don't get it. None of us, really. Certainly not me. I was reminded of this when someone wrote a post to a mailing list asking for advice on a project. The NYCResistor hacker space was suggested to her as a good resource. She knew about the space, but commented that you have to pay to be a member of that group.

NYCResistor is a bit more focused on limiting access to members and their guests, while Noisebridge has a nearly wide open policy. I prefer the Noisebridge model, I think it leads to more hackers, and perhaps even to more money to support the space, but in either case these spaces don't support themselves.

So I wrote a reply, lightly edited here to look slightly less like a reply...

Your message raises some important (to me anyway :-) questions about value and how we support the things we care about.

NYCResistor is an attempt by people, who seem a lot like you, to create a Third Space where people can work on projects, like yours, and provide a community of other people, like you, to support each other.

It really seems to me like NYCResistor, and the hackerspaces movement, is/are working to create exactly the sorts of spaces which support you and your projects.

Dorkbot, and other lists like it, have done great work, but they don't provide physical space and physical community.

Supporting spaces like this requires money. For NYCResistor they ask for about as much as having an espresso each day (but they don't really monitor the drink fridge, so you can totally leach off of that :-).

The sense I get from your message is that you are applying an economic judgment to paying these fees, and supporting this sort of community, and since it is an optional expense you are electing not to be part of it. I think that your reaction is fairly common, and that makes me sad.

We all spend huge amounts of money on things which don't support our values, but when we get to the things which directly support our values, but which are 'discretionary' we apply economic thinking to what is a really a question of values.

Our system encourages this kind of thinking. We are all part of, or users of, large institutions. Work and school and libraries, etc. And we have little direct power and little direct financial control over these institutions.

But hackerspaces are created and supported by small groups. They are us.

To quote Pogo "We have met the enemy and he is us."


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