Monochrom on Hacker Spaces
May 19, 2009
This Monochrom critique of hacker spaces and hacklabs takes these alternative/cooperative spaces to task for straying from their dual power roots, losing their radical politics, and not taking a more antagonistic stance towards the status quo:
The idea of having a revolution (of whatever kind) was domesticated into good clean reformism, and the only revolutions that lay ahead were the technological semi-revolutions of the internet and its social web sprouts.
Without former political agendas hackerspaces turned into small places that did not really make fundamental differences. Comparable to the fall of squat houses becoming legal in status and turning into new bourgeois housing projects where the cool urban bohemians live their lives commuting steadily between art world, underground, IT-business and advertisement agencies.
It also takes them to task for not doing enough to counter white privilege or strive for gender parity:
Plus, we need to reflect and understand that the hackerspaces of today are under the “benevolent” control of a certain group of mostly white and male techno handicraft working nerds. And that they shape a practise of their own which destines most of the hackerspaces of today. (It is hard to understand that there are hackerspaces in certain parts of the US that don’t have a single Afro-American or Latino member.
But we’d like to keep our European smugness to ourselves. We have to look at our oh-so-multicultural hacker scene in Europe and ask ourselves if hackers with a migrant background from Turkey or North-African states are represented in numbers one would expect from their percentage of the population. Or simply count your women representation and see if they make 50% of your members.)
So what do they suggest? To start, they want to see more workshops on political theory and history and what the purposes of these spaces should actually be, in the hopes that radical politics can once again be embraced. They also want to see these hackerspaces make serious efforts to include more marginalized and oppressed people in order to overcome the entrenched white nerd technocracy.
Never before in the history of bourgeois society has everything been as fucked up as it is right now. But what is lacking amongst all the practising going on in hackerspaces is a concise theory of what bourgeois society is like and what should be attacked by us building and running open spaces within that society.
This is just the start, of course. I’d also suggest that efforts be made to develop more radical hacktivist projects, particularly aligned towards ongoing social struggles. What if an Anonymous-style movement went after the Minutemen and nativist anti-immigration groups rather than the Church of Scientology? Hacklabs should also be connecting to these ongoing social movements and offering their technical expertise and support. Imagine if a worker-occupied factory was able to continue production under worker control thanks to the adoption of reprap machines or other open source 3D printers, facilitaed by hacktivists? What if DIY robot hackers assembled fleets of drones to aid in Copwatch programs, using sousveillance to keep abuses of authority in line? Even better, what if these hackerspace users took their politics back to the labs, factories, and offices in which they work, enabling a new movement of radicalized scientists and techies to counter the corporate uses and abuses of their research and intellectual labor?
What are we waiting for?