towards a post-scarcity society

Hackspace Research Update

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Since 2007 there has been a radical growth in the application and reach of hacker culture. No longer limited to the computer underground, principles of the hacker ethic now pervade contemporary corporate software development and the backbone one of the world’s largest economic infrastucture, the internet. This comes as no surprise because many experts and leading professionals in the field of computer science are also leaders of the hacker subculture. What is surprising is how the beliefs and values of the hacker subculture are being appropriated and applied in fields wholely distinct from computer science including biology, manufacturing, and community development.

Frustrated by the forking of public domain germplasm by corporate interests, scientists extended a free software license, the GNU Public License (GPL), to cover material transfer agreements of plant germplasm, called the General Public License for Plant Germplasm (Hope, 2008). Looking for a way to create a commons-based peer production model for the design and manufacture of machines, small businesses, design and engineering professionals, and academics joined forces with Creative Commons to adapt the Open Source Definition for Open Source Software to an Open Source Hardware Definition as the basis of a new licensing mechanism (OSHW, 2010). Wanting to create spaces where people can come together to share their passion for technology and science, hackers worldwide opened up more than 220 community centers known as hackspaces or hackerspaces from 2007 to 2010. These three examples demonstrate that hacker culture is in the process of making a dramatic expansion from cyberspace into our physical environment.

My current research paper explores how the hacker ethic, a set of fluctuating and negotiated principles that underpins the behavior of the hacker subculture, is becoming substantiated. In particular, it surveys the emerging hackspace movement to better understand how the hacker ethic informs physical organizational culture and is changed by its application from virtual communities to physical organizations.

//// Hope, Janet. 2008. Biobazaar: The Open Source Revolution and Biotechnology. Harvard University Press.

//// 2010. Open Source Hardware (OSHW) Draft Definition version 0.3. Freedom Defined. http://freedomdefined.org/OSHW Accessed 7/16/2010.

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  1. This looks great, Liam. I know just enough about what you’re saying here to know that this isn’t what you’re studying, but it reminded me of it (hackers –> online gaming, not a big jump).

    There was a small article published in the June 2010 issue of Microbe (ASM’s news magazine) about how epidemiologists are using gaming sites like World of Warcraft to model the dynamics of epidemics, and even to train public health workers to respond. Of course researchers have been using mathematical modeling for years to predict how an infectious agent may spread through a population, but the advantage of infecting a bunch of trolls and dwarves online is that it allows for complex, unusual behaviors to be introduced, whereas the mathematical models are typically either hugging a normal curve or totally random. Vaccination campaign strategy, public health funding, research grants, and health policy have all been steered by predictive models (and a certain amount of uninformed political influence to add randomness, yes) for decades, but wouldn’t it be interesting if those models were replaced with WoW simulations? If news networks can use Twitter as a news source, scientists can use an online community of avatars for behavioral science data.

    If you’re interested in the short article, you can find it on the fourth page (237) of this pdf, under the title “Avatars in Games Help To Track Simulated Epidemics and Zoonoses”: http://www.microbemagazine.org/images/stories/znw00610000234.pdf

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