They open up areas struck by digital exclusion. They develop autonomous Internet networks in mountainous areas, install organic solar panels and let local Internet radio emerge. They can even transform abandoned water troughs into eco-jacuzzis. “Hackerspaces,” user-friendly spaces where technological tools are crafted, are spreading throughout the rural environment. Interview with Philippe Langlois, one of the founding members of the first French hackerspace.
Mickael Correia: Could you define what hackerspaces are?
Philippe Langlois: A hackerspace is a physical, autonomous place where people gather around tech-related projects. We often hear about “the evil computer pirates” in the media, but hackerspaces have nothing to do with any of that: we’re simply people who reclaim technology in a cheerful, independent and creative way. The goal is to create tools that can be reappropriated and replicated by everyone, freely distributed, and which can be modified and improved upon.
Hackerspaces originated in Germany in the 1990s, but didn’t truly develop until 2005. Since then, more than 500 have appeared throughout the world, bringing together nearly 40,000 people. These are people who originally came from the world of open source and free software 1 and transposed their methods onto the physical world, while making their technological know-how accessible.
What kind of projects do you work on? How do they fit into your broader relationship with technology?
There are projects dealing with energy self-sufficiency, collaborative mapping and digital art, as well as local plastic recycling or even site cleanup. Our relationship with technology revolves around several ideas, the first of which is to enjoy the positive process of creation. The second one is the belief that what we create shouldn’t only benefit a restricted group of people, but rather the whole of society. Finally, we don’t want to embark on overly conceptual projects: we are, above all, about doing things. The ethics that can be found in hackerspaces are based on practice, tinkering, the right to be wrong, and an all-encompassing, non-dogmatic approach.
Read more via When Hackers and Farmers Join Forces | Reality Sandwich.