Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pathfinder for Hackerspaces, Makerspaces, Techshops, and Fab Labs

First off, some words I've lived by for the past 14+ years, which I first read here. In So Many Words: How Technology Reshapes the Reading Habit" by Rebecca Piirto Heath, American Demographics, March 1997.

And, as far as I'm concerned, it's instructive to substitute "library/libraries" for "reading" in the AD article and Saffo quote.

As for my interest in the series of topics found in the title of this post, it all, very recently, started here: "The Public Library, Completely Reimagined", Mind/Shift, 11/9/2011)

Sidebar:  You'll want to take the phrase, "completely reimagined", with a grain of salt.  Browsing the library's website, you'll find Fayetteville offers....
  • Print materials
  • Online databases
  • Downloadable books and music
  • Local history materials
  • Wi-fi
  • Computer classes
  • One-on-one technology instruction
  • Book discussion groups
  • Teen homework help
  • Year-round programs for all ages
  • Summer reading programs for all ages
  • Storytimes for infants to children age 5
  • Early literacy kits

What follows are links, screenshots and videos to help me understand the new vocabulary I encountered last week.
  • Hackerspaces
  • Makerspaces
  • Techshops
  • Fab Lab
For whatever they're worth, I'm  happy to share them with you.

Hackerspaces (Links to more information)

As defined below:  Community-operated physical places where people can meet and work on their projects.  Though not yet "in the dictionary".

Makerspaces (Examples)

As (slightly re)defined below:  Social clubs for people who like [to] build, invent, tinker, and/or collect  learn new skills.  [M-W]

What question are you asking yourself less than 2 minutes into this video?

Techshops (A highly selective reading list)

As defined using a specific example to describe a generic operation. Membership-based workshops that provide members with access to tools and equipment, instruction, and a community of creative and supportive people.  [As before, no "official" definition.]

The starting point for a most thorough overview.  The suggestion that it's not likely you'd read his article in a library strikes me as a dubious claim.)   Is It Time to Rebuild & Retool Public Libraries and Make “TechShops”?, by Phillip Torrone, 3/10/2011.  And by no means does Torrone answer his own question with a, 'Yes, all libraries must do this RIGHT NOW or die.")

Techshop:  Geek Heaven.  (How to Change the World, 9/10/2007.  In the beginning.....)
Library as Techshop. (Library Bazaar, 3/15/2011.  Dip your toe into the water.  Provides 2 excerpts from Torrone's essay.)
Inventors Wanted. Cool Tools Provided. (The New York Times, 4/10/2010.  "Wealthy, love-handled Americans..."?)
Techshop:  Stairway to Inventor Heaven.  (CAD Insider, 5/14/2011)

Fab Labs (Mix of sources)

As defined by Wikipedia.  Small-scale workshop with an array of flexible computer controlled tools that cover several different length scales and various materials, with the aim to make "almost anything.  [Eventually.]

Fabrication labs let student and adult inventors create products, solve problems. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/18/2009).

Excerpt: You won't find these budding Northeast Ohio inventors toiling in their basements with secondhand tools. They're all at work in a personal fabrication laboratory, or fab lab, the greatest boost to individual ingenuity since the neighborhood hardware store.

Fab labs are stocked with computers running easy-to-use design software, and linked to cutting-edge production machinery - laser-powered cutters and etchers, table-top milling equipment, devices that slice copper sheets into circuitry, high-precision robotic routers, and even a sort of super-printer that spits out three-dimensional plastic parts. The labs are meant to stimulate creativity and spark innovation

Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab website.

Hardesty Center for Fab Lab Tulsa.


Nanette said...

What question comes to mind less than two minutes into the Makerspace video above?

Don't women make things too? If not, why not? (A question well worth contemplating if we care about our daughters' futures). If so, why aren't they represented in this video?

The second question that came to mind was: Do all "makers" look so nerdy? Maybe this has something to do with the first question :-)

Overall, though, your post is fascinating. I think we should applaud and encourage these new library "reinventions." Yes, reading (in whatever format) should always be a strong focus of our programming and resource investment. But the people in our communities are doing a whole lot of other very interesting things besides reading, and it behooves us to keep up with them. If you still think libraries should only be about lending books, you need to get out more.

Thanks, as always, for your thought-provoking post.

Nanette said...

My bad. I see some women were featured in some of the accompanying Makerspace videos. Not many, though.

Paul Everett Nelson said...

In your defense, Nanette, I was looking for an answer based on the first 2 minutes of the video.

JoshC said...

Paul, glad to see this post and the article referenced. When I first learned of Bucketworks in Milwaukee (probably a hackerspace, although formed before those delineations were very clear), they were using the slogan "The world's first health club for the brain." I thought "Wait, wouldn't that be libraries?"

I think that this is an area ripe for partnerships, and for changing libraries themselves, but there has been a bit of an attitude barrier at many libraries, which is one reason I believe the hacker/maker/techshop "movement," if you want to call it that, has thus far grown up relatively isolated from libraries. By attitude barrier I mean that these groups don't fit into the typical "community meeting" type users of the library space and some of these groups have tried to use public libraries to build their group, only to find that their needs could not be accommodated. Of course the attitude barrier goes the other way too, with many tech geeks who don't "get" libraries.

Anyway, whether it is incubating these groups, partnering with existing ones, or becoming them ourselves, there are big opportunities here. It is one of the reasons I went ahead with library school rather than a different path.

Anonymous said...

Madison has one of these too:

JoshC said...

Yes, there is Sector67, and there are several spaces in various stages of formation outside of Milwuakee and Madison. Check this map.

I would suggest that any libraries looking for a contact person to explore the hacker/maker space movement should try James Carlson at Bucketworks right here in Milwaukee. Not only does he run Bucketworks, but he also runs the Space Federation, which is intended to provide resources for starting spaces. (Also see his TEDxMadtown talk, which is embedded in that page.)

JoshC said...

Nanette, anecdotally, I would say that the hacker/maker movement is actually more inclusive of women than other tech geek communities. That's not to say that they are equally represented, but I think this idea of shared, social spaces carries with it a greater social consciousness, and more of an emphasis on inclusion and diversity. One of the most prominent voices of the movement is a woman who goes by the handle "LadyAda," after Ada Lovelace. So, the problem is ongoing but I would caution against criticizing them too harshly over the gender imbalance because I think they, unlike some other tech communities, are moving in a very positive direction.

Pete Prodoehl said...

It's great to see this post!

I'm a member of Milwaukee Makerspace (and also involved in Bucketworks and The School Factory.)

As far as Milwaukee Makerspace and the video above, it was created when there were only a handful of "founding" members, and we've grown since then and do have some women as members. They are still outnumbered by the men, but many hackerspaces are more balanced than ours is. (We're still growing, and adding new members all the time.)

At Bucketworks the programs are much more diverse, and there is a larger percentage of women involved in things there. (And yes, Bucketworks has been around nearly 10 years now!) We host BarCamp and other such events there as well.

To me, libraries represent the gaining of knowledge, but not putting that knowledge into practice when it comes to physical activities. I can read all about woodworking at the library, but at Milwaukee Makerspace, I can actually put it into practice, learning to use the tools, and using the tools, to create something.

Libraries are great, and I love them... but I also love the Makerspace, and the hands-on things I can learn there.

James Carlson said...

Libraries are definitely on the "vision map" for the Space Federation members. Many of us have talked about what libraries look like in the future-- places that blend and meld the concepts of access to resources and community--where we are mixing knowledge resources with creative resources like tools and equipment. At a conference in Madison recently, deans and architects from colleges around the nation discussed how to transform the concept of the union and the library on a typical campus into more of a maker/hackerspace model. What would that look like?

As strange as it might sound I think we need a good way to remove the notion of "quiet" from the notion of "library." If I were opening a library today, the sign on the outside would say "Loud Library" so no one would feel like they can't be loud, talk, make noise, and build community.

How could we open a discussion with libraries nationally about how to integrate some of our efforts?