"Hacker space" movement sought for U.S.

"Hacker space" movement sought for U.S.
"Hacker space" movement sought for U.S. 

By John Borland
August 11, 2007

On a big tent in the center of the Chaos Communication Camp, banners 
proudly proclaim the presence of the American embassy and its "Hackers 
on a Plane" tour.

This is the home of the biggest American delegation yet to come to one 
of these European events. The U.S.-based Hacker Foundation [1], which is 
leading a tour of 40 North American hackers through Europe, hopes it 
turns out to be a turning point for the U.S. scene.

The idea, says Foundation co-founder and treasurer Nicholas Farr, is to 
get a sense for the potential of European "hacker spaces" -- places in 
the community where local programmers can collectively meet, work, and 
share infrastructure -- and inspire Americans to produce similar 
facilities at home.

Most American hacker groups work on a more informal basis, meeting at 
homes, schools or aOnaplane d-hoc locations that don't lend themselves 
to local involvement. The Foundation is hoping to start changing that 
culture, as well as getting hackers types more deeply involved in the 

"The idea is to have someplace where hackers can come and have meetings, 
do good works, and show the community what they're really about," Farr 
says. "We want to show people that hackers aren't criminals, that 
they're creative types who have a way of making technology do things it 
wasn't originally intended for."

Founded two years ago as non-profit organization aimed at helping 
provide seed funding and infrastructure for hacker projects, the 
Foundation soon realized that having space and meeting centers was a 
critical part of seeding community involvement. The group is starting a 
prototype hacker space in Washington D.C., hoping both to provide a 
resource for local programmers, and to show a different face of hackers 
to the politicians in the area.

European groups, particularly in Germany, have a long tradition of this 
kind of activity, and in the best spirit of American fact-finding tours, 
the Foundation is leading its Hackers on a Plane tour through last 
week's DefCon conference, this week's Chaos Communication Camp, and then 
through stops in Berlin, Vienna, Cologne, Bonn and elsewhere, hoping to 
get ideas from local organizations.

The five-day camp here on a former Soviet air base near Berlin has been 
particularly inspiring, Farr says. Americans here are now discussing 
creating a parallel "Hackers on a Base" camp in the United states, using 
a decommissioned army facility. Others are eager to start hacker space 
movements in their own local communities.

"This is expensive, but I think the good works we'll see over the next 
few years will justify the trip," Farr says. "We're hoping this trip 
winds up being a watershed moment for the U.S. scene."


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