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Hackerspaces and Makerspaces - your opinions, please. Answered

I'm thinking about persuading my new employer to start a hackerspace or makerspace.

As an aside, do you think the two terms mean different things, or are they interchangeable?

If they are different, what is that difference?

If they mean the same thing, which is the better term? Why?



3 years ago

I think hackerspace and makerspace are points on one and the same spectrum. Our hackerspace has a relatively large amounts of tools and crafty folks. Some people call us a makerspace, for that reason. But we prefer to use the word hackerspace because of the history that's balled up in the word hacker. So for us, that's a choice we made. (Also, we have a computer history museum and that's not very makerish.)

I think a hackerspace and a makerspace need not differ that much from each other and I would expect both to be non-profit and community driven. If it's for-profit, I'm likely to call it a fablab.

In my view, a makerspace might be centered more around crafts and tools, a hackerspace might be centered more around computers. But it's a spectrum, the line is fuzzy, and one and the same space can certainly straddle that line so well that it deserves both names and can't really be pinned down as one or the other.

Bonus fun fact: while some of us at Hack42 identify as white hats, some as grey hats, we also have members who prefer to work with hardware (of all kinds) and thus could be described as hard hats.

Truth be told: most of us don't bother to designate ourselves as anything and just like to tinker.

'Tinkerspace' sounds like fun actually...

That's interesting stuff - I think "fablab" might be a brand name, but I like the idea of a tinkerspace - I imagine a logo of a robot with fairy wings...

Tinkering also has the advantage that it doesn't sound very hard. That might make the place sound more welcoming to newcomers.

Makerspace - for profit. Hackerspace - no profit, maybe only street cred but that doesn't buy much nowadays.

Hackerspace seems more exclusive and that hint of negative "hacker" connotation will not draw the general crowd.

Makerspaces are not always for profit, and hackerspaces are not always non profit or not for profit. There are no standardizations in play or anything like ethical associations, etc. It's still really a wild west out there and there are lots of different groups doing different things. My space is actually considered both a hackerspace and a makerspace. I suppose it depends on who you ask or which public resource we're talking about. We let local groups like the local defcon chapter meet at our place for free as long as everything is whitehat, educational, and open to the general public. We've had plenty of hacker related programming and resources. On the other hand, we also have family programming with resources like MaKey MaKey and other intro learner kits/tools, we work with libraries, schools, and museums to put on partnered educational outreach events, and we offer a tech cart to loan out to community organizations like libraries for free. We are a tax deductible 501(c)3 nonprofit, but are listed as a Makerspace and on hackerspaces.org as a Hackerspace.

They can be interchangeable if you have a diverse community and range of resources like our group. We identify as hackers, makers, artists, mad tinkerers, etc. Some of our members exclusively use the term Hackerspace, some refer to our group as a Makerspace or even just a maker's group or some other general term. We also use the terms interchangeable depending on who we are talking to such as media and local community leaders. If it seems like it would be tangential to take the time to explain that hacking is not black hat cracking, or if we are talking about something related to beginner programming, crafting or arts, and etc., we just use the Makerspace title.

We are starting to hear people in our community that are becoming more and more familiar with the two terms, so we also tend to match the term if we're talking with someone who heard about that route. If someone found us through the hackerspace directory, we default to that term mostly. If someone shows an interest but is new to the scene and they found out about us after hearing buzzwords like Makerspaces, the Maker Movement, etc.. we don't argue and encourage that use.

I don't know that this approach works for every space, and there's a number of other names you could call a place. Ultimately, whatever word you use, you will need to be prepared to explain what it is that the place is about and does. To the employer when first trying to get it set up, to prospective members and people who show up to use the place, to the general public, to community leaders, to potential partners and sponsors, etc.. depending on what kind of model you go after. There's only about, oh.. a dozen or so models for creative co learning spaces like Makerspaces and Hackerspaces.

Best wishes, whatever happens. We need more places popping up in the world, whatever you call your space. One word of advice.. don't worry too much over the space's title. A unique name is great, but the actual designation isn't going to matter as much as you think it is. Ultimately, most of your core group and those who will eventualy join your core group will be familiar with both terms and will come to know yours as a unique space. There really isn't a name out there that can capture the essence of an individual space, which is why everyone comes up with unique custom space names .. like NYC Resistor, as one famous example.

Yeh, I was afraid of that - I'm going to have to come up with some sort of non-commercially-branded hackspace identity that doesn't feel so black-hat...


I'd call it "Makerspace" or "Community Workshop," which is more descriptive.

I feel that a Makerspace is more of a general learn-design-build workshop/tech type place where a hackerspace is more geared around computers and technology and not so much on the learn/teach type aspect.

I've only been in a couple of hackspaces (Noisebridge and Nottinghack), and they both felt very different. What I'm after is a bit of both images I think...

Why not make up a new name that fits your emplyoers as well?
If we check movies and TV series there are plenty of examples, like the famous S.T.A.R. Labs in the Flash.
Take some names related to your emplyoer, what is created or done and and put it into a fancy new word.

For example "CCC Hall" for Chelseas Creativity Center.
Ok, bad one, but you get the picture ;)