Liberating Ourselves Locally: towards federations of DIY Communities

Excerpted from a call for a Federation of Bay Area DIY Communities, by Jenny Ryan:

“There is something truly exciting about the interconnections between subcultures and the value of their hybridization in the spirit of creativity. What happens, for instance, when you combine botany buffs and hackers? You might get something like BioBridge, the amorphous DIYbio contingent of Noisebridgers, working on experiments in oyster mushroom growing and developing Arduino-controlled sensors for monitoring temperature and pH levels in kombucha brews and sourdough starters. Here you would also find overlap with Tastebridge’s Vegan Hackers night and perhaps some friendly Food Not Bombs volunteers.

While Sudo Room embraces an inclusive model of “hacking” that goes beyond hardware and software – to wetware, wearables, and even culture itself – there is certainly reason to resist confining ourselves to hacker culture alone. While not disregarding the admirable ethical core of lifelong learning, decentralization, and collaboration, the term is also connotative of an elite culture consisting of a privileged class of internet savants.

Jen-Mei Wu, co-founder of Liberating Ourselves Locally, wrote the following in response to our invitation for Saturday:

“I really liked the way you called the proposed federation a DIY federation and not a hackerspace federation. Often when I talk w/ hacktivists, I get the feeling they think everyone should hack, that hacking = DIY. But … there’s this whole amazing universe of DIY groups that live outside (sometimes waaaay outside) hacktivist circles, and they are doing great things.

I think hackerspaces really could learn a lot from each other, but that they could gain even more by being part of a larger community of DIY organizations.”

LOL, short for Liberating Ourselves Locally, is an Oakland maker space founded and run by people of color. The group works closely with other local grassroots organizations dedicated to fostering self-sufficiency and community-based commerce. Their events have ranged from weekly carpentry classes to yoga classes, meditation sessions, Decolonize study groups and political co-education (with pancakes!), demonstrating the wide swath of possibilities for creating an inclusive community education model.

As we move forward into the future of increased access to technologies, citizen science, and DIY engineering, we’d do well to be wary of those who would seek to co-op and capitalize off of this movement. Maker Faire’s announcement early this year that they are now accepting funding from DARPA – who are also sponsoring ‘makerspaces’ in high schools nationwide – has introduced some deep questioning over the ethical responsibilities of hackers and DIY enthusiasts. Are we still DIY if dependent on funding from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency? Do we want to support military-funded and run projects in our schools?

The solution may well be to foster the kind of grassroots coalition-building that would connect DIY spaces and tools with neighborhood community organizations, worker-owned business cooperatives, local investors, and new opportunities for crowdfunding. The JOBS Act, which passed through the House earlier this year and comes into action in January, would allow the public up to $1 million in shared equity through crowdfunding platforms – bypassing the typical route through Wall Street by which companies and investors were previously obligated to navigate.

These are a few of the matters we are trying to hack in our efforts to manifest solutions in the spirit of collaboration. ”

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